A critical analysis of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage project
Thesis (MPhil (School of Public Management and Planning))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
The word ‘ecovillage’ is evocative of a kind of human settlement that exists in complete harmony with nature and examples of such settlements are indeed in existence almost everywhere in the world, some nearly half a century in the making. The Gqunube Green Ecovillage near East London can hardly be described as one of a proliferation of such settlements in South Africa, but it is anticipated that an examination of that project will contribute to the limited academic literature on the topic of sustainable human settlement. In Chapter 1, this thesis introduces the Gqunube Green Ecovillage and, in the following six chapters, traces its origins and demonstrates how models for ‘ideal’ human settlement developed. It explains how and why an international ecovillage movement reached South Africa and how Reverend Roger Hudson responded to that movement by starting the Gqunube Green Ecovillage in South Africa. The conclusion is that Reverend Hudson has achieved his primary objective, namely the establishment of an ecovillage, but the challenges described in this thesis have been significant. One of the most significant potential stumbling blocks to the future smooth management of Gqunube Green is its own regulatory environment that dictates the relationship between the settlers and their ecovillage. The proposed sociocratic management style, combined with a strongly spiritual, eco-theological objective, is driven by a strongly worded and rule-orientated ecovillage constitution that is shown in Chapters 2 and 3 to have the potential to both alienate and unite the inhabitants of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage – depending on how it is interpreted and enforced. The external regulatory environment, both enabling and restricting development, is analysed in Chapter 4. National, provincial and local government legislation, policies and guidelines intersect to influence the progress of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage, creating opportunity for controversy between conservationists and developers. However, the debates between the various interest groups over the appropriateness of various development options for the east bank of the Gonubie Estuary were largely incidental and somewhat irrelevant to the delays in the development of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage that are described in Chapter 5. Although bureaucratic delays in the formal process of development have restrained the full rollout of the ecovillage project, the Gqunube Green Ecovillage was eventually established at the end of 2005 and the chronology leading to this milestone is described in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 of this thesis examines the timing of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage project within a changing and enabling paradigm shift, enabled by cooperative local government and efforts at the integration of legislation and policy to align with the constitutional aims of sustainable development. The concept of an ecovillage is not always acceptable to everyone as the ideal development model, especially when big business has a stake. However, it has been argued that the very fact that the establishment of an ecovillage has succeeded where big business was about to establish itself is a victory in itself for the founders of the Gqunube Green Ecovillage.