a new nature-centred mindset: Nature-based Thinking

Geovana Mercado

Postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

Experienced researcher in the field of nature-based solutions, at SLU, Geovana Mercado is analysing the different organisational structures through which government and citizens relate to nature. She is an agronomist by training and holds a PhD on Food and Resources Economics at Copenhagen University. In CONEXUS, she oversees and supports the work of the Life-Labs to co-create, implement, and celebrate NBS and their many opportunities.

Geovana Mercado explains the potentialities of Nature-based Thinking* (NBT), a new nature-centred mindset that the CONEXUS project, through its Life-Labs, is promoting.

In the project, Geovana closely works with the Life-Labs. To non-experts, she explains the Life-Labs as “a community of learning and experimentation where different actors from different spheres of society can interact and test NBS.” As such, Life-Labs include a wide range of stakeholders, from local governments to grassroot organisations, academia, the business sector, NGOs and others. By definition, Life-Labs’ working method is interdisciplinary and focused on co-creation, from the bottom-up.

Hence in CONEXUS, they are understood as a space where stakeholders come together to discuss, learn and innovate through joint efforts and through the implementation of different pilot initiatives that seek to tackle current urban-environmental degradation issues such as mitigation of air pollution through urban gardens and increasing biodiversity through city-wide regreening plans, among others.

Nature-based Thinking upgrades the nature-based solutions concept, moving from a human-centred to a nature-first approach

CONEXUS recognises the interconnection between ecological, human, and technological systems towards a more holistic approach called Nature-based Thinking (NBT). As Geovana unpacks it, NBT emphasises the need for developing a different mindset that fosters a nature-centred approach to human living. Going a step further than the nature-based solutions paradigm, NBT wants to remain a “non-concept”, open to local interpretation and appropriation by communities so that “we as Europeans [do not] define it”, excluding other cultures and communities such as indigenous peoples.

Because modern science and academia are inherently human-centred, such a mindset is difficult to embrace. Change requires acknowledging that humans should interact with nature through an equal relationship, understanding that it does not exist to serve us, neither to help us solve our ordinary problems. This acknowledgment moves from the realisation that we are part of nature.

*A comprehensive argumentation on the need for Nature-based Thinking has been written earlier by Randrup, T., Buijs, A., Konijnendijk, C., & Wild, T. (2020). Moving beyond the Nature-based Solutions discourse: Introducing Nature-based Thinking. Urban Ecosystems, 23, 919-926

In this short video, Geovana tells us more about NBT and the project’s aspirations in this regard.

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