BIOLOGIC: Designing with Nature to Protect the Environment

An argument for more
inspired design in products,
the built environment,
agriculture, and other
sectors – based on how
nature actually works.
Widely used by architects,
planners, and environmental
consultants and activists.


“Biologic is lively, provocative, insightful and delightful – one of the best environmental books in years.” ~ Amory Lovins, President, Rocky Mountain Institute

“An indispensable guide to those working to build sustainable societies.” ~ Hazel Henderson, coauthor of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy


One orientation says, “Make it work,” while the other says, “Let it work.” One says, “We can conquer nature!” The other says “Go with the flow.” Since ancient times, one of the orientations has been associated with the military, huge engineering projects, and centralized government, while the other is more closely linked to crops, crafts, and villages.

I call one discipline technologic and the other biologic. In the last century, technologic has been personified by the engineer with the “can do” attitude. Of course he can do, with a million years of stored-up fossil fuel at his disposal. Technologic is like a two-legged stool based on physics and chemistry, but sorely lacking the critical third leg – biology.

DEEP DESIGN: Pathways to a Liveable Future

Deep Design explores
a new way of thinking
about design that asks
“What is our ultimate goal?”
before the first step
has even been taken.
Deep Designs are sensitive
to living systems,
and can potentially accomplish
their mission without
the seemingly unavoidable
side effects of pollution,
erosion, congestion, and stress.


“Deep Design is timely, it is necessary and it is wonderful. The ability to design beyond our instincts separates humans from other species and we now realize how much our ‘designs’ separate us from and endanger the natural world we inhabit. To design well, we must look everywhere and we must look deeply. This is what David Wann has done with this important book.” ~ William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle

“The concept of deep design provides us with a sense that nature’s constraints are a pathway to elegant, innovative systems changes that will change life on earth for the better.” ~ Paul Hawken, coauthor of Natural Capitalism


We sometimes think of progress in a strictly technical sense – new medicines, new appliances, and faster airplanes. But these products are only a reflection of an underlying, more significant progress in human understanding. In this century, we’ve developed a deeper knowledge subatomic reality, human psychology, and the complex patterns of ecology. We can now begin to incorporate the latest knowledge into our innovations, to make them not only “smarter” but wiser, that is, more responsive to environmental as well as social needs.

LESS IS MORE: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy, and Lasting Happiness

Dave Wann contributed
three essays to this anthology
about a Caring Economy.


“No good idea stays local for long,” writes Jay Walljasper in Less is More, a smart collection of essays that chant the simplicity mantra without oversimpifying the issues at stake. Many of these ideas seem bound to travel far.” ~ Utne Reader

“Even if you’re no stranger to the sustainability or environmental movement, there’s plenty of hard-hitting research and provocative insights from Less is More contributors. For example, David Wann writes: “If so many of us are willing to die for our country, why are we afraid to live for it, moderately and unselfishly? Why do we place a higher value on convenience, size and speed than the well-being of living things (including ourselves)?” He calls for a change in the patterns of how and where we live, work and eat. It’s exactly these kinds of changes that will contribute to a more sustainable tomorrow in a restoration economy, if only the politicians would pay closer attention.” ~ John Ivanko, Sustainablog


from Less is More, in the Chapter “The Real Wealth of Neighborhoods,” by David Wann

What Makes a Neighborhood Great

Cultural Assets

Great neighborhoods have active residents; newsletters and email listservs for sharing tools, tickets, civic information, and good-hearted jokes. They have discussion groups; community projects like park cleanup or creek restoration; potluck dinners; volleyball games and skiing parties. (The neighbors of Elgin, Illinois have a four-foot tall, wooden Blue Tulip that makes monthly rounds from one yard to another. When the Tulip appears on your front lawn, it’s your turn to host a Friday night neighborhood party.)

