03 September 2016
Ever wondered what goes on in that little town on the south coast called Oranjemund? No? Me either.
I am sure, though, that it immediately conjured up Namdeb and the diamond mine, a town surrounded by fence, people who have exclusive access, a river heading for the coast, and some rough sea. Or at least it did for me. For some of you who have been there or at least seen pictures, you see the images of oryx grazing on the lawns of the town.
Very few; in fact, almost no one, can imagine a town that has become completely sustainable, independent from the umbilical chord of Namdeb, and diversified in its economy.
That is the vision for the town and its transformation process.
We know all too well how resource-rich towns (and, in fact, countries) can often devour themselves in their pursuit for luxury and once the resource has run out, turn to dust (Kolmanskop anyone?).
I visited Oranjemund a number of times over the past year as a faculty member of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, holding seminars under the planning of the Sustainability Team at Namdeb. This to spread the unfortunate 'endarkenment' of business-as-usual practices in our economy, and the enlightenment of a sustainable future if we re-think some things. What does this mean for the town?
How, while we still have some diamonds in the ground, can we start planning for what our town should look like, how it should operate, and what it should do, once those diamonds run out? The idea that this is a definite eventuality scares many people who live and work here, but it should actually excite a great many more. For one, the town has time and potential to do things right. What matters to the townspeople when it comes to progress. What do they envisage?
What options do the townsfolk have for economic diversification, and sustained resilience? So many, we find out during out discussions with the community who call Oranjemund their home. The creativity is endless.
The town has recently been proclaimed, and as the town is being gradually transitioned from a mine-run town to a local authority, and subsumed into the government process, with the fences and restrictions slowly being opened, we can only marvel at the opportunity that the townspeople present us with to plan the development of Oranjemund as a sustainable model town by 2030. Broadband to the home. Renewable energy hubs. Eco-tourism (the entrance into the park and into South Africa from here is already a bountiful opportunity). A town for the people, with parks, play-grounds. Anyone who has done any visualization of what a sustainable town (country, or even the world) would look like, would be twitching in excitement at this prospect. It reminds me of a documentary I watched on cities transforming themselves from cities for cars to cities for people. Cities where we connect to each other again. A place where we can connect with ourselves.
Proud to be part of this transition, I hope to keep you updated along the way on the details.