Episode 2 – Hugo Araujo

🎤  How often don’t we say: ‘Ask nature’ or ‘Look at nature’ when dealing with complexity? But how often do we actually DO that? Asking nature?

🎤  How can biomimicry, the practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature, help solve human design challenges?

For answers to these questions, and for raising more questions, Carola and Marco did not ask nature, but they asked Hugo Araujo.

In this second episode of the #21for21 series, Carola and Marco talk to Hugo about biomimicry in the context of transformation.

In the inspiring and thought-provoking conversation that follows, Hugo addresses several topics such as biomimicry, systems change, our human responsibility in ‘asking how nature does’, the earth as a metabolism, and how communication between bacterias can inspire future democratization.

Listen to the episode below 👇 🎧

About Hugo Araujo

Hugo Araujo is a creative healer with global experience in different business sector such as marketing, sales, sustainability, conservation and innovation. Hugo is also a biomimicry artist (vibriofischeri.com) that metamorphosized after a deep reconnection with nature and indigenous cultures. His designs are harmonized with life and his wings are digital. His strength relies in simple and beautiful visualizations that allow the understanding of the new and regenerative world.

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Episode transcript

Marco van Hout  0:10

My six year old son sometimes is wondering about a life concept or a challenge that he’s facing. And I often answer him look at nature or ask nature. But how much do we actually do that? How much do we look at nature? How often do we look into how to solve things from the basis of nature?

Carola Verschoor  0:30

Nature is incredibly wise. I learn from her every day. We have a dog. So that’s the great advantage of, you know, walking the dog and using that time to reflect, recollect and even regenerate. Those are some of the things that I learned from nature. And why I look to nature is essentially because in nature, there is such a diversity of forms of manifestations of expression. They often give me a very creative angle as to what I might do next?

Promo  1:09

Carola Verschoor  1:15

Today we’re super happy to be talking to Hugo Araujo about exactly this: nature. What can we ask nature? And more specifically, how might biomimicry help us in solving problems and transforming towards a better and more sustainable society. Hugo is one of the first 30 biomimicry professionals worldwide. He is certified by the biomimicry Institute. He has taken part in ground breaking research in the field of biomimicry travelled to remote locations to explore diversity of ecosystems, Hugo is an artist reflecting on his scientific and social learnings through his art. He is an entrepreneur with a special focus on sustainable innovation and business. As an expert in managing multidisciplinary teams, he has developed new systems, methodologies and tools for positive impact. His main drive is to find a balance between humans and nature. Hugo is the creator of seven vortex a collaborative platform for a new kind of problem solvers.

Marco van Hout  2:41

So Hugo welcome, we are so happy to have you here with us today. Let me start with something I noticed on your seven vortex website, you state there that it’s inspired by nature, enabled by technology and powered by collaboration. And at the moment, we seem to be at the end of an era. Systems are collapsing, new ways of working, doing living are emerging as the old ways fail to deliver. And if I refer back to your statement there, technology is disruptive, climate and therefore nature is at crisis. And people are far from collaborating in a good way. So you really see the challenges arise on many fronts. And I would like to know from you, what do you make all of this? And how can we indeed be inspired, enabled and powered by these forces instead of just being victims?

Hugo Araujo  3:30

Well, my story goes into the wild a little bit. So I’m a biomimicry professional. That means that I do innovation inspired by nature. And for doing that I spent about four years into the wild in the Mayan Peninsula in the Yucatan, trying to understand how the ecosystem works. So that meant to me that I was reconnected, in nature. And from there, I took the decision that we needed to use technology with a different intention. So, I saw that internet was coming, the digital transformation was coming, but the intention of actually collaborating wasn’t exactly there. It was more about just business as usual. And, and that was difficult for me to do understand how and why we were not intelligent enough to see that a healthy ecosystem is what we need for having like the best health ever. So when I was living there, I was eating fish from the sea breathing fresh air, drinking good water, even sometimes from the rain. So I say well, we might be mistaking our perspective from the city. And we don’t yet that what we want to live in a healthy ecosystem.

Hugo Araujo  4:59

So, understanding that, and spending more than one year without the Internet, and being completely plugged into nature, then I say, well, might be I good idea to join the conversation of the technological means. And then when I came to Europe, I started to join the artificial intelligence part. So we can have a different kind of content. My supposition was that most of the people working behind the computers, they don’t have the facility to go to nature very often, and the other way around the same thing. So people are spending time in nature is not usually behind the computer. So how can we bridge this kind of conversation, and I think that it is important to use the forces that exist in the current system, towards a direction that could matter for humanity and for life. Something that I really liked from biomimicry is that his goal, it’s vision, is to create conditions conducive to life. So what could happen if we use the technology in a way, that it’s actually enhancing life, and also helping humanity instead of these ideas of Terminator that he will take us over. What if we can use the technology to enhance our senses and to see things that we cannot see with the naked eye and say, like the microscope has done for humanity, but also, in terms of one of my projects is about showing how the metabolism of the Earth is working. This is just allowed because of the existing technology, and which I really appreciate that exists. So how can we make better use of this technology? And how to drive the conversation of business into something that is regenerative and creates conditions conducive to life.

