Organic Farming is one of the key activities in GEV, around which all the other activities are centered. Food is life! The Vedic system emphasizes how food that we eat is interconnected with our physical being as well as our mental consciousness. Therefore, the purity of the food we eat determines the wellbeing of the society. GEV has a strict policy of 100% chemical free farming there by ensuring the safety of the land, the farmers and the consumers.
Some key features are:
With a view to create buildings that minimized resource consumption & waste generation, in addition to the advantage of reduced ecological impact, GEV began exploring the concept of mud construction. Modern buildings are made from highly processed materials, such as cement, which not only are detrimental to the ecology but also tend to isolate us from nature. Traditional earthen homes are built with locally available materials and reconnect us to the earth, by creating a healing and calming effect. At GEV we employed mud based technologies like Compressed Stabilized Earth Block (CSEB), Cob and Rammed earth built structures that have less than 1% embodied energy compared to conventional buildings.
GEV followed the green standards as per the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) norms and complied to the following criterion:
Some key features of the Construction Process are:
Water plays a major role in any agricultural or farming based activity. In India, groundwater levels have fallen as much as 70 meters or more over the past 30 years. Assessments by the Central Groundwater Board, Government of India, show a dramatic change in share of tube wells in irrigated areas – from a mere 1% in 1960-61 to 40% in 2006-07. Efficient water conservation is therefore a natural step towards sustainability with respect to water resources. The goal at GEV was to create a system which could help us attain our goal without disturbing the existing ecology while keeping cost feasibility in mind. Therefore we undertook a hydro-geological survey of the entire ecovillage to identify suitable recharge and discharge points. A recharge point is the ideal location to build rain water harvesting units to recharge the underground aquifers. A discharge point is the ideal location to draw underground water through open wells and bore-wells. The entire process involved the following steps:
The consumption of non-renewable sources of energy has caused more environmental damage than any other single human activity in the last century. Over dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil, which have been used for electricity generation, etc., has led to high concentrations of harmful gases in the atmosphere; the detrimental effects of which are seen today as global warming and climate change. And with fast depleting oil reserves, an energy crisis seems imminent.
At Govardhan Ecovillage we have taken a step in the positive direction by adopting various rural specific alternative sources, thereby minimizing our effective carbon footprint. Exhibiting the blessings of mother cow in tackling the energy crisis, GEV has successfully demonstrated a 30 cubic meter model biogas plant, which runs on cow dung and other food wastes. The gas produced from this plant is directly used as a fuel for cooking minimizing our need for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). GEV also houses a 30kVA solar power plant and many stand-alone solar powered street lights which minimize its dependence on fossil fuel based power sources. GEV also houses various animal driven prime movers (ADPMs) which utilize animal power and form an excellent alternative for common electro-mechanical devices. GEV currently houses a bull driven water pump, bull driven grass cutting machine and various bullock carts used for transportation. The bulls are worked in turns, engaging them on alternate days, thus harnessing useful clean power and also ensuring the wellbeing and quality care of the animals.
A green economy is described as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The fallacy of consumerism is coming to light in a blatantly painful way. The recent economic meltdowns and the astronomical price rise are making people all over the world rethink the current models of development.
The fundamental flaw lies in the way we approach our planet. We have just one planet to live in and how well we utilize its resources will define the state of our existence on this planet. More and more nations today are adopting this concept of 'green economy' by reducing their carbon emissions and improving their resource efficiency. But is that really enough?
The Vedas present a holistic solution to this problem and it begins in redefining the conception of earth. It describes our planet not as a glob of matter floating in the unlimited space, but as a sentient entity whose personification is Bhoomi Devi. The Vedas proclaim that our attitude while accepting the various natural resources must be that of gratitude and respect. Then Bhoomi would respond in abundance like a loving mother eager to see her child grow. Unfortunately the modern attitude of exploitation and greed has only shown us her face of fury in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and forest fires.
Skeptics may find this concept to be anthropomorphic, but the conception of treating earth as a mother or as a deity is commonly observed in many world cultures. Earth has been worshipped by many names such as Bhoomi, Gaia, etc., all proving that there is a far deeper understanding beyond our limited perception and which holds the key to green living. Our ancestors in the past knew it and it enabled them to live peacefully for centuries.
However the modern era, especially post industrial revolution, has only been an era of short lived comforts with long term repercussions. The solutions we have created in the recent past have only resulted in creating bigger problems for future. And the so called advancement has only been "fire-fighting" at best and is far from being the ultimate solution for human well-being. It’s high time we look back into the past at the ways of the wise and cultivate this culture of respect for Mother Earth. That alone will ensure the success of all the green initiatives we take. So this World Environment Day lets be a part of the planet that cares for Mother Earth. Let's witness the dawn of a Green Culture. Well, does it include you?
