Monday, November 30, 2009

The Scale of Ecology

An exceptional example of incorporating sustainability in all of its aspects is being implemented by the CGH Earth Resorts in southern India. It addresses not only low-impact principles of living within the ability of the land to support human occupation, but also includes local food supply sources, social capital and natural capital. This comprehensive approach to sustainability is modeled on a system that is appropriately scaled to its local ecology and its community, as I discussed earlier as a "regenerative approach".

This chain of resorts has received awards and commendations for its approach to eco-tourism, setting a very high bar for its development and preservation of local culture and ecology. The resorts consist of seven developments that are recycled or native construction materials, provide local food, captured rainwater supply, recycled water supply (for garden watering) and captured methane for cooking gas in the case of Coconut Lagoon.

At the Coconut Lagoon resort in Kumarakom, Kerala, it begins with the Vechoor Cow. This is a rare breed of Bos indicus cattle that was nearly bread to extinction by cross-breeding with larger cow varieties that produce more milk. It's the smallest breed but a real efficient cow, producing a better volume of milk relative to the food it consumes, which happens to be the lawn on the property. The milk from this cow is used in traditional Ayuervedic medicine, and thus provides an incentive for protection of this native species and its biodiverse habitat. Not to mention that the waste recycling process doesn't work without the facilitation of its dung in order to "boost" the digestion process in the recycling tank that produces the methane used for cooking in the staff kitchen.

The water reclamation process begins with rainwater harvesting from the roofs, which is channeled to holding ponds for treatment and subsequent tank holding for supply of the water in the resort. There's sufficient water for all uses, but this is achieved by conservation principles of low water use by the staff and by guests. This manages to include a pool as well as adequate shower facilities. No bathtubs, however, since they're not necessary in a place where Ayurevedic medicines and massage therapies are available on an almost constant basis, including a resident physician. The staff is from the local community, which is an important aspect of partnership values in the social capital component of sustainability.


I found all of the CGH resort developments that I visited to be very well integrated into an appropriate scale of development that doesn't degrade the environment or destroy the culture. They essentially provide one of the best examples of living within the means provided by natural ecology, and minimize the "brute force engineering" approach to development by adapting time-honored local means and methods of living in these communities.

They have more information in their newsletter, "Earth Calling".