Carola Verschoor  6:51

Thanks Hugo. One of the promises that we make to our listeners is that we’ll help them ask new questions. It’s very difficult nowadays to provide absolute answers. And definitely very difficult to find the truth in those answers. But in the end, truth is in the eye of the beholder as well. And we want to show them that by asking you questions, you can start that process of discovery and integration of new possible answers. What would you say to those that are deeply immersed in technology and far away from nature? That would be a first question to ask, as you start building individually and personally, a bridge towards nature from technology.

Hugo Araujo  7:32

I think what I learned, the change my perspective is to ask, how does nature do? By asking this question, then it changes the whole thing, because what we’re missing is the point that we of course, as humanity, we’re imposing ourselves to the reality and to the context. But the context before we got here had some different kind of rules. So it has some operating conditions, it has some biological pattern, that unless we understand them, and we act in harmony with this contextual narrative, it is very difficult to find harmony. So I think by asking ourselves, how does nature do? It is a right beginning, and then going into science, and see what biology or functional biology is teaching us and then putting into our context, because something interesting is that everything is connected as well, we cannot just ask the questions in isolation, but we have the responsibility also to integrate it into a whole system. So from understanding that everything is connected, then also we should ask how the nature do?

Marco van Hout  8:46

So this is fascinating, because just like I mentioned, when we talk to our children, we often say ask nature, and how often do we really do that? But then how does that work? If we have to look at nature? Practically, what should we do to see how things are connected? How can we educate our children differently? And ourselves?

Hugo Araujo  9:08

Yeah, I think we can educate our kids differently by being a nice example, in general. Of course, we do all mistakes, we cannot be just the perfect example. But one way of doing it is to get out to nature, and to stay there, to quiet our cleverness, to observe, to learn, to listen, and to teach them that it is also nice to stay there and then to understand how the context work. And then that will bring after like, let’s say, five minutes of peace, things to start moving.  One of our exercises in the Arizona desert, for example, when we went there with the biomimicry group, we were just sitting there and doing deep listening. So in the beginning, nothing moved. but after five minutes of just staying there, you start seeing things and you didn’t realize that they were before such as insects, birds singing or flying or lights moving from one site to another. So, that gives you an idea, for example, in this Arizona desert, it was about water scarcity. So how many ideas you can get from just watching how these local organisms are attuned and are behaving into a water scarcity environment? And the same happens if you go to the forest and you see the trees and how they are interacting in between them, how they things are connected, and then you can also start drawing, for example, so, I think just by being outside, it’s a great beginning.

Marco van Hout  10:41

And if you look at nature and you mimic it as like you’re doing, can you also go wrong and mimic nature in such a way that it actually is not helping us?

Hugo Araujo  10:55

Yeah, totally. And it is, as Carola was saying. It is from the point of view of the one that beholds this word. So, I think you can always make mistakes. That’s why the first part will be intention. So, what is your intention on the design or the thing that you want to do? And then from there, I think, that there is no right or wrong nature, nature just is. So if we take this into a bigger picture, whatever we do, it is just part of nature, of humanity, or were just following an evolutionary path. But in biomimicry and this from the Biomimicry Institute and B3.8, we have these three essential elements, which is to try to avoid these big mistakes. We have the ethos, so we don’t things that are not supporting conditions or creating conditions conducive to life. So it is the opposite that creating conditions conducive to death, that will be one intention. And the other part will be from a reconnection standing point. So not always, I think, happens in the lab. So the reconnection is important, the ethos is very important, and the emulation, it’s also very important. So we also take science as a reference for trying to do it the best way possible. As I say, we will always make mistakes. But I think it is an era of experimentation, there is no solution, that seems to me to be the right one.

Marco van Hout  12:35

Right. Yeah, and I agree, and I think this also brings me to the topic, one of the main topics of this podcast, transformation. You might say that we need transformation on different levels also, if I hear you speak, and you might also say nature is transformation. And what are, in your opinion the levels of transformation that we need to look at and what is your definition of transformation from your perspective?

