Anneloes Smitsman is the founding director of the company ELIA - Ecological Living In Action and the Project Initiator of One Future One Planet (OFOP) Mauritius, an International project for building sustainable communities, locally and globally. 630 people attended the 16 Global Dialogues sessions organized in Mauritius.
One of the Global Dialogues' goals was to encourage the participants to become a role-model inspired by the famous quotation of Gandhi "Be the change you want to see in the world" but 630 role-models for a country of 1,2 million inhabitants is it enough to have a concrete impact on the future of the country?
When you learn to become your own role-model by bringing forth the best of your humanity, it becomes the motivating force for taking concrete actions that support the planet and our collective wellbeing. The message 'be the change' is all about that. In other words it is not about 630 people becoming a role-model for others, but rather 630 people inspiring 1.2 million people (and more from beyond Mauritius) to tap into their own call for action. And yes for that purpose 630 people is significant and experiences are showing this is already happening. When you combine the power of the 'butterfly effect' with 'being the change' you understand the significance of real change, and that it is not about the amount of people, it is the quality of action that matters!
What were their concrete propositions to contribute to sustainability, prosperity and happiness in Mauritius?
The common propositions of all participants was related to changes in life-style patterns and reducing consumption, development of a barter system for exchanges in goods and services, the 4Rs (reduce, recycle, re-use, and re-purpose), becoming self-sustainable by growing your own vegetables, collecting rainwater, holistic education, changes in business models, creating an economy that values quality of life and wellbeing and is not solely driven by 'productivity', 'competition', and financial profit only.
In the Harvest report* I read the ideas of the participants to fight communalism and corruption, so a sustainable society is more than a green society?
Yes a sustainable society is far more than a green society it is about honouring what sustains us and how we sustain life. Corruption, injustice, discrimination, competition, and suppression of basic human rights and values are not sustainable. Ecological sustainability is about our relationship with ourselves, each other and our environment. Sustainability from this perspective is thus a whole-systems approach to co-creating a society where people and nature flourish together this includes the social-cultural, economic, political, environmental, and spiritual dimensions of our life.
Is it not naive to imagine a sustainable Mauritius whereas the country did not achieve yet to fulfil the basic needs of a part of the population?
We are not imagining a sustainable Mauritius. We are envisioning the founding conditions and key factors for a sustainable Mauritius so that fulfilment of basic needs can be addressed in a holistic and sustainable matter. For example, Sustainable Development Action-Team is working on food cultivation from an innovative community-based approach to directly address these basic needs. The power of the Global Dialogues is that we get to understand and see how different issues as well as their solutions are interrelated and interdependent, which then initiates strategic collaborative actions that can help society as a whole to move forward.
According to the Medias, the conference Rio + 20 was a failure, what is your opinion?
I see the outcomes of Rio+20 as a clear signal that we need to take responsibility and positive action for the co-creation of the future that we want, and we should not wait for political decision makers to lead that change. From the political perspective it is indeed sad to observe how little has been achieved. However, from the perspective of grass roots collaboration and innovative actions of thousands of citizens who came together through the Rio+20 processes I believe that Rio+20 was a success. It demonstrated clearly how many people around the world DO Care and Want change, and are prepared to take the required actions through their own communities at local levels.
What is the next step in your project?
The further development of the Eco-Living Challenge and the official launch for the public via the platform on 21 December 2012. Launch of our Sustainable Communities Project for Cotteau Raffin & La Gaulette area (September 2012), Global Dialogues session for the prisoners (Women and Youth prison), Actions and activities through the 6 Action-Teams, monthly Global Dialogues sessions, production of 2 movies for sharing Global Dialogues with the rest of the world, sharing of GD methodology and process with SIDS through collaboration with Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and its project ISLANDS.