Experiencing sustainability in a Post-Apartheid South Africa: my time at the Institute

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We recently said farewell to Caroline Florence, who interned with us for eight weeks. She is currently halfway through her undergraduate studies at Washington and Lee University in a small town in Virginia where she studies Economics and Environmental Science. Here is what she has to say about her experience with us.

“I have been so lucky to intern at the Institute and learn about all they do for the Lynedoch community and the environment more broadly.

As I drove from the airport to the beaches of Cape Town, I was immediately struck by the degree of inequality I witnessed on the way. It is hard to believe that the lavish beachfront houses are only a short drive from the overcrowded townships. I had never witnessed poverty and inequality at these levels, and I was astounded by the number of people who do not have access to basic needs. The apartheid legacy has undermined a large portion of the population from obtaining upward mobility, and not enough has been done yet to help this underserved community.

I have been so grateful to see the promising work that nonprofits like the Sustainability Institute are doing to address some of South Africa’s most complex problems. In the United States, I have encountered a misperception that sustainability must be at the expense of economic development, but the Institute has shown me otherwise. Sustainability can be a means to economic empowerment, a method to lift up a population that has been torn down for generations. My two majors, Economics and Environmental Science, can work hand-in-hand to address the needs of the current generation without negatively impacting future generations. Social responsibility does not have to impede the economic wellbeing of a country, and that’s really exciting!

The Institute supports several economic and sustainable programmes such as the Agroecology Academy, the Masters in Sustainable Development and the iShack Project, among others. By providing South Africans with the skills needed to pursue an environmental career and by providing for the energy needs of those without basic electricity, the Institute is using sustainability to make the world a better place.

It is inspiring to work with people who care so much about these issues and are so effective at what they do. Although South Africa has a long way to go before equality and sustainability can be achieved, it gives me hope that they are actively making a difference. I hope to take what I have learned and follow this example when I return to the United States. I will always keep a part of the Institute in my heart and will be counting the days until I can return to this beautiful country.”