We often neglect a quite important cow produce – manure! Manure or cow dung as called in India, finds its use in various places in traditional Indian culture. Manure is known in many Indian languages as go-var; go meaning cow and var meaning boon. It indicates how much the traditional Indians revered this excrement. Even the sacred texts of India, the vedas, which condemn all forms of excrements as abominable, hail cow dung as all auspicious. So much so that one finds is use in many sacred ceremonies and worship. So what's so special about cow dung?
From a pure utility perspective, cow dung is one of the best forms of natural fertilizer. Application of cow dung for soil enrichment is an age old agricultural practice which was lost post introduction of chemical fertilizers. With rising demand for chemical free food and growing acceptance of organic farming, cow dung forms a very important link in chemical free farming. Another growing trend is the use of cow dung in producing biogas, a cheap alternative source of energy that can be used as a fuel for cooking or to even produce electricity. Researchers at Hewlett Packard Co.'s HP Labs have found ways to power their data servers using cow manure. So it's not just milk and food, but cows can even help us power our laptops and iPods!
But how about putting some cow manure all over your house? Sounds yucky, well it’s not really so, cow dung plasters are commonly found in many Indian homes. Cow dung, also hailed for its anti-bacterial properties, is the best natural disinfectant. In any typical Indian village it not uncommon to find the entire floor of the house coated with some fresh cow dung paste. Cow dung mixed with lime is also used to coat the walls of cob houses. Recent research findings from independent groups in University of Bristol and Sage college in Troy, NY, show cow dung to be an excellent mood enhancing agent. Cow dung contains a bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, which activates a group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. So the next time you're feeling depressed try walking into a cow barn and get a lungful of the fresh fragrance of cow dung.
A simple way to define sustainability might be the ability of something to maintain itself or preserving resources and energy for long-term. It is about time that we experience a shift in perspective and move from envisioning sustainability only at the economical, technological and environmental level, to also acknowledging the importance of philosophical, psychological, emotional and spiritual plane.
Most of the time we forget that we live in a dual world and the unseen energetic work is always disregarded and ranked second in the top of our daily priorities. Everything is energy and all that comes to be materialized in the physical world has first a strong pattern in the energetic field. In this perspective, our transcendental level of consciousness is the basic field of inner sustainability. We cannot achieve behavioral change without inner transformation as well as our external environment cannot be cleaned unless the inner one is pure.
The number one disease that the world experiences today is depression and this is translated as energetic waste that puts a heavy load in the external reality. The greatest power that we own as human beings is the power of thought and our collective focus has the force to determine the quality of our external surroundings. Everything starts with the individual self. And our personal inner work to create a shift of consciousness and raise our vibration is the first and most important responsibility that each one of us has to contribute to the sustainability of the planet. Increasing our vibration will be directly reflected in our mind and will alter our thoughts, our values and beliefs, will inspire our actions and we will experience life in a different format.
There are so many easy practices to trigger inner transformation, but how can we use them in a sustainable way? We can choose to meditate, do yoga, pray, contemplate nature, or just give ourselves a break during the day to just do nothing and quiet our mind.
Let's explore how inner sustainability can contribute to the external factors of global change.
The first step towards inner transformation is self -awareness of our skills, shortcomings, uniqueness and inner potential. Next comes awareness towards our connection with everything that exists; people, animals, nature, mother earth and the consequences that our actions and behaviors have for the whole existence. The awareness of oneness brings forth a lot of responsibility and compassion and manifests as a natural change coming from within, not forced or imposed from outside. This is called transformation, it is irreversible and the only one that is sustainable for long term.
With awareness we become more sensitive towards the fragility of nature and develop our emotional intelligence quotient. We are emotional beings and the process of socialization forces us to suppress, deny and disown our emotions and they usually leak out in destructive ways towards ourselves and the universe at large. It is an enormous difference between understanding at the intellectual level and really feeling something. Managing our emotions improves our relationships and we act with love towards ourselves, others and the external environment.
Becoming more sensitive develops our gratitude level, we gain the capacity to appreciate all that we are given and treasure small things. The sense of reality is strongly felt and we realize that our everyday choices affect the larger systems. The urge to serve grows in our heart and we desire to engage more in community work. When we realize that we are not only this body and feel our spirit, it becomes easier to detach from the materialistic pattern that creates incredible waste and be happy to live a minimalistic lifestyle.
Through meditation and other inner engineering practices we enhance the purity and simplicity of our nature and sustainability is in tune with the same idea of going back to the roots, to the essence of existence. Eventually it all comes down to love. . Self-love is the seed from which everything grows.
To learn about unconditional love, we only need to observe the earth we walk upon. If we poison the waters and cut down its forests, nature still keeps pouring on us, but the question is: can we be happy with this? To love something is to take it as