Pödelwitz: A Model Village for Sustainability and the BOLSTER Project

  • Pödelwitz, a village once impacted by open-cast lignite mining, is now evolving into an ecological model community.
  • The story of Pödelwitz demonstrates how communities can embrace sustainability and participate in creating a greener, more inclusive Europe.
  • Our BOLSTER project seeks to understand how involving marginalized communities in decision-making processes influences support for transition plans related to the European Green Deal, and visited Pödelwitz to see these processes in action.

Recently, our BOLSTER team from CGE, consisting of Shauna Shanmugan (Local Alliance coordinator), Jasna Friston (Research Assistant), and Dr. Ammalia Podlaszewska (Project Leader), embarked on a journey to Pödelwitz, a small village in Germany with a powerful story.

For decades, Pödelwitz was shaped by open-cast lignite mining – initially providing jobs for the community, but later becoming a threat due to the destructive nature of mining and the associated resettlement of residents. However, the village is now reinventing itself following the coal phase-out and new protections from digging. A small group of committed residents and supporters have taken it upon themselves to transform Pödelwitz into an ecological model village for future generations.

This transformation aligns with the goals of the BOLSTER project (Bridging Organizations and Marginalized Communities for Local Sustainability Transitions in Europe), which aims to understand how marginalized communities are affected by European Green Deal (EGD)-related policies and to explore whether involving them in decision-making processes increases support for transition plans. By employing novel qualitative research methods with participatory approaches, BOLSTER seeks to improve our understanding of the experiences and needs of marginalized communities.

During our visit to Pödelwitz, we had the opportunity to observe the incredible changes taking place within the community. Residents are working together to proactively shape the process of transforming their village, playing a pioneering role for other places in structural change regions that will have to find new ways of living, working, and doing business in the coming decades.

Currently, about 80% of the housing stock in Pödelwitz is vacant. Many original residents sold their houses to MIBRAG, a mining company, and left the village. However, a group of remaining residents refused to be resettled and actively resisted the mining company’s plans. After years of uncertainty and protest actions, MIBRAG announced in January 2021 that the village would remain intact.

In 2019, the community developed a concept paper outlining their vision for an ecological model village. Since 2020, the local group has been organized as the association Pödelwitz hat Zukunft e.V., which translates to “Pödelwitz has a future.” As part of the BOLSTER project, our team at CGE is excited to learn from the village of Pödelwitz in its transition towards a more sustainable future.

Stay tuned for more updates on our journey with the BOLSTER project, as we continue to explore innovative ways to engage with marginalized communities as we work towards achieving a sustainable future.

The BOLSTER project has received funding from the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. This project is funded by the European Union under the Grant Agreement n.º 101069586. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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