The sixth Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA 2018) was held in various UK locations between 25 July and 12 August 2018, in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS). The 20 GESA participants, from 16 countries, and the 23 inspiring resource people who joined us, are now members of the Global Environments Network, enhancing its capacity to catalyse positive social and environmental change around the world.
Through three parts—an Opening Nature Connection Retreat, the Oxford Academy and the Closing Practical Retreat—GESA took participants on a journey from deep personal inquiry and immersive nature connection experiences, to learning about cutting-edge theory and practice regarding urgent social and environmental problems, and developing practical skills to address our planetary crises. Participants left infused with a revived sense of purpose and direction and with new friendships and collaborations forged. As with previous Summer Academies, this year was no exception in delivering an enriching, transformative, and inspiring experience for both participants and organisers.
Whilst the opening retreat focused more on inner work and personal development, the 9-day intensive academy focused instead on critical evaluation. Participants delved deeply into key issues underpinning our current planetary crisis. Joined by resource people from multiple fields, this portion involved inspiriting plenaries, group discussions, practical workshops and trainings, field trips, and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Here, participants take part in the session ‘Spiritual Activism’.
GESA 2018 explored critical contemporary environmental issues ranging from the role of rewilding in conservation efforts, to reimagining economics and urban planning in mega-cities, to the likely impacts—and short-comings—of the Sustainable Development Goals. We examined these and other topics through multiple, transdisciplinary lenses from spiritual activism, intersectionality and indigenous worldviews, through the biocultural diversity framework, to citizen science and environmental science. We engaged personal and collective approaches to understanding, valuing, and governing ourselves and our landscapes, in the face of mounting environmental challenges. We focused on weaving a thread of hope and empowerment into the daily activities and discussions of the academy. We also gave attention to the connection between individuals’ inner and spiritual wellbeing, and to how the manager their relationships between ‘work’ and ‘life’. Nourishing these connections is essential for realising our aspirations for transformation.