“As ecovillages, we bring gifts”

Returning from COP23, Nonty Sedibe-Sabic considers what ecovillages can offer national governments - and why we need to talk about climate justice.

We've been asking our representatives at the UN Climate Summit about what they experienced in Bonn over the two intense weeks of networking, interviews, press conferences and meetings that was COP23. Here we hear from Nonty Sedibe-Sabic (Arterra Bizimodu community and GEN-Europe Advocacy Group), who presented at GEN's side events and also spoke at the Sustaining All Life forum on the impact of climate change on oppressed communities. You can read Robert Hall’s reflections here

Why was GEN-EU present at COP23? What did you hope for it?     

We went to represent ecovillagers’ low-carbon lifestyle and to showcase ecovillages as solutions for sustainable development. We wanted to show that the movement can support governments in the implementation of SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] through our skills and experience.

Ecovillagers have been living sustainability and resilience for decades – we have the solutions, so our hope was to demonstrate them and gather support for community-led climate action.


How did people react to the presence of ecovillages in a forum like the COP?

There was a lot of interest in the movement and in the ecovillage way of life, especially from Indigenous representatives and Southern governments. They recognise a return to and an embracing of indigenous ways – living with the earth and respecting it – as a solution to many environmental and social problems. There were calls to work together and create partnerships, and for developing and transitioning already existing villages.

There were also many passers-by who hadn’t heard about ecovillages, but were really curious about what we have to offer. When others heard we were present, they sent over delegates to find out more!


From your experience at the conference, what’s the biggest challenge you see? And how can ecovillages be part of the solution?

The challenge really comes from the current approach to climate change– we need to think about systems change, rather than just being reactive to the climate crisis. We need a system that respects and works with and for people and planet. And I think ecovillages can play a big role in this.

Ecovillages are think tanks for solutions. We’re living solutions, we’re leaving resources in the ground where they belong and innovating with what we have, what’s free and renewable…we can be part of this positive, propositional system change.


What inspired you about the experience? What were the frustrations?

It was positive to see many community groups and Indigenous representatives, but we could see the separation between Indigenous and grassroots activists and the spaces where decisions were being made…there is more work to be done to integrate Indigenous and grassroots wisdom and find a place of common dialogue.

That said, there was a notable increase in talk about climate justice – a recognition that fighting for the environment isn’t a fight for the future, it’s a fight for here and now. People are being affected in the global South now, women and Indigenous people are being affected now…climate change is inextricably linked with racism and sexism and migration, and more and more people are waking up to this reality and seeking solutions. 


What can GEN-EU learn from the experience?

It brought home the fact that for me, we need to start talking about climate justice more deeply –to really bring awareness to the fact that we do what we do because it is right, because climate change affects the poorest people and those least responsible for it. We must join the dots between what we do in our ecovillages, and the global picture.

We can also be proud that we are one of the movements that is walking their talk, and that we have a lot of knowledge to share that’s greatly needed at this point – governments have targets to reach and need our experience and know-how - not only in terms of holistic sustainable technologies, but also new forms of social governance, new economies… As ecovillagers, the gifts we bring are those of knowledge and experience.

Read further reflections on COP23 from our regional representatives of the Global Ecovillage Network: GEN-AfricaGENOA, and GENNA