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Exploitation and Regeneration Mindsets

Miriam Huitric interviews Kimberly Nicholas about Exploitation and Regeneration Mindsets.
Hello. I want to welcome Kimberly Nicholas, the author of Under the Sky We Make to this conversation. Welcome, Kim. Thank you so much, Miriam. So nice to be with you. Before we get started, I also want to add is that, as well as being author of the book, you’re also a researcher at LUCSUS at Lund University. So this book really brings together the two sides of you as an individual as well as you as a scientist. Do you think that’s a fair description of the book?
Yes, I think that sounds lovely, actually, and I think for me, this was a long process of pulling together my own, but largely colleagues scientific findings over many years, but also trying to look at it through the lens of my personal experience and those of friends and others who have inspired me as a way to make the science more tangible and relatable.
I think that’s, yeah, I think that comes across nicely and I’m going to jump right in here and there. What I’m interested in discussing with you today is very much around the mindsets that you bring up and the need for us to shift mindsets. And I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more, what is the exploitation mindset and what’s the problem with that? Sure. So when I boil it down, what I see as the fundamental driver behind the climate and ecological crisis, or crises rather, and behind many of the crises of inequality that we have today is what I call the exploitation mindset.
And that is quite simply, this mistaken belief that some humans are better than others and that humans in general are superior to nature. And I think this kind of hierarchical and exploitative thinking where we see other people or other species or ecosystems as existing to serve us or to meet our needs or to just be exploited as a means to an end that is the root cause of a lot of our problems. That’s, indeed, defining a mindset that is quite a stark description of how we operate today. Could you give us a definition or description of the regenerative mindset? Sure. Well, regeneration, one of the meanings is to be reborn anew or to become radically better.
And I found that a really fitting description because what I propose is the three core elements of a mindset of regeneration is first to center and prioritize and care for and respect the needs and well-being of both people and nature. Secondly, to reduce harm at its source instead of treating its symptoms. And thirdly, to increase resilience of both our individual and collective human resilience and capacity to cope with and thrive through change and also ecosystem resilience so that we’re prepared for and can get through and help each other through tough times, which will happen even as we’re on a journey to sustainability. Do you think having a regenerative mindset better prepares for that?
Well, I think the time dimension is definitely really important, and I mean, one feature that I characterize as diagnostic of the exploitation mindset is this idea of only prioritizing, above all else, efficiency and speeding things up, as if that is a purpose to itself. But you know, convenience is not a fundamental human value that gives life meaning, and in some cases, we need to slow down. And that is part of living within our means in terms of living within the cycles of regeneration that the planet can afford.
So whether it’s, you know, a year to grow a tomato or a lifetime to grow a tree, or how long it takes for resources to naturally renew, those are the kind of timeframes we need to live within. So in some cases, though, we do need to speed up because we certainly need to have better and faster ways of coming together and taking collective action so that we reach this positive social tipping point that we are striving for it to actually make this transformational change happen in time to stop climate breakdown.
Do you do you think now after having written the book, do you feel that the time it will take for recognizing one’s mindset and then beginning that shift to a different mindset? Has that given you hope in terms of seeing the journey that’s needed and the steps that are needed. Are we going to do it? I have no idea. I mean, are we going to collectively get to the point where enough people are engaged and working towards this shared vision of actually having a planet that works for people and nature on the really heroic timescale we need? I don’t know. It’s possible. It is possible. But will we actually make it happen?
I mean, that’s why this decade is so terrifying and exciting and nail biting and anxiety ridden. And I lose sleep over it, because, you know, we know we’re not doing enough right now, but we also know that we could be collectively going in the right direction. So, yeah, I think it is both exciting, but also it is really worrying because it does feel like a big change. But I guess the one thing I want to say is that my view is that it’s not a fundamental, it’s not adding something, taking on the regeneration mindset. It’s not something that’s completely new and foreign to people, and they have no idea or experience of.
It’s actually a way that many people do live or many people live in already in some parts of their lives and putting this care and respect and focus on the well-being of people and nature at the center. Putting that first, that’s what it should be about, and that is what it’s about in some cultures and some societies, in some families, some relationships. So it’s something humans know how to do and that many people do already value and feel that the incentives and society in society and the way things are set up and rewarded- -that push towards more exploitation isn’t really working for me, and it isn’t really working for the rest of the world either.
So it actually would be better to make space for these changes to happen. So I think in that sense, it is helpful because we know it’s possible. Maybe explain what is the cathedral thinking for for our listeners and then just how does that how does that change how we do things?
Sure, well, cathedral thinking is a way of talking about the fact that our actions now play out over generations and millennia in ways that we can’t necessarily predict or imagine. But we therefore do have this important responsibility, especially - this has always been true- -if you think of the butterfly effect or something like this, but especially right now when we know we are the last stewards of this tiny remaining sliver of the carbon budget to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. And we know that every fraction of a degree really matters for life on Earth, and we’re the last ones who can make this transition happen fairly and fast and safely.
So that puts this additional responsibility, I think, on our shoulders. And it’s just a chance we cannot miss- -we have to make sure that we take. And I think some of those ideas came to me when I was thinking about this idea of future generations and I write in Under the Sky We Make - “forget future generations”. And of course, I’m being a bit facetious. I do believe that we have a responsibility to future generations, but we don’t have to look to them for some hypothetical future. A non-existent person of, you know, Hey, would you like a habitable planet or not?
You can listen to young people today and to scientists and to others who are clamoring for our right to live on a habitable and thrivable planet. So I think have realizing that we are our ancestors, future generations and we are part of this larger tapestry of the human story and that we play this really critical role because of the time we happen to be alive- -that’s part for me of cathedral thinking and being willing to keep doing the work to build the kind of world that we want, even if we don’t see right away whether or not our actions are adding up and making enough difference, and it’s very hard to feel like it is enough.
But keeping on doing the work and trusting that it will continue to inspire others and add up to be enough in time. That’s the way forward, I think.

Miriam Huitric meets with Kimberly Nicholas, author of “Under the Sky We Make. How to be a Human in a Warming World” to discuss the exploitation and regeneration mindsets that are defined in her book.

This video was filmed on a live video connection from Lund, Sweden.

We are aware of the length of this video. We chose not to cut the wise words of Kimberly Nicholas, author of “Under the Sky We Make”. We ask you to share of your time and listen to what she has to share with us.

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