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Content Starts IMAGI-NATION {LABS} – Nature & Custodial Economics

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Additional reading and listening

Parul Punjabi Jagdish, CEO fo AIME Inc + host of IMAGI-NATION {TV} 

The question I always ponder is like, how close am I to nature? How connected am I or how disconnected am I? And I’ve had the fortune of being in different countries. I was born in India, Indigenous to that land, the [check with PJ] people. I have a very strong relational web that pulls me back there. Italy has been home to me in some weird wonderful ways and now I’m beginning to find some beginnings of home here in New York and I’m like “this is the most I’ve been removed from nature. This is the farthest I’ve been”. And then when I look deeply and I question deeply, is that true? Is that really true? And the answer is “no”. The answer is like, there is nature within it. There is something inherently wild inside that cannot be tamed by the systems, by the landscape, by whatever. There is this connection that goes way, way back that I cannot intellectually understand even if I try to I cannot gather like how far, how deep this runs in my blood, in my veins, in my DNA and sometimes I just look up at the sky and I think, “wow, people would have looked up at the same sky thousands of years ago… people would have looked at the same stars, swam in the same waters, so there is this deep sense of continuity that nature provides to me”.

We are quite awake to the fact that humanity is creating quite devastating impacts to the climate. Is that our true role? Is that who we are? I think that’s open to debate, open to question. If we ponder over deeply, we’ll come to realise that’s not the role of humanity. We are an integral part of this ecosystem that we find ourselves in and, in fact, we are it. We are nature.

Where I see the greatest hope is the young people we work with and these young people have the answers already and our job [at] AIME is to unlock these young people.

I don’t want false hope, I don’t want hope without action ‘cause that can be misleading and that’s not what is required in this hour. We need to look at the biggest possible lens, we need to zoom out to the biggest possible systemic view.

When I look up and think of space… I think what space does in some way is dissolve national boundaries because if you are to look out from outside of planet earth and look back in you’d be like, “it’s one earth, it’s one planet, we have just created this fictional lines and called them nation states” and our job with this new nation, IMAGI-NATION is to rip apart some of those national borders that are completely mind-created and allow a nation state that connects without borders that brings people together. 

Nature is so inherently, intrinsically valuable that if it takes us a dollar sign to in the end say “hey, there’s value here”, that’s a sign that we’re pretty far down a rabbit hole we shouldn’t have been in the first place. How do we rewire that rabbit hole and what might this wisdom that we unearth from a million presidents feed into what we’re thinking of in terms of a custodial or nature based economy?

The story arc of the presidents that we just uncovered, how we built this new nation to unite rather than divide, we give the stage for young people around the world from outside of the margins… [and elevate] their voices into extraterrestrial space, giving them the space the lead and then having an installation. STEM is one thing that moves people but, there’s also art and there’s steam. When you add art it becomes hot and messy and fun and then you move people through energy, through action, through [story].

If we use currency as a portal – like, a dead whale is worth more economically than a live whale under current market conditions – and we use that reframed lens of saying “hey, a live whale is more valuable than a dead whale”, and if we do it through big story, through ceremony, hopefully there’s a way of moving people beyond the dollar, beyond the transaction and saying “hey, you’re part of this interconnect web of life”. What happens to the whale effets me.

If we don’t shift the economic frameworks of how we value things in the world, we’re gonna be stuck. We might get a bit of hope, a bit of false hope even, but the system remains the same and we haven’t turned humanity back to its custodial role in nature. 

Everything we’ve ever created as human beings is from nature. All of the global economies, everything is from nature and that’s who we are. How do we truly value something that’s invaluable?

We commit to bringing more unlikely connections by a factor of five for some of the biggest challenges facing humanity today. We don’t have all the answers but, we’re really good at finding the people doing amazing work and drawing the lines between the dots and collectively reimagining the systems.

Stephani Beck, Vice Chancellor of IMAGI-NATION {University}

I work with Jack and the design team on the design of the NATION and looking at these processes of emergence and how we connect with other people.