Hugo Araujo  13:03

I think in nature changes the only constant, so I just say, nature is transformation. So if we want to understand transformation, for me, there are three things that are very intriguing in nature wise. One is evolution on its own. So how do we evolve and now this Darwin’s theory of just linear evolution is being disrupted with the horizontal gene transfer and the quantum physics and all these things all together. So another thing is metamorphosis. So metamorphosis, for example, in the more monarch butterfly, it is about from the caterpillar to transform into a butterfly. So one of my big questions is, are the monarch butterflies always been butterflies or if we see the evolutionary tread in their development? Then they were first just caterpillars and then at some point of their story of the history, they used to started liquefying themselves, and then they became butterflies. So was this all together or where this what was this first one step and then and then the other one? So metamorphoses is a transformation process that happens in nature. So when I was thinking about all of these, then transformation is this part of evolution or adaptations that are successful to the present such as business perspective in a way, and then I became into metabolism, because metabolism is this possibility of, of regulation. So our body is a metabolism. And we hold the temperature in such a way that we can even transport our body from one place to another, keeping the same temperature. What this metabolism does in the whole planet? because if we take two degrees extra in our body, we might be dead. But we think that it’s okay to do it for the whole planetary system we live in. So the metabolism is the other strategy that, I think, helps us to see transformation in a way that is regulated in a harmonious way, within yourself and the context.

Marco van Hout  15:29

So that also brings in our own responsibility there, right? In the metabolism of the Earth, and the creation of things. So where nature is often taking it scores? And how can we actually influence it, then that sends them? How can we create things? How can we imagine things differently and do?

Hugo Araujo  15:52

Yeah, so in our case, we have as a biomimics, principles of design, which are called Life’s Principles. And they come from biology. So they’re the patterns from biology, that are giving us some insights. So in the case of certain 7vortex, my company, and the software, we’re using things like it has to be resource in material and energy efficient, it has to adapt to changing conditions, it has to integrate development with growth different than just exponential growth, for example, has to be locally attuned and responsive. And we have to use life-friendly chemistry as big principles, and then we’d have some sub-principles inside of them. For me, it has been very helpful to use them, and I didn’t believe them, or I didn’t just take them for granted in the beginning. And when I started studying biomimicry, then I went to live into nature to see if they were actually fitting my context in a natural ecosystem on its own. And they were! so that’s how I decided just to start designing the digital tools that I designed but taking as a design criteria the the life’s principles. And this is the way that I fit, is the best for trying to mimic nature in a way that you can actually create harmony between what you do and the context. And it is more adaptive as well.

Marco van Hout  17:18

That’s really beautiful. And I don’t know if you know it, but there is from the Netherlands also. And worldwide. There’s this network is called next nature. And it’s interesting, because what they say is that, at one point, technology, nature and humankind, they kind of merge and they form this new next nature. It sounds a little bit different from your story, how would you? How do you look at this next nature, as a philosophy and the way you look at nature and being more becoming more part of nature, again.

Hugo Araujo  17:52

What I see in the Netherlands, for example, is the polder, the polder is a great idea on gaining land to the to the sea. And he has been done, I think, for a thousand years (something like this), and it has proven to be efficient. But that doesn’t mean that it is right. We are by building these, or like these barriers in between, stopping the cycles in between the sea and the land, then we’re altering the whole nature. And the same happens is if you use technology for everything, and you keep gathering material from mountains that we don’t see here, but we are gathering the material to use technology in a non-optimal way towards nature. So I think that we will keep evolving, and that technology will be part of our evolution. And this is why I joined the conversation. But I don’t feel that we need to dominate nature. I think we’re doing the same mistake that we did with the colonialism. When, like many years ago, when colonialist came into, let’s say South America or Asia, they thought that the local people were stupid, because they couldn’t understand what they were saying, until many years after they realized that actually, the language was already there, the culture was already there. And there were much more advanced, things that we’re even discovering now in terms of astronomy and their own side. So I think we’re going to send mistake right now by not listening nature, but trying to impose our will into nature. My only hope that is not too late.

Marco van Hout  19:31

So do you have no you mentioned Polder and in Dutch, we even have a verb based on that. So it says that we shouldn’t it’s compromising and grading compromises. And what you’re just saying is that we shouldn’t compromise anymore. So in that sense, Boulder is not the way forward in that sense,

Hugo Araujo  19:51

in that sense, or we need to see in different cultures. So for example, when I went to the Amazon, the way that they work is letting the river to get into the flooding system, so half of the year, they have a basketball court, let’s say, and half of the year they have a swimming pool. And half of the year, they’re seeding plants and harvesting, and half of the year they live nature to nourish the soil again. So there are many ways of solving the same problem. And if we think that we are the best ones, and, for example, agriculture has been developed also by ants, about 50 million years ago, and they are not diminishing the fertility of the soil.

