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Episode 36: 
Beyond Net-Zero: Transforming Learning Through Nature's Patterns


Marina Robb

Hosted by: Marina Robb

In this episode, Marina discusses: 

Welcome to Episode 36!

Today, I begin to delve into the fascinating world of biomimicry and nature's patterns, exploring how these principles can help us become net contributors in our communities and beyond and of course other interesting ideas! 

I'll discuss how we could develop these natural blueprints to foster participation, learning, and positive change.
I believe it's crucial for everyone to feel empowered in their learning and community engagement, realizing that we can make a positive impact together.

In this Episode Marina discusses:

  • What’s happening in the land in July?
  • What does net-positive rather than net-zero mean?
  • What is nature and biomimicry?
  • Learning from life’s ability to create the conditions for life to thrive!
  • How can we learn from all of nature’s Unifying Patterns – could this be a template for all our decisions?
  • How we move from an individual mindset towards a community-relational mindset.

Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com 


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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)

Hello, and welcome to The Wild Minds Podcast for people interested in health, nature-based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Robb, I'm an author, entrepreneur, for a school outdoor learning and nature-based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programs for the health service in the UK. 

Welcome to Episode 36, beyond Net Zero Transforming Learning Through nature's patterns. Today, we begin to delve into the fascinating world of biomimicry and nature's patterns, exploring how these principles can help us become net contributors in our communities and beyond. And, of course, lots of other interesting ideas, we'll discuss how we could develop these natural blueprints to foster participation, learning and positive change, I believe it's crucial for everyone to feel empowered in their learning and community engagement, realizing that we can make a positive impact together.

So I'm really grateful today for all the many conversations that I've had this week, I've just been at the nature connection conference in Derby in the north of England, and have come back with so many ideas and information to explore. And I'm just grateful to all the people out there that are doing some really important research on the benefits of nature connection for our health, or wellbeing for a whole new way of interacting and having a relationship with the wider planet. And I also come back from working with an early years group who I meet regularly and just feel very inspired, because so many people are thinking a lot deeper about our relationship to ourselves to the world, and what is learning what's important and what matters.

And kind of in a way, we're doing this full circle, back to an understanding that a lot of traditional people around the world have this traditional ecological knowledge, where nature really does impact us and the natural world, different species, different living beings impact us, you know, from a lovely image of a child, basically being in a field and reacting to a bird that was above them, and noticing how the child who in this story was probably only 18 months, was able to be impacted and relate to and have an experience with a bird. And I just think from a researching point of view, we often forget that actually we are really influenced and impacted by everything around us, even if it's the heat of the day, or the wind, and so on. So there's this dynamic that's going on.

And I'm grateful to this time where we are really trying to dig deep and think about these things. So often we forget that there's a lot of theoretical knowledge, whether that's academic knowledge, but also embodied knowledge, experiential knowledge and knowledge through time from as I said, many cultures, that helps us widen our understanding of what it is to be human. And all of you know that I'm very interested in working within models that puts human the animal human back into the circle of life, right? Because that's what it's inevitable, because it is and clearly we've removed ourselves, we separated ourselves from these natural cycles and natural systems. So a lot to think about. There's gonna take me a lifetime to unravel some of these things.

But thinking about the episode from last week, just want to remember what's going on now in the woods for me when I go into the woods, which I'll be doing again over the next 10 days and working with people and I've been in the woods recently and it's so abundance so much is growing so much greenery so much life and the heat is as is happening finally, in the UK, and so there's also the turning in the stillness, and we've had Solstice. So at least in the Northern Hemisphere, the light is already slowly getting less. And in the old cultures, we understand that it's the beginning of the turning in, turning inward. So we've had half the year from December to June of kind of outward, the cycle being more outward growth. And now, we've hit this kind of pinnacle of the summer, and it starts to go around the cycle starts to change. And it feels so important because the natural world shows us that we're constantly moving and changing and dying, and that death creates life and feels really poignant.

And in a way, sometimes we talk about these families, feminine and masculine principles, definitely not about male man woman thing. But these kinds of principles of external power and internal power, and how the plants and the trees show us about that. And certainly, if you're interested, and you go into folklore, you start to see how our ancestors with that intimate knowledge of trees and plants would recognize in those trees and plants, something that they can learn about themselves. So now in England, if you look into kind of Celtic story and mythology, that this is, the tree is the holy tree. And, you know, it feels like what's the holy tree got to do with this time of year, and, but if you go and sit by a holy tree, and you observe the holy tree, you can see all this new leaves that are quite tender. And this kind of time of growth, and time of just feeling that this is the tree of fire, and the sun is hot, and it's fiery, and in a way, again, that power that internal fire, being able to express that, but also remembering that vulnerability.

