GESA Alumni Testimonials

Wednesday October 26, 2016

My experience at GESA in 2014 changed me in more ways than one: it opened me up to new ideas and connections, and new ways of existing in the world. ~ Daniel Abreu Mejía from Dominican Republic, GESA 2014. >> read more

I discovered an amazing ecological learning approach – Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects, described as a breathtakingly new view of reality that arises from deep ecology, systems thinking, and the resurgence of nondualistic spirituality. This discovery was incredibly transformational for me, to the extent that it made me sign up for a training retreat with Joanna in California to deepen my knowledge and practice. I believe that more people should have the opportunity of learning this approach, and I am beginning to apply it in my work and life in many different ways.

One of the reasons I am excited about co-organising the Global Environments Regional Academy in Latin America in November 2015 is to share the Work that Reconnects with other changemakers. Beyond these techniques I would like to be able to reproduce the special space of learning and connection that is created at GESA. In fact, some of the greatest things about GESA are the combination of diverse motivated, bright and sensitive people and the informal learning that happens outside the predetermined agenda.

GESA has had an important impact on my work as both an environmental educator and a climate change educator. I am currently revising the programme of the biggest non-formal environmental education programme in the Dominican Republic and simultaneously working with the government on its Climate Change education programme, which is connected to the UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UNCCLearn). In both cases, I am directly using practices and tools learned at GESA to ensure my approach is more holistic and integral to the programmes.

At the professional level, GESA helped to widen my view of environmental issues worldwide while sharing with people from different backgrounds yet somehow involved in the same line of work. ~ Isis Alvarez from Colombia, GESA 2013. >> read more

The positive impacts of GESA on my career has been on two levels: personal, and professional. At the personal level, GESA provides an important space for people in the early stages of our careers to express ourselves and gain confidence in defending our views and presenting to fellow colleagues. At the professional level, GESA helped widen my view of global environmental issues while sharing with people from different backgrounds who are yet somehow involved in the same line of work. Sometimes we, as professionals, focus only on specific themes. Obtaining different types of information helps with structuring our own knowledge and making the necessary connections to adopt a holistic approach.

The biggest disadvantage of being independent meant not having colleagues and peers to learn from. After my participation in GESA, I found peers from across the world! It is a joy to interact, connect with and learn from the experiences of my fellow participants. Being able to participate in the prestigious GESA was, for me, an acknowledgement of my spirit of freedom and boundless possibilities. ~ Jahnavi Pai from India, GESA 2014. >> read more

I am an independent researcher studying the ecology, biodiversity and indigenous knowledge associated with grazing pastures in South India. To me, being independent means – freedom to collaborate with different practitioners, freedom to express my political views publicly and freedom to engage with various actors – something that had been a challenge while being employed.

Participating in GESA further strengthened my belief in engaging with practitioners from different fields. The rich experience of resource persons who come from diverse backgrounds ranging from activism, research, advocacy and the industry expanded my horizons. I now engage with photographers and artists in documenting and disseminating the findings of my study through various medium such as theatre, photography and films. Taking inspiration from GESA, along with one of the alumni and GDF staff members, Inanç Tekguc, I organised a workshop on photography and social media for the youth in one of the villages where I work.

As part of the GESA programme, we visited the office of IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature – in Gland, Switzerland. A conversation that started that day has eventually led to an amazing job opportunity. ~ Seline Meijer from The Netherlands, GESA 2014. >> read more

Participating in GESA was a truly wonderful and eye-opening experience for me. I came to GESA after just having successfully defended my PhD and was at a point in my life where I needed to decide on the next steps in my career. Over the course of three weeks, I got to know a group of incredible and inspiring people from all around the world. Together we explored interesting topics and new ideas and it made me think about the tangible implications of my work and transcend a purely scientific focus.

As part of the GESA programme, we visited the office of IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature – in Gland, Switzerland. A conversation that started that day has eventually led to an amazing job opportunity. As of June 2015, I will be working as a Programme Officer within the Human Dependence on Nature project. I feel that the role is a perfect fit for my background and I am thrilled to be going back to Switzerland. I am incredibly excited for this new opportunity and immensely grateful for the entire GESA experience that eventually led to this!