I’ve been thinking about is Hope and how you pass that on as an energy and I feel like it’s in these action-focussed stories. If we’re going out and connecting with people with the intention to build relationships with them, it’s an action-focussed story that we go out with and then we make meaning and sense together in place-based locations. So, someone from Australia and someone from India coming together to merge this intelligence and then you end up with another perspective which is something that’ difference, like a different type of thinking which, according to Albert Einstein, can help us solve the problems that we have today.

Having that core of the network be young people [is really important] because they are a piece of the puzzle. They help us build our perspectives as well. I learned so much and most of what I’ve learned is how much I don’t know. These are the songlines and the pathways that actually weave the world together and we have a million young people coming in and giving them a way to action their visions, it could be a whole new game.

(in response to guardians of earth) Through re-wild your school, young people get to choose a champion animal and then understand that animals’ lifecycle. They go through a process of accessing what that animal needs to survive, what it prey’s upon, what prey’s on it and it’s place in the ecosystem and once a studen learns that, they’re able to apply that knowledge to any species. Then when they engage with [Guardians of Earth] and they’re playing , they can bring that knowledge about “ok, I’ve identified what’s around me and I’ve already got that system through re-wild your school to understand what I need to do to address that problem locally. If you imagine that being repeated thousands or millions of times, the power of that in terms of transformational change particularly in urban areas is really powerful.

(in response to Johny) One of the partnerships we’ve also developed is with the University of Adelaide and what we’re doing there is measuring nature based education and how that impacts positively on young people and outcomes and it would be really interesting to roll that up into a broader sense of how we’re measuring nature in the sense of nature as a healer and a process through which we can have better physical, mental health outcomes that are positive for everyone.

Everything is economics and the little that I know about it is that it’s just what we value. Having a global community of people shifting that they value is the tension point. There’s so many different ways and perspectives that people are looking at that so if we’re not sharing knowledge in a way that allows us to make meaning, reevaluate our values which then shapes our behaviour, we’re just living by the same script.

How do we build tools that are coded with a set of behaviour that is imagination as the door in to remove these reductive mindsets that we often look at each other through without even knowing. Not even eachout, a tree or a bird or any of those things.

James Forbes, CEO of Jane Goodall Institute (AU)

(on the interview) Everytime I watch it, it brings up quite a lot of emotion in me. I think the conversation that Jane and Jack are having is a really powerful and important one.  it brought up this notion of nature as a great healer  it brought up this notion of nature as a great healer. The fact that in the face of something as awful and as powerful as nature and the way in which we function or don’t function alongside it, that our role in nature  has become so disconnected that we’ve lost that connection with it’s healing power and we’re seeing an epidemic, a global epidemic, around mental health, narcissism, sociopathy, whatever kinds of mental disorders that are going on and nature is a great antidote to these issues that we’re facing psychologically and the way in which we’re building structures and institutions and societies or we’re deconstruction them by allowing these processes to be flourish and that’s not helping anyone. I think reconnection to nature is not just essential just for the sake of nature itself and the protection of biodiversity and respecting all living things, it’s also essential for our futures because think if we don’t have nature as a central part of the way in which we live and exist everyday then we are running ourselves our of business. We’re facing, as human civilisations have faced over thousands of years, we’re facing, and making are saying, we’re living in the middle of now, the sixth grade extinction and this is something that should concern everyone.

As Jane pointed out, one of her most powerful reasons for hope and the work that we’re doing with AIME is this nature studio. Our role in that – the roots and shoots program – which Jane started in Tanzania in 1991 and it’s been going for 30 years and has a presence in 60 countries. It’s guiding principle is all about giving agency to young people, putting the power to them to make the decision on what they see as the problem and solving it and working on the solution. By doing that, that’s engendering that hope into action… Hope on it’s own in somewhere pointless, Hope with action is what’s required.