And I know and you'll know, that like anger and Spike Enos and fire often is the emotion that when you pull it away, underneath, there's a lot of vulnerability, which is why it's quite hard. If you're defending yourself, and you feel angry to then access that, that more vulnerable, more sand, more soft emotions. So the holy, you know, it reminds us to have those spikes. But to remember that we have that vulnerability. And also, let's blow what vulnerability means out of the window here, because it's not about being weak. It's actually when you know, that softness, then it's yours. And nobody can actually influence or change that because it's it is what it is. So I'm really fascinated by this idea of being net positive rather than net zero. If you are interested in political movements and frameworks and what's going on and things like that, we often talk about net zero, which is really about starting to look at from a carbon perspective, which is heating our planet, you know, how much carbon are we producing? And can we kind of balance it out? So it's net zero.

But Deborah talks about being net positive, being net contributors. And it's a mindset shift, isn't it that we start to see ourselves of how can we be net positive? How can we find a kind of framework of being in thinking where we are positively contributing. And again, I have to go and think back and with indigenous land base peoples who have and are taking care of land at the moment, even though so much of their land has been taken away and owned. And the science shows that the land that they are taking care of has the most biodiversity on the planet. So they know how to be net positive. And I also love this because there is this heaviness of what it is to be human and we're bad and we're wrong and everything we do isn't good. And, you know, that? Yeah, but there's reckoning. There's Reckoning and looking at what we do, but, but there's also how can we shift that and be net positive and I think there's huge opportunity to listen, to really listen and learn with and from systems that have been in place for 1000s of years that that peoples from other cultures can really help us with.

So it's really about expanding what we've been doing fora might be taught into learning from a much greater, wider source. And, you know, I keep talking about nature and you know, I'm interested in wild but nature, you know, will mean different things to different people. I there's been some research that questions, you know, what if I asked you What is nature, you're going to come up with different answers, it will mean different things. You know, some people say, Oh, it's plants or its animals, oh, nature is freedom. Nature is fresh air. Our nature is dangerous, scary, or it's disgusting. It's peaceful, it's playful. And I think nature can mean different things to different people. And, you know, when I'm talking about nature, I, I think I'm talking about so many things as well, I am talking about those things. And I'm also talking about inner nature. You know, what it all those feelings and sensations in me that I am nature. And I'm thinking about natural systems and something that is the more than human, which we are absolutely part of. So it's nice to think what is meant nature mean to you? And I'm also interested in kind of asking just general population, what does it mean to you? What does it mean to the children we work with? What is, What are they think? What are they seeing? How can we say it from their eyes? I think it's really important to ask those questions, because for sure, we get super fixed in our own perspectives.

And it's one of the conditions of being human that we can only really see from our perspective, and which is why this listening attribute is so important. And I get excited and hear me sharing these ideas. But I know often I'm missing lots of ideas, because I'm jumping to the next thing rather than listening. So I'd love to touch on these ideas of biomimicry principles. And there's going to be resources in the last show notes that you can look at. But I am super excited because I think this is a template and I'm, as you know, in the process of developing some curriculum materials and in they'll arrive in the right time, because there's always something else to be getting on with but these biomimicry principles and what is biomimicry well bio is the study of life mimic is imitation. So, we are you know, we are actually all mimic and mirror each other but this is a kind of scientific area where we can actually develop loads of systems and practices and processes that actually mimic life and mimic all of life yeah, all of life and actually asked nature or observe nature to find ways to solve problems. And I was interested last week by thinking about these templates. Now, are there checklists that could be developed for corporations for schools? For anything, any kind of operation or organizations and I know there are that actually help us to think Hang on, how can we? How can we mimic natural systems? How can we mimic natural sight cycles?

How can we go to nature and listen and observe and let's face it, that nature the natural world, the cosmos been here a really long time. And just take a moment I mean, look at it, I think this is like you know, this is I want to almost be religious. This is kind of this is amazing. When you get a chance to sit with trees or rivers or sea, sit the sea or lakes or any kind of within a system that is not created by humans. It's awe inspiring, and it's been around for millions and millions of years and the science around mycelium. Now that they're problem solvers, they are actively actually problem solving a situation they arriving a situation that they haven't encountered before. And they're problem solving and creating new ways of cooperating and interacting. So can we learn from these natural systems?

I think yes, absolutely. We can count on what would nature do you know, and can we learn from our own natural systems when we learn Listen to those sensations and those ups and downs within us, I think, yes, we can. So, nature, the natural world life creates the conditions for life to thrive. So serious questions, scientific endeavors, just scientific. Remember, for me, the great sciences is open ended questions not trying to reduce everything like I know, because actually, I hear a lot from scientists that it's, you know, good science isn't about. I know, it's about, well, just the open-ended investigation, I think we get lost on theories. You know, theories are theories, they're not facts. They're theories that are built over observation, but remembering that a lot of this stuff we don't really know, through our head.

