About ‘Stepping Up to Sustainability’

A nationwide, climate change adaptation project in South Africa


In 1992 the ‘Earth Summit’, formally known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in Rio de Janeiro. The Summit produced a non-binding yet far reaching treaty with the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The intention is to prevent human induced interference with the global climate systems. The treaty is called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and provides for regular updates through ‘Protocols’, the most well-known being the Kyoto Protocol. These protocols set emission limits for the signatories. The UNFCCC has over 190 parties and each year the parties meet to assess global progress in responding to climate change. The annual meetings are known as Conferences of the Parties (COP) and this year the seventeenth meeting was held in Durban, South Africa.

There is a growing sense of urgency for responses to climate change challenges. Climate change messages have tended to focus on the impacts and consequences of the looming global disaster. It is doubtful whether informing people of the dire situation climate change presents will mobilise them to action for change. Messages of despair and disaster can be debilitating and disempowering for people.

The ‘Stepping Up to Sustainability’ project presents an alternative approach. The project is an educationally-driven response that is grounded in practice. The ‘Stepping Up to Sustainability’ project departs from messages and information of imminent disasters towards small-scale, enhanced livelihood practices that have a reduced environmental impact. The practice-orientated nature of the educational approach requires carefully considered contextually located practices and supporting technologies. The establishment of ‘Sustainability Commons’ at eleven centres across South Africa aims to provide the practice focused learning space for climate change adaptation and small-scale innovation.

The ‘Stepping Up to Sustainability’ project is supported by USAID (United States Agency International Development) and implemented through WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa).

Finding out about the world around us – respiration in pencil and knee roots of mangrove trees


Harvesting rainwater at the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve ‘Sustainability Commons’
For more details on the WESSA / USAID ‘Stepping Up to Sustainability’ project, please contact Wayne Peddie, tel (033) 3303931 ext 134 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it