One Good Point… Amy Lesen

My name is Amy Lesen. I am a Professor of Environmental Leadership and Participatory Change in the Antioch University Graduate School of Leadership and Change. My work is in climate and environmental justice and health justice, and all of my work is in some way collaborative or participatory. 

And I work with communities across the South, the Gulf Coast, um, nationally and internationally, and I work with a lot of people who are facing the challenges of living with climate change. 

And in this kind of work, something we come across, especially when we do participatory work with community members and community leaders, is what is the nature of expertise? The question of what, what do we mean by expertise? And so for example, I have a PhD and in. Academia. I was taught that people who have certain kinds of degrees or qualifications or training they’re the ones who are experts, period. 

And what I’ve come to learn in the work that I do with community members is I try to serve them in my work. And in order to do that, it’s really important for me to recognize and acknowledge the kind of experts they are. People who’ve been living. With the next two in their environment, their whole lives, and for generations and their experts on their own ecology and ecosystems around them, they’re experts on their own histories and their cultures.

They’re experts on exactly what they need in order to solve their problems or what kinds of information they need. And so, for me, I’ve really had to turn the idea of who an expert is on its head. And realize that if I’m really to serve people with my work and use my expertise in that context, then I really have to acknowledge and, um, learn from the expertise of the people I work with as well.