So it's very hard to then define and design research programs that actually look at the whole picture, because we don't have the whole picture and we never will. So that kind of gap is very important. I hope I'm making sense to you guys out there. Because I'm kind of working with this as well. And thinking on my feet about this, and yeah, it's something that I've always been interested in. But yeah, I'm a student of this. So we wait, if we want to be net contributors, I guess there's the kind of disposition of also, understanding that we can do that. And for sure, some of the things that we can do as individuals, as human communities are valuable, you know, they have impact. I love this idea of the story. We're within a society, you know, at the moment, we're in this kind of like, doggy dog kind of thing. We're all individuals, and we've got to get through it. And it's, it's pretty stressful.

But it perhaps it's not like that, perhaps we are communities, and we when we can do a lot in community and be stronger together. I am sure because, well, what does the natural world do it is a system that is very cooperative, and moves to accommodate and moves to be beneficial to something else, I mean, the sun without the sun, nothing gray. So you know, pretty good to have the sun, for example, pretty simple, but I'm just throwing these ideas out there. So we want to be net contributors, but we have to have a sense of what we can do. And I'm not going to pretend for one moment that a lot of the classic ideas require income. You know, that's why we can't separate nature love of nature, from inequality and justice because they're entirely entwined.

So when we look at one, it affects the other. So of course, income matters, access to some green is really valuable. And maybe we can't do it in our own gardens. But maybe we can find an allotment you know, or find a organization that's working outdoors to kind of connect with but we can contribute and you know, things like donating money if you've got money, signing petitions, adopting animals, local community action, planting trees, those gorilla meadows, you know, planting seeds, gathering seeds, love the simple idea of gathering seeds and planting them someone were telling you about rebel botanists where they're going in this in the cities, and, you know, they're writing down the name of some of the plants so it's not like plant blindness, I talked about pedagogical blindness in my book, actually, you know, that we don't see the value in the learning of what's going on outside but plant by blindness.

So literally, in chalk riding on pavements, something about that plant, it's like, hello, there's a plant here. There's a plant that really helps with pollution or really helps with headaches, that kind of thing. So what are the things we of course we've heard about recycling and reusing things, you know, I don't do it all the time. I living with imperfection. 100% But these are some of the things looking at home energy, reducing plastic, reducing water use, you know, brick in your toilet, thinking about waste, how much waste we're actually putting out we're about compost amazing projects about compost that our own body waste is food because that's that cycle, isn't it that death creates renewal and renewal. And there are so many simple things just like noticing, having a moment looking at a flower remembering to smell the roses.

In England, this is the time of the roses. Take a moment, I think that's an action because it shifts our nervous system and gives us the capacity to be present. Because sure, we can't take on all that's overwhelming. It's too much, we're not designed to do that. So we need to be thinking about us, as a whole person, the thinking self, the emotional self, the physical self, the spiritual self, the imaginal cells and maybe kind of ripening different aspects. Remember, this is the kind of module that I am promoting this kind of holistic model. Absolutely, I'm not have not come up with this, this is me drawing on lots of people's reading, writing, and direct experience as well. We can put out food and water for animals. And this feeling, you know, when you look at a flower, or you have a moment and this feeling of or sometimes I kind of equate a feeling of all with spiritual because it's such a hard word to define, even though it exists in the national curriculum.

In England, spirituality exists, developing spiritual attributes exists, or I think is quite close to that because it's a wow feeling. But it's also God, I'm tiny and tiny in the face of all these incredible systems have been here before me, and you know how wonderful it all is. And, you know, we talk a lot in the research and in the experience of this sense of losing the self, and it's like a feeling of being transpersonal. So you're no longer the ego, you have a sense of being connected. Yes, oneness, yes, a sense of unity. These don't last forever, but there are moments, and it's a good feeling. Genuinely, it's a really good feeling. And, you know, or, and spiritual, I think kind of gives you that feeling of something bigger, something in the unknown, something that we don't really understand through our head. And is important. So that being a net contributor is also for me feeling into that and how that internal world can be shifted from those experiences. And of course, that we can participate.