The theme of wellbeing and internal and personal sustainability within environmental and social activism continued to emerge throughout conversations during GESA. This led a group of us to create a project researching how food sovereignty, food justice and alternative food systems can be agents for wellbeing. ~ Vanessa Reid, UK, GESA 2013. >> read more

When I arrived at GESA in the summer of 2013, I was at an exciting but apprehensive crossroads in my life. I had just returned from three years working in India, Indonesia, Japan, The Philippines and Italy on indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights to land. It was during these years where my interest in the link between agriculture, ecocide and climate change emerged. I witnessed, first hand, some of the catastrophic ecological damage caused by large scale intensive agriculture – namely oil palm – and the displacement of local and indigenous communities as a result. Over the course of GESA, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak of my experiences and begin to explore how to channel them into the next chapter of my life and work back in my own local community: Bristol, in the South West of England.

The theme of wellbeing and internal and personal sustainability within environmental and social activism continued to emerge throughout conversations during GESA. This led a group of us to create a project researching how food sovereignty, food justice and alternative food systems can be agents for wellbeing. Our intention was to contribute to, and delve deeper into discussions surrounding genuine, real, community-based alternatives to neoliberalism with practical experiences of wellbeing-based approaches.

Our GESA Alumni research project – which spanned a year after GESA via regular Skype calls within a dedicated working group – as well as the highly supportive, and creative environment GESA provided, led me to my current work. Last November I became Cape Farewell’s Rural Artist in Residence where I am currently creating an exhibition and research project entitled The Milking Parlour. I am exploring and opening up questions about the future and current situation of milk in the UK, as well as exploring the ways in which we respect and understand exactly where our food, and more specifically, our milk comes from.

Shortly after GESA, I became co-director for This is Rubbish: a food waste CIC which raises awareness about the preventable scale of food waste in the UK through policy research, community and arts led public events. We have recently been awarded £65,000 for Counting What Matters’: a campaign to engage one major grocery company and four MPs in committing to piloting and advocating a one year full-supply chain food waste audit.

It is tempting, as a scientist, to see one’s topic in a material way, but with what I learned at GESA – not only from the formal sessions and workshops, but from my friends as well – I am more than ever aware that water is more than simply the material I work with. It is part of us, it is at the heart of life itself. This makes me approach my work with new eyes. ~ Yolanda Lopez from Mexico, GESA 2014. >> read more

My experience at GESA was very fruitful and supportive. After GESA I began to develop new ideas, which I feel have had an important influence on the way I work and see the world.

Before GESA, my focus was exclusively scientific. Since attending GESA, I now work to incorporate new aspects, such as feelings and senses, into my work. I now look at my work from the perspective of art, culture and connection. The Salvia Goethe Retreat in Kandersteg was particularly special in this sense; it gave me a new sense of purpose in my work as a water scientist. I still love science and how it allows me to discover new things. However, I find that when I go to the field now, I really am present there. I perceive everything around me, and this new awareness and perception helps with my scientific endeavor!

It is tempting, as a scientist, to see one’s topic in a material way, but with what I learned at GESA – not only from the formal sessions and workshops, but from my friends as well – I am more than ever aware that water is more than simply the material I work with. It is part of us, it is at the heart of life itself. This makes me approach my work with new eyes.

GESA has provided me what a rainbow of possibilities – it has changed my life!

In one specific example, I was accepted for a 2015 3-month summer fellowship at the prestigious International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria – an extremely competitive position. As I wrote my application, I was very aware of what I learned at GESA and developed my ideas in a more holistic way than I might have otherwise done. At the same time, I am including in my research the concept of Sacred Natural Sites and the importance of profound spiritual insights, cultural experiences and knowledge of the landscape, animals and plants. The inclusion of all these was possible because since GESA, I have been exploring new possibilities and other sources of knowledge that ensure success and acceptance of conservation.

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