Blog post #7: WANTED: Authenticity

“When dealing with peace and conflict – it is essential to deal with oneself.”

I had the chance to get to know Daniela Lehner when we were both studying at Lund University. After her studies in pedagogy and development studies she now engages with transformational learning at the Centre for Peace Research and Peace Education at Alpen-AdriaUniversity of Klagenfurt (Austria). Her approach is authentic and honest. She truly inspired me in the way she described her teaching approaches, based not only on knowledge gained over the years but particularly informed and inspired by experiences she herself has made – or exposed herself to, as a learner. She visited seminars like The Heroine’s/Hero’s Journey and Gestalt therapy and “sent” me to The heART of Change seminar in 2015 which empowered me on my “path of authenticity”. Inspiration can be drawn from their publication Take the Future in your Hands! (not only for teachers!).

To me, Daniela is actually bringing into practice what sustainability science theoretically wants to do: Being aware of and respecting different perspectives. I admire her because she tries her best to live her true nature, being fair towards her values. In bringing Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde into the classroom she gives space to discourses otherwise not so present in Western academia. In our last encounter we talked, among many things, about privilege and whose role it is to initiate change. In my few years in academia, what I noticed is, indeed, that we are good at keeping discourses alive. As aware as we might be about certain topics – or even not. What privileges do I as a (sustainability) scientist hold? What responsabilities does this imply?

I was “delighted” that recently the faculty of sustainability at Leuphana University of Lüneburg initiated a workshop with the title “What has gender to do with it?”. It is hard to be critized, to deal with critique. I am talking from my own experience. However, isn´t this a good opportunity to trigger reflection what to improve? When you have already a certain reputation, and let us say sustainability science is labelled as “good” and so are universities – they carry societal prestige, working for societal, planetary advancement (or so…). But isn´t it a sign of strength to acknowledge own weaknesses? That there is still room for improvement? Even though e.g. we sustainability scientists or universities do already so much great stuff? I appreciate that we as a faculty have started (!) to engage with gender.

Engaging with certain topics, in my eyes, is not loosing track of what we are after (e.g. dealing with climate change, peace on the planet – to mention some small issues…). It is doing it authentically, in staying true to our values. In sustainability science we are moving in a multi-disciplinary area, where there are many voices that not only want to be heard but need to be heard if we are truly after sustainability in the long run.

Thanks Daniela for being such a shining star, encouraging us, by example (!), to stay authentic and do what matters to us. And like that inspire change. This entails engaging with and reflecting upon oneself. Dealing with one´s own role on this playground Earth.

Have you ever heard someone saying “sharing is caring”? Know what? – I actually think we could also say “daring is caring”. If we dare to be authentic – then we truly can make change. Not reproducing – but co-creating. Namely, the future we envision.

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