Your NameSarah Withers
Cohort AssignmentAotearoa / New Zealand with In-Person Intensive in Auckland 2023
1. What do you see as your primary work at this stage of your life?

My primary work involves being a parent to my two young children and a partner to my husband, while simultaneously finding my place within and around an academic career that allows for more community engagement and contribution to the protection of natural systems.

2. What role do you see as yours to play?

I'm a highly privileged, thoughtful and curious person who wants to maximise my contribution to protection of the ecosystems around me and across the world. I'm an opinionated person but enjoy holding a space for the middle ground, where all inclusive perspectives are discussed with curiosity so I hope to find a facilitative role that allows me to do this within an academic system that aligns better with community and planetary needs. I think with more knowledge and wider perspectives I could be a good facilitator of complex change processes within an environmentalism context.

3. What goals or aims do you have in regard to the above?

- I'm seeking to gain more clarity on how to balance the roles and approaches of mainstream academia, curiosity-led science, community engagement and contribution
- I'm wanting to extend my understanding and perspectives around the interplay of culture, history, personality, social systems, environment and place and how these weave together for positive earth-centric projects
- I'm wanting to find my occupation space within these spheres
- I want to work in and around people who share these perspectives and this curious approach

4. Where do you feel your next arenas for personal growth are?

- I'm in the early-middle stages of a process of deep personal discovery and shedding old ideas and perspectives or limiting ideas/beliefs
- Learning to let go
- Gaining more confidence in seeking out my space and contribution to the world
- Increasing or re-gaining my explorative nature and having the confidence to bring my family along with me
- Increasingly seeking out 'my people'

5. And for professional growth?

- Growing confidence in finding and holding an unconventional role, title or occupation
- Being more proactive about creating the professional systems I want to be integrated into
- Finding people who are aligned
- Finding where my unique purpose may be in contributing to life systems protection

6. What have you invested in to get you where you are?

I've been through a long academic process, spending 10 years training (to PhD level) and further years working in an academic institution. I've been involved in community projects within an academic role and have pursued consultancy contracts that widen my knowledge base, network and extend my skills. I'm a highly philosophical person and have invested countless hours in my own space and time on self and other-analysis, challenging thought paradigms and dogma, and exploring diverse perspectives. I read, watch and listen to diverse perspectives. I have started the process of learning Te Reo Maori to increase my understanding of our local people, environment and place.

7. What fields of learning and which thinkers have been important in your life?

I've had a more academic scientific background with regard to learning and so have been heavily influenced by early explorative thinkers and observers such as Charles Darwin, and more modern academics such as Stephen J Gould who are inquisitive and communicative and work on the evolution of life on earth. More recently I've been exploring a range of perspectives on culture, mythology, place and ancestry through podcasts and writings of women such as Dr Sharon Blackie, and Manda Scott (Accidental Gods podcast). I've recently come across Denela Meadows and Lyn Margelis but have yet to dive into their works and ideas in detail and am increasingly interested in going back to some older philosophers to gain more understanding of the evolution of economic and social systems theory (e.g. Marx and contemporaries, Hulme etc.) with an eye to understanding where we've come from to assess where we could go

8. Can you frame your philosophy or cosmology of life? What role(s) do humans play in it?

I consider myself a spiritual person however I have a deep aversion to dogma and so feel a fairly strong rejection of organised religion. I believe deeply in an evolutionary and biological process of life including the Big Bang Theory, and Natural Selection. However I also believe very strongly in energy systems and the fact that human understanding of the complexity of these energy systems is very limited. I do not believe in a human-centric universe, instead seeing humans as just one part of a huge network of beings and components that are connected, albeit a part that has enormous power and influence and therefore obligation and responsibility. I do believe in an energetic connectivity between all living things, and I also believe this energy may transcend typical boundaries of life/death/time/space. I consider it highly likely that there is also a larger spiritual trajectory that all humans are part of where we are learning and moving toward some form of increased enlightenment or learning. In short I am a very open minded person who doesn't assume to know anything, but is interested in everything.

Date CreatedApril 18, 2023