Caring for the environment and for each other
As part of its advocacy project to improve global environmental governance and foster collaboration between stakeholders and policymakers, last month Wilderness Foundation Africa, in conjunction with ICCF, facilitated a visit to the Sustainability Institute (SI) and Spier in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.
Last year WFA in conjunction with ICCF hosted a couple of parliamentary briefings which covered the circular economy, waste management, plastics and the just energy transition. During these briefings a number of South African Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed a desire to see relevant projects in person and spend more time with the experts in order to develop a deeper understanding of the issues raised and their potential solutions.
Mark Swilling, Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch, addressed the MPs on the abovementioned topics and referred specifically to projects at the SI and Spier. Prof Swilling set up the SI in an Eco-Village based on the principles of a circular economy, and Spier is one of few hotels in South Africa which runs almost entirely waste free. As such, it was recommended that the MPs visit both sites in order to gain insight into the practicalities of a circular system, in both community living and commercial contexts and to learn about the just energy transition.
The MPs were taken on a detailed tour of SI and the Lynedoch Eco-Village – which is pioneering approaches to creating socially diverse ecological communities built around a learning precinct – and were informed of their eco-friendly building approaches and materials and their circular waste and water management systems. This was followed by a visit to Spier to observe the principle of circularity in a commercial context. Here the MPs visited Spier’s circular system, covering their waste and water management and recycling, and were addressed on the energy generation, ethical and regenerative farming methods, and initiatives which empower staff (most of whom are local to the area) and local communities.
Wilderness Foundation Africa would like to thank the Sustainability Institute and Spier for their hospitality and for facilitating such an enlightening visit. The visit provided MPs with critical insight into how sustainability practices and approaches could be implemented both locally and nationally and encouraged mutual constructive bipartisan learning and discussion.