Skill sharing, tool sharing, mentoring of the young by the elderly, job referrals, day care, dog care, neighborhood rosters with telephone numbers and emails; bulletin boards – these kinds of activities and tools encourage the creation of “neighbornets.” (In Seattle, famous for its distinctive neighborhoods, Phinney Eco-Village – an existing neighborhood — has a Home Alone group, a natural health group, a peace group, and other networks. It has recently begun taking pledges from neighbors to fight global warming by driving less, not using dryers, using compact fluorescent bulbs, etc.)

Free entertainment, like twilight conversations in the park; wine tasting parties in someone’s backyard; or spontaneous, no-pressure bike rides to a landmark in the town (like an overlook, favorite bar, or ice cream parlor).

Sharing of life’s ups and downs. (If I let you vent your frustrations as we each get home from work, I know I have a listener when I need to vent. If you show me your family album, I’ll show you mine.)

Neighbors who live in their house for years, creating neighborhood history and neighborhood stewards. (Studies show that hometowns are the most popular places to retire, despite all the literature about “where to retire.” Of the 35 million people 65 and older who lived in the U.S. between 1995 and 2000, only 22% left their homes and neighborhoods.

Physical Assets

Community gardens on vacant lots, utility rights-of-way, and land donated/lent for tax write-offs. Also, the trading of garden produce and recipes from private gardens and kitchens; and neighborhood contracts with local growers (community-supported agriculture). Information about local growers can be found at

Transportation by proximity: location, location, location, and planning, planning, planning. Great neighborhoods need stores, parks, pathways, bike trails, and access to public transit (Some banks offer lower interest rates and down payments – often called location-efficient mortgages and green mortgages — to homebuyers).

TAKE BACK YOUR TIME: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America

Americans have less
free time than anyone else
in the industrialized world.
In fact, Americans work longer
hours than medieval peasants!


“This book is not about time really; it’s about power. It’s about realizing our own power to be in control, not slaves to inexorable economic forces. Read this book and take a long, deep sigh of relief.” ~ Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet and Hope’s Edge


from the chapter “Haste Makes Waste,” by Dave Wann
I had an unsettling thought the other day as I wrestled, scissors in hand, with the fortress-like plastic packaging around a new electric razor. I wondered if anyone had accidentally taken his own life trying to unwrap a consumer item like this one. If a person’s flustered grip on the package slipped, I thought, those sharp scissors could plunge into vital organs. Cause of death: thick, stubborn packaging.

I knew the packaging was as much for the manufacturers’ and retailers’ benefits as mine, and in a way, I resented that. They were making the money, I was spending the time — first the work-time to buy the expensive razor, then the fluster-time to penetrate its package.

I’d bought the electric unit because I was tired of buying and throwing out blades. I wanted something that lasts longer than refrigerator leftovers. I hoped to do less damage to my checking account and to the environment with the electric razor, but considering all the electricity the razor would use and all the energy that had gone into its manufacture, I wasn’t completely certain. Still, it did feel better than the prospect of tossing another five thousand blades (and all their packaging) before I die.

Log Rhythms (1983)

A book of poetry by David Wann


responsibility occurrence

“I will wait & see,”
he mumbles/

While at the same instant
pyramids crumble at ghiza

a surgeon’s hands
wither to pinecones

a bus driver smashes
into a steel girder
on the golden gate bridge

avalanche buries two
mountain goats in love

If you’re here NOW,
you win

You don’t win by killing, because
they kill you back.

You don’t win by growing, because you
grow too big, and fall over.

You don’t win by spending, because
eventually you end up spending

only that portion which is either
stolen or imaginary.

You don’t win by winning,
but living,

the future of jazz

what appears
any more bizarre, really,
than a human hand, with its
ingenious, independent fingers,
raising a shiny, 4-pronged fork

yet far stranger
are the goons clutching
thermonuclear bombs
in trembling, psychotic hands.

but think:
never again, an elephant. never again,
springtime in America.
never again, a beautiful woman.

53 Slaughtered in Mid-East Skirmish:
Better Totals Expected Over the Weekend

From the bottom of the flagpole
just at twilight
the soldier could barely see
the drooping flag of his country;
but Venus, the evening star,
rang out like a distant gong

when the wind
is strong,
the seed-feather
will be ready