By Nicola Vernon: South Africa’s only Transition Town in Greyton, in the Western Cape, swept the board at the country’s recent environmental awards, winning in three out of seven categories. The hat-trick saw Greyton acknowledged as an eco-Community, its Director, Marshall Rinquest, won Eco-Youth and its Chairperson, Nicola Vernon, won Eco-Angel. The awards are given annually to the top-performing environmental organisations, companies, individuals and non-profits. They are South Africa’s most prestigious awards and, although they don’t come with a cash prize, winners generally gain recognition, partnerships and sponsorship (here is a video about the event, the section about Greyton starts at 13:58).
Greyton Transition Town was founded in 2012 and has made its mark in a very short time thanks due, largely, to a close-knit, open-minded community willing to embrace change to help protect the area of outstanding beauty in which they live. Greyton lies 140 kms from Cape Town in the foothills of a vast mountain range. Like many other communities throughout South Africa, it suffered from the apartheid era but transition is proving an effective vehicle to bring disparate communities together and to foster integration.
Central to the organisation’s work is a combined environmental and humane education programme. Acknowledging that people cannot be expected to care about the environment if they don’t first care about themselves, their immediate family and friends and their wider community, the humane education programme acts as a perfect foil to the environmental. Empathy is awakening in a whole generation of children who are gaining the tools and resources to become the environmental leaders of the future.