Alex Gesse

Method and experience: science on the ground for human and planetary health

Alex Gesse is forged by the Mediterranean forest and sea – the land of Salvador Dali beats throughout his career. Trainer and mentor at Forest Therapy Hub, this explorer boy of wet slopes and boat navigator since childhood continues studying, creating bonds and opening horizons.

He is the one who traveled to the wet Patagonia to train the first Forest Bathing guides and Forest Therapy practitioners in the region’s history, and like there to many other countries. He is the one who defines FTHub by the differences as points of connection between people – “a team that speaks 15 different languages“- and who adheres to citizen science, which takes shape in the more than 20 projects of implementation of Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy that he has led.

They were his first interventions in the forest with young people at risk of social exclusion and he was marked by a testimony that made him think: are they the ones who do not fit in our society or are we the ones who have not designed a society in which people fit?

He is finishing his degree in Sociology and is studying a degree in Psychology, he was trained in business management and has a postgraduate degree in Business Administration from IDEC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra and an E-MBA from EAE Business School in Barcelona. He also studied Non Verbal Communication and Leadership.

Alex considers himself “someone who has fun” sharing knowledge and learning from others. His participation in the IV International Congress Forest and its Potential for Health, co-organized by FTHub, is part of his interest in “creating the necessary networks to generate a movement for social change“.

The value of differences

“A key moment was in one of my first interventions with boys at risk of exclusion, when one who belonged to some gangs told me the forest cleanses my soul and drives away bad thoughts. I was left flipping out thinking: are they the ones who don’t fit into our society or are we the ones who haven’t designed a society where people fit in?

“As an organization we have a particular vision, and that is that we are a team with a diversity of genders, cultural differences represented, a team that speaks more than 15 different languages, but we don’t look at our similarities to find points of connection: we look at our differences. Where we grow and what we enhance is in those cultural differences, of environments, of landscapes.

“We believe that’s what makes us enriched as people. It goes through a tremendous respect that I learned from a young age but then I also spent a lot of time traveling and living in other countries, taking the most of those differences and incorporating interesting things about people.

“I like to think that the Mediterranean character has imprinted on me that cultural openness and learning from the differences and not the similarities. It’s about seeing things through a different prism, with a different optic, from a different perspective, in order to try to change things. Innovations come from the peripheries. The light bulb was not invented by those who made candles, as said by Allan Savory”.

The child of the woods and the sea

“One of the first memories I have are in the orchard with my grandfather, a small area of land in the middle of the mountains, in a wooded setting by the sea. I grew up in Barcelona but spent a lot of time in Emporda, this very special area of Catalonia: it is said that people there are influenced by the tramontana wind (turbulent, cold, from the north), one of the winds most feared by sailors. My father was very passionate about the sea and I have had a lot of contact with the sea and sail since I was 7 years old.

“I also used to go to the woods alone a lot. I have very fresh in my memory those big ferns in a very humid forest on the north side of a mountain. It was special, it had a lot of shade. I would stay about a kilometer from the house and there I would go with my bag and collect whatever I found on the forest floor.

“I don’t consider myself a teacher or a guide. I consider myself someone who is having fun – because one of the things we have lost is fun and humor – sharing the knowledge I have and at the same time having fun listening to the knowledge of others and integrating the things that I think can be useful in my life.

“We are forming very prepared people. That is because of the dynamics generated by the organization that allow students to also add knowledge and become builders of what we are creating.”

Putting down roots

“In the Congress (IV International Congress Forests and their Potential for Health) we will address several topics, one is that of citizen science, although following the rigor but with learning at the projects level. We are also going to show the Method we have developed (FTHub Method) that seeks to integrate these aspects: our micro relationship with society and the environment and our relationship as a species at the macro level, how from this holistic vision of health we address problems or everyday aspects that concern people.

“So we are collaborating and conducting research with universities, and this Congress itself , in collaboration with government agencies, NGOs, etc.

“We got involved in the Congress because of our interest in generating a social impact and in expanding these practices. In Catalonia there is a word that means to create school, that means to put down roots, to support the people who are trained with us. Sometimes we magnify the experts and we don’t see the lateral, and this is a very new practice that we have to build together.

“I am interested in creating the necessary networks so that a movement of social change is generated, which goes through the relationship of people at the individual and social level with the environment, for the welfare of people and the planet.”

Consensus, academia and science at the street level

“While studying Sociology and Psychology I noticed that many of the big problems that we refer to from different disciplines are everyday problems that we are magnifying. We put them in a box, name them and deal with them. But for me what was important was how to bring these aspects down to the day-to-day.

“In the contact with nature that fuels our well-being we look for simple techniques so that people can manage their day-to-day, and that those techniques are supported by recovery, especially without selling pre-existing ideas. There is a relationship between the individual, society and natural environment that, as we say in our Method, is liquid, and it generates reflections that can make us change.

“We have a very particular vision of science that we are contributing to as an organization, and in this I am aligned with Allan Savory, who said that we understand science as understood by the academy. It’s valid, we use it and apply it but we understand citizen science, street level testing, pilot projects, and gaining all that knowledge.

“We are gathering that knowledge developed in more than 20 pilot projects of Forest Therapy and Forest Bathing on issues of mental health, intellectual disabilities, loneliness in older adults, young people at risk of exclusion, women in situations of gender violence, which give us the parameters of what may work. This is one of the steps we have to take as a society. How to reach scientific consensus in which all the areas have to be incorporated“.

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