Carola Verschoor  20:41

I think you’re touching upon some very important things here over. So how do we move away from a reductionist and extraction-based model into a regenerative model is one of them. You’ve touched upon the importance of adaptation and evolution, and how we can do that through intent. And I’d like to go back to the topic of intent, because I think there’s a kind of emotional aspect, if you were an aspect of having the humble perspective you mentioned, not based on control, but based actually on becoming enablers, and for the [Inaudible 21:17] of life, as you’ve pointed out, but in design and the life principles you talked upon, that are very important: in design it’s also about setting that intention by combining it both with imagining what might be possible and mobilizing the systems and resources to make that happen. Not so much again, from an extractionist perspective, but primarily, how do we help regenerate by understanding our role in the broader hold? What do you think should be the main steps we need to take as humanity in terms of where we can be in say, the next five years, 10 years, 30 years, so that we can reverse the damage that we’ve done and come to terms with our eco systemic role and with our planet.

Hugo Araujo  22:12

Yeah. So I think, from my perspective, and this is what we like to say that we do in seven vortex is about creative healing, it is true that we are very smart and that we can isolate components in a way that we can understand them better in isolation. But it is also true that we are not just that, like as leaving forms, as we understand each other imagination plays a role that is super important. So if you use your imagination for war, for example, that will be just one of the options that you have, and that’s why ethos is so important. But if you use your imagination to create something that adds value to the life in the planet, for example, then you go into a whole different conversation. So for me as an artist, intention is what I can channel into my thesis. And, and when they have the right intention, then I can vibrate in a way that I can express myself fluidly, when I’m painting or when I’m drawing for instance, if I do something that is just completely from the brain, then it happens to be either with more squared, in one way or another. So I think we are both, we are linear and we are systemic, my idea for humanity is that we need to acknowledge that both sides holds part of the answer. If we keep using violence, and if we keep dominating through the market, then for sure, we’re extracting more than we can do. So at some point we need to realize that everything is connected. So if we don’t take care of the whole system, is very difficult to understand it, then, if we go to a planetary level, then we need to understand that it’s a whole system working together. So if as humanity we take consciousness on we are a part of the same planet, we belong to the same species and it is in our interest to take care of the whole system.

Marco van Hout  24:21

And this, this brings me to the to the part where we want to talk about Yeah, more than a sense. So we go beyond the self and we work together with other people, we collaborate and this is also a big part of your seven vortex philosophy and system that you develop the platform. So in design, it’s always about how might we, but we wanted to change this a little bit and define it more as a question where you say, how might I so that we, how would you formulate that so what would your role be in order to work together with other people?

Hugo Araujo  24:59

Yeah, and so for example in seven vortex I have started that from my own perspective, then my wife was there. And we’ve been deciding after like many walks in nature, designing this system that in our intention should be a knowledge transfer system for humanity, where we can put both science and traditional knowledge inside and enhances local narratives or personal narratives as Humboldt stated. So, when I thought about it, of course, I thought about failing, and saying of, well, this might not work. But what if I do it just on my own? What if I keep going, and this is just, let’s say, the power of one. So if I do it, if I make the difference, if I take the decision, and if I put my means into this? So I think once that you start putting in motion, in motion is intention, then right now, I’ve been mapping so many things. So if you see  7vortex, this is evolution of the selfish intention. And now, we are present in more than 150 countries and 4500 cities. And it is just great to see how many personal narratives are getting there. And they are not coming from an existing data base, it is just unique information, contextualized narratives. And this is beautiful because I think we need all of us to move forward.

Marco van Hout  26:34

Wonderful, thank you. Thank you so much, Hugo.

Carola Verschoor  26:37

absolutely. Thanks, Hugo, it’s been a super inspiring, we’d like to close our podcast, with a bit of inspiration. Because as you say, it’s all interconnected. And we all influence one another through our hopes and dreams, through our ability to mobilize others to go and create a better future together. And we’d like to have a sneak peek into how you look at the future. So we’d like to ask you to complete a sentence. And the sentence starts with Dear future, I’m ready. So my question is, well, what are you ready for? Can you complete the sentence do your future, I am ready.

Hugo Araujo  27:19

When I was understanding nature and studying it deeply, then I came with bacteria. And bacteria is a very interesting organism. Because they have universal communication language. And from my understanding, were more than 90 something percent of materials in general, some, so if they have a universal communication language, so they speak both interspecies and intraspecies language, chemical language as far as we know, maybe the future is more towards the sense, I think it will be an evolution of democracy, for example. It could be an evolution of decision-making process. And it seems that with cities where we’re reaching this population density.

Marco van Hout  28:10

Wonderful. So we started this podcast with what to ask nature. But we are very happy we actually asked you Well, thank you so much for joining us. And it was a wonderful conversation. And yeah, hope to talk to you soon again.

Hugo Araujo  28:26

My pleasure. Thanks a lot and I hope has been inspiring for everyone and that brings some positive things and positive impact elsewhere.