What excited me about the work we’re doing together… is this idea that Roots and Shoots is a global movement that can funnel young people by giving them access to information about nature at a local level in classrooms across Australia and through a program that we’ve developed called Re-Wild your school. We want to give access to every young Australian and eventually spread that out around the world… That kids at school are learning about nature, learning about biodiversity, learning about their local connections and the values of those at a local level and that that can spread [out] into a broader community process and to business and into every aspect of our lives which is what we need to do if we’re gonna to address the biodiversity and climate crisis we face. These things can’t be handled just alone, they need to be thought of as every sector involved. And, every young person that we bring into Re-wild your school and graduate through to becoming a part of 1M presidents, that these young people are going to go out into the world and fulfil whatever vocational career that they want to fulfil but, wherever they go they take with them an environmental practise and a sustainability mindset. All of us rowing together is how we find the ultimate solution.

In 10 years time, I’d love to see every young person on the planet have as part of their education at school is integrated with nature. It’s not just about learning about maths and languages and history and so on but, that nature-based education is an essential and respected part of the curriculum and not some kind of add on… but, an essential part. I think the work that we’re doing here is driving toward that future state and in the wake of AIME’s death strategy that there’s a legacy of every young person in Australia and around the world who are learning about anture from the get go and then they’re passing that on to their children and their children’s children and it becomes inherently an aural tradition not just about what you learn from a text book or in written form.

Hannah Ashford, managing director of the Karman Project

The Karman Project is an independent and non-profit organisation that connects space leaders from all over the world. We work with… all of the different individuals that we need to empower to solve our collective issues as humanity / a group of stakeholders and a decision making level from both public and private sector in the space sector… who are having a quite significant impact on the future of humanity.

When you think about space you often think about space exploration and lunar missions and everything that’s happening outside of our planet… but, the vast majority of the space industry is looking at satellite technologies to map and monitor everything that’s happening on our planet, here on planet earth in real time and give us critical data to map everything from wildfires to deforestation to ensure that we can improve supply chain efficiency, coordinate disaster management, understand biodiversity and how that’s shifting and shaping in different critical regions around the world.

And it comes back to what Jack and Jane were speaking about which is firstly you need hope to inspire action but, what we also do is we work with leaders to ensure that they have knowledge to inspire action.

Another unique aspect of space is that it’s a really exciting and beautiful lever for inspiration. Every human on earth through all of the millenia’s of our existence have had these moments of looking up to the stars and dreaming and thinking about your place in the universe and I think that it’s also a very humbling experience. 

For children particularly, what we’ve also found is that space can be a great introduction to futures and careers in STEM and everything else that you need in space. Space doesn’t just need people coming from science and engineering. It needs lawyers, it needs policy people, it needs great communicators, it needs storytellers, it needs artists, we need everyone onboard to care about this collective future, we need environmentalists.

What we can do with space is we can inspire an entire next generation to really think about their place on the earth. Not just here on planet earth but the entire universe.

What we’re doing with AIME is connect with a great non-profit called Club for the future which is a non-profit branch of Blue Origin. There are a  lot of payloads that go up into space fairly often and what thye do is ensure that a certain percentage of payload is donated to inspire the next generation. What we’re doing with AIME is collecting all of the President speeches from the kids around the world and taking them on a little journey around space, delivering them back here to earth and then we’re going to make a big mural at [AIME’s IMAGI-NATION {Factory}]. Whatever the youth want to dream about in terms of their future as Presidents of this new NATION that can go on a journey, it can keep them engaged because they know that what they’re creating and what we’re envisioning is not just stopping here on this paper, it’s going out of this planet on a journey that is so unfathomable, even to adults. We’re also looking at curriculum with AIME and how we can develop professor space which we’re working on and looking at really bringing critical education around the future of science, engineering and all of these topics.

We’re talking about shifting huge global mindsets and… connecting humans with the digital and understanding the power that digital understanding and mapping can have for all of the critical, acute problems that we’re facing as humanity.

We’re taking [a group of space] leaders out of our boardings, into Maldives in direct proximity of all of these issues which we speak about all the time, understanding how to utilise satellite technologies and space technologies to map an monitor and better understand everything from the mangrove ecosystems to the illegal fishing which is impacting the region. This knowledge mean nothing without tapping into that local, Indigenous knowledge that exists there. You need to paint this global picture of what’s happening there and digital technologies and digital understanding can only take you so far.

