A Post COP26 Reflection as GENOA delegate. Written by Sarah Queblatin, GEN Regional Representative & Ambassador.
As I write this, almost 3 million Filipinos who were directly affected are waking up to the devastating aftermath of Supertyphoon Odette which intensified from Category 1 to Category 5 in 24 hours ripping through islands in the central and southern part of the Philippines. Given my time zone difference, I realized it is still December 16, the same day that Supertyphoon Washi / Sendong triggered a deadly flash flood in Cagayan de Oro City, nine years ago in 2011 which was my first experience in responding to disasters. I am in Findhorn Ecovillage in the north of Scotland after the COP26 in Glasgow and I look back to why the ecovillage model has been central to my approach to transforming the narrative of DRR (or Disaster Risk Reduction) into that of Designing for Resilience and Regeneration). You can listen to my podcast on this as interviewed by Morag Gamble.
Responding to the flash floods after typhoon Washi through psycho social support assistance was my first introduction to humanitarian recovery. Today, a decade later, I am now with my own organization, Green Releaf Initiative, a partner of the Global Ecovillage Network, working with the same approach integrated in permaculture gardens in disaster recovery and an innovation lab on ecosystem restoration underway.
Joining the Ecovillage Movement and GEN
After typhoon Washi, I was burning out from ensuring we meet large numbers of participants over delivering quality in the sessions we needed to design to adapt to the realities firsthand. I asked myself, “how might we heal broken systems without the same factors that caused them in the first place?” Then the response that emerged was to come from wholeness where a whole systems approach through regenerative design started unfolding for me. It brought me back to my interest to study ecovillage and permaculture design in my 20s. So I was naturally drawn to join a healing ecovillage in the Philippines in 2012. A year later, Supertyphoon Haiyankilled over 7,000 people and displaced thousands of Filipinos. I volunteered to help in one of the affected villages together with permaculture and ecovillage designers.
A year later, I joined the Global Ecovillage Network Oceania and Asia then was invited to work for the UN Working Group of GEN International which evolved into a role as Advocacy Coordinator from 2015-2017. This role enabled me to help GEN in its representation and work with the United Nations where it has a consultative status in the UN ECOSOC and a civil society observer for the Conference of Parties (COP) for the Climate Change conferences. I was able to represent GEN from the 21st – 24th and now the 26th COP. Working with former GEN Executive Director Kosha Joubert, GEN UN Representative Rob Wheeler, and representatives from each region, we engaged with government leaders, civil society groups, and other movements relevant to the cause of regeneration that GEN modeled in lighthouse projects and communities from its network of 6,000 members around the world.
Coming from one of the most climate vulnerable nations and regions in the world where climate emergencies have been taking place with growing intensity over the years, being able to share our voice and work has been a privilege and opportunity. With GEN’s Ecovillage Development Program, we explored how communities can model low carbon lifestyles that restore social and ecological ecosystems that can meet the Paris agreement goals and the SDGs through participatory design.
Below are some of the events that I participated in at the COP26 in Glasgow as a GENOA delegate
As part of the GEN delegation, representing Oceania and Asia, I helped share our GEN partnership for ecovillage development in an indigenous community affected by Super Typhoon Haima/ Lawin in the Philippines from 2017-2020 through Green Releaf’s Regenerative Transitions program. Our story served as a case study in our interactive presentation for the Capacity Building Hub on “Using Participatory Approaches to Design Robust, Community-Led Climate Action” together with Anna Kovasna and Taisa Mattos. You can watch the presentation here.
GEN partnered with Gaia Education at the COP26 Gender Day for the exhibit “Women, Power and Entrepreneurship in the Climate Change Age“. The day-long exhibition was curated by Gaia Education, Artists Project Earth (APE), Global Ecovillage Network and LUSH UK – in partnership with women from the Federation of Tribal Women of Orissa, THREAD, Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development, L’Arcolaio Cooperativa Sociale, Saterê Mawê Craftswomen Association and many other communities. You can read more about it here.
As GENOA representative to the UNDP Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA), I helped co-facilitate a Climate Emotions session together with other CoFSA members, One Resilient Earth and the Institute for Advanced Sustainable Studies. You can read my story here.
It was also meaningful to be able to share about my reflections and learnings from working with climate vulnerable indigenous and displaced communities through an interview by the Pocket Project through its CEO, GEN International’s former Executive Director Kosha Joubert as part of its Trauma Informed Climate Leadership events at the COP26. You can access the recording here along with other speakers from the network including May East of Gaia Education, Sonita Mbah, and Sabine Lichtenfels.
To generate support for scaling our prototype for REGEN-Nations Whole Systems Co-Learning Journey and Regenerative Design Lab for GENOA, I participated in relevant side events that could provide updated information and possible ways to channel resources to the project.
After the COP26, I was invited by the Philippine Misereor Partnership, the conveners of the Rights of Nature movement in the country to share about my insights for their session on “What Now After the COP26?” Preparing for this talk helped me put into words what I recommend as ways we go forward beyond COP26. You can watch the video here.
As we face the aftermath of supertyphoon Rai / Odette in the Philippines leaving almost a million people displaced and almost 400 dead, I think about a deeper meaning of climate vulnerability and how it can differ from climate ambition. Now on my 5th COP, I reflected deeper on the role of regenerative leadership after realizing over time that there already exists so many solutions but how we make these solutions work depend greatly on our inner condition of the leader and the worldview s/he has that influences the design of a system. For me, a reframe on “climate vulnerability” is to truly lead with empathy and authenticity in our leadership versus the shadow of the term “climate ambition”. The latter has the danger of falling into lofty goals that may lose integrity when words can’t be fulfilled into actions given that many agreements and statements are made during climate conferences yet the real actions and delivery are slow or may not be completed at all. Many climate vulnerable nations like mine and the region have witnessed these failures of agreements and commitments over time and we need to show up fully in ways that could bring regenerative leadership in our design for resilience and regeneration. We hope one of the ways we can offer this to the region is through the leadership component of REGEN-Nations coming up with its 2nd cycle in 2022. Click here to learn more and to sign up. You can also support the program’s fundraising efforts by donating or sharing this campaign.
About the Author
Sarah Queblatin. GEN Regional Representative & Ambassador, The Philippines
Sarah is a regenerative design strategist weaving collective experiences in peacebuilding, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) conservation, environmental education, and humanitarian assistance for 15 years. She designs inclusive ecosystems of collaboration through innovation labs and learning journeys to transform the narrative of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into Design for Resilience and Regeneration. She is trained in Ecovillage Design and Ecosystem Restoration Design and holds a merit diploma and advanced certificate in Permaculture Design. Prior to founding Green Releaf Initiative in the Philippines, Sarah has worked with GEN as a representative to the UN Climate Conferences, served as a global trustee, regional council member, and currently, as a wisdom keeper for GENOA. Sarah also helped incubate GEN’s EmerGENcies Program and GENOA’s REGEN Nations. With a background in ecopsychology and transformative artmaking, she applies a trauma-informed understanding of resilience in her work with climate and conflict vulnerable communities in Asia and the Pacific region.