I'm a real advocate in my teaching, and in my pedagogy, regardless of the names and labels you call what we do, whether that's for a school, or outdoor learning, or experiential education, all kinds of things adventure play, it's that we're participating. And, you know, we say if we want self esteem and self confidence that we got to have a sense of agency, we've got to have a sense that we are participating. And yet, think about that little child that I talked about, they are participating, sitting in that field, and a bird flies over and makes the sound and the bird and the child makes the sound. They belong, they fail, they feel a part of one of the great harms, I think, is that we don't feel we belong, and that we hurt ourselves in all sorts of ways by separating ourselves from each other, from the land. And coming back to belonging is really important. It's important for that classic emotional attachment. But it's so important to feel that we are part of that we are part of something that we aren't these individuals, which is pretty scary, isn't it if we really think we're just on our own, and that's it. But when things happen in our world, people do help. We do help each other, we can be altruistic. And I think it's fantastic that Darwin wasn't really saying the survival of the fittest, that he was actually saying that we need to be a good fit. And isn't that amazing that something can be changed from Oh, we got to survive, then we're going to be the ones that make it to actually going to be a good fit.

Now that's quite different. That's a whole different mindset, being a good fit and then figuring out you know, what is our thing that we can contribute, you know, which we all have, all of us, every single one of us has something that we can contribute, and that we can participate. And I love that because I know that most of you out there because I have it will not feel good enough will separate will be like, gonna, not gonna say anything. But actually we need the voices, the quiet voices, as people talk about, you know, quiet, what are those quiet voices actually saying if they could, you know, so listening again, going back to listening, so I loved that growing food could be a pathway, a simple pathway, even in schools, growing tomatoes, and watching the whole cycle to the end of gathering the seeds and planting again, you know, we've got autumn, it's not that far away, everywhere on the planet, things are growing. So what about gathering seeds and trying to grow seeds? Such a simple act? So important? And, you know, let's do that, let's all do that.

And there's something about slow pedagogy slowing down so that we can be present, and observe. And there's new kinds of research models that exist coming out which someone is calling, like relational pedagogy, and I just think these words they sound clever, all these words mean is one of the things isn't it of being academic is being able to have clever words, which obviously exclude people that don't think that they belong in those places. And I would say, let's make these things translated, so that we can we can understand them. But I think relational pedagogy is like saying, Oh, hang on a second, relationships really matter, that we don't exist in a vacuum, actually, they're all constantly being impacted by each other. And really starting to value that and work with that. And obviously, all this stuff I'll be addressing, as we carry on this podcast, I do want to just name some of these patterns, some of these what the biomimicry kind of Institute is calling nature's unifying patterns.

So these are things that if you observe in nature, you can see that this is how it works. And, again, going back to that template, can we design things that reflect this template? Let me pick up a few of them. And I've put some more in the show notes. So you can have a look at that. But, you know, one is, nature uses only the energy it needs and relies on freely available energy. So can we design systems that actually use the energy that is needed, you know, and thinking about our own energy, can we actually become more aware of our energy so that we have even in a day moments of action moments of rest and start noticing how the seasons reflect that as well. Nature recycles all materials. So clearly, if we're going to be creating anything going forward, we need to be using materials that can go back naturally into the soil.

Soil is so important, I'm Hope to talk more about soil. I mean, we did talk about soil in the regenerative agriculture episode, but soil so important, because the soil is where we go from. And you know, we are the future ancestors. So our what soil we make is our children, right? So, it's metaphorical, in the sense that it's not just physical about soil, it's also metaphorical that this is the soil of the future. Another one is nature provide mutual benefits. So as the cycles, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, or the cycles, provides benefits for everything else to live. So, yeah, could we ask, well, whatever I'm doing here, how does that provide benefits the other living things, great investigation for children. What about nature uses chemistry and materials that are safe for living beings. Make sense that we only use chemistry and material materials that are actually safe? It is almost impossible to imagine that in this day and age that we're using chemistry chemicals that clearly are destroying soils and destroying atmosphere, and so on.

And of course, this links into the policy, and I understand that it's maybe not overnight. But I think it's pretty basic that we need to be operating in this way. What is your part my part, a school's part in actually being part of a change in local ecosystems in our own physical or embodied ecosystem, or community ecosystem, you know, what, what are the things that we could do one thing that we could do? And you know, what are the some of the skills that we might need to do that? What do we want to go and learn about? And, and so that eventually, we can make changes that feel that we are moving towards this possibility of being net contributors.

Thank you very much for listening. Don't miss next week's episode 37, where I'll be joined by Dylan Walker, who runs the ecological consultancy Wilder life. We'll dive into an exciting conversation about rewilding exploring the incredible possibilities that open up when we harness our creativity and imagination. It's a discussion you won't want to miss.

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild Minds Podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show.

To stay updated with The Wild Minds Podcast and get all the behind-the-scenes content. You can visit the www.theoutdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at theoutdoorteacherUK and LinkedIn, Marina Robb.
The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb. See you next week. Same time, same place.