The idea that these initiatives won’t be needed anymore because we would have made so much impact together with all of our networks and all of these relations… that is so beautiful and so powerful and so potent and I deeply hope that we’re in that position. We need to become more nature centric and I think that we will – I really believe in this next generation.

I hope that in 10 years time [Indigenous Knowledge] is not a conversation about “whether” or “if”, that it’s part of everyone’s life and it should be leading the way.

Johny Mair, Co-Founders of Ethic

[Ethic does] sustainable investing. We help people understand the value of the things that they care about, reflect those values in their current portfolio to see where maybe they’re not aligned and then we create new portfolios for them that are more aligned with their values. [We’re] trying to reconnect people with the things that they’re investing in. With transactional behaviour, you lose empathy for what your actions are because you’re not connected. We think of every portfolio as a vehicle to tell a story and reconnect with. Through that process, [we’ve been thinking about how we can] use a similar approach for looking at nature and giving people that may have a particular dollar value lens on something… new lenses and portals into that. 

There’s some really good thinking. The first thing is, “what can you actually measure?”. At the moment, especially in the financial space, it’s reductive of how they value nature. It’s very much from an extractive point of view. As we’re seeing different models come through we’re seeing people starting to think about ecological system services and then as we start to progress through the different models of thinking about the species, species richness, the interconnection between those, some of the work we’ve been doing with the Labs has brought out this custodial indicator species and it’s a very interesting journey of getting people to reconnect and rethink how we are connected with nature and a very exciting project we’re working on all together.

In terms of sequencing, so much of it is the way that we design. We have been designing form a user-centric experience and we have been trying to get outcomes that sometime aren’t very good for humans – taking people’s attention and designing things for that – we’re moved over to a more human-centric approach and it’s forgetting everything else and designing things for the comfort of humans and we’ve seen how that can also have a very negative effect where we’re not incorporating the externalities. We’re moving over into a life-centric design trying to incorporate all different species and life into the design of a product and going one step further is the Indigenous systems knowledge design which is what we want to get to.

After the 10 years, not only enjoying the journey through the path with AIME because it’s already been such a blessing for myself but, how do we create and put Indigenous Knowledge Systems Labs in every organistion, in every University so that design can be utilised by everyone to help us create the future that we wanna believe we can live in.

Mallika, Guardians of Earth

We’d like to develop technology that brings people closer to nature because at the end of the day we’re all creatures that want to have fun, want to enjoy with our close friends and we also want to feel closer to nature. The way we do it is as a game. We’re all quite immersed in our screens and if we look around everyone is looking at our screens every time of the day. Why don’t we use that medium to get people close to nature?

We know maybe 30% of the lifeforms alive on our planet and of that, a majority is from the developed work and of that about roughly 80% is from within 2.5km of a paved road. In other words, the world is a black hole for us. We don’t really know what’s living and where it is living. We’re making that all of these beautiful people are collecting data on the biodiversity that is present around them so that we can go and give that to scientists and researchers to say “ok, now you have the information now start making use of it and figuring our ways of what’s most important and where”.

It’s important that humans are understanding biodiversity and humans are aware of biodiversity… once humans become familiar with diodiveristy there is no way they’re going to go back and say “no, I don’t like nature, I’m just going to stick to my concrete spaces and my technology”. It is a natural progression and once you become aware of it, you’re intrigued and more curious and eventually you fall in love and then there is no going back from there.

10 years from now I’m hoping we don’t have to do this, I’m hoping none of us exist as these entities and we’re just human beings enjoying living on this planet in harmony. I think we’re working collectively towards that future.

Professor Song

I’ve been lucky enough to work with PJ to help shape and deliver this as a project and I can’t wait to get in, do some painting and spin all the ideas around in my brain and pour them out, put them on the canvas and see what everyone thinks.

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