Environmental Leaders of the Future: RCC Students and Scholars at GESA 2014

by Yolanda Lopez Maldonado

Where have all our environmental leaders gone? What does it take for a person to take action? What do we need to do for an improved life and a better environment? These were just a few of the questions that were discussed during the 2014 Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA), which RCC Doctoral Program in Environment and Society student Yolanda Lopez Maldonado and visiting scholar Alfredo Ricardo Silva Lopes participated in. Both were selected as part of a highly competitive process among postgraduate students and professionals from around the world and deemed to have the potential to become future environmental leaders and have an impact upon academia, civil society, the private sector, and government.

GESA takes place annually, supported by the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) and the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern. The academy is designed to broaden and deepen the knowledge, networking, and communication skills of postgraduate students, professionals, and activists concerned about the human dimensions of environmental challenges. The intention of this event was to develop and publicly present individual TED-style talks, entitled GESAx, on the results of students’ research. In their GESAx talks students brought personal stories, statistics, analyses, and case studies of the relationship between environment and society in order to develop a range of related concepts. They addressed issues that they were keen to solve, bringing solutions from multiple perspectives including biocultural diversity, environmental history, political ecology, sustainability studies, geography, and personal activism. In doing so they joined an international community of young environmental scholars who will continue to network with each other—and with future GESA participants—as they develop their careers as environmental leaders.

Teambuilding at GESA 2014. Photography from GESA 2014 video gallery.

Doctoral students and professionals of more than 15 nationalities developed and explored their creativity and reflection during a variety of activity sessions. This year, Ethnobotany Breaks enabled students to spend time cooking and eating together, facilitating further collaboration and a sense of community, and Creative Classrooms developed the use of creative approaches to space for interactive learning between peers. One of the favorite activities of GESA 2014 was the Salvia Goethe Retreat, “Dynamic Engagement, a Goethean Approach to Connection,” in the mountain town of Kandersteg; the retreat’s deep and connecting approach transformed the diverse group of participants into a cohesive learning community, much like the RCC.

Photograph by Yolanda Lopez.
Group activities were a central aspect of GESA 2014, preparing participants for environmental leadership. Photograph by Yolanda Lopez Maldonado.

The RCC has a history of support and involvement with GESA, hosting the academy in 2011 and 2012 as part of the Munich International Summer University (MISU) and funding the event in 2013 alongside the GDF. The center has also seen several of its fellows, staff members, and students attend GESA in past years; such involvement highlights the importance of the RCC in contributing to the international and interdisciplinary studies of and dialogue in environment and society.

Information about GESA 2015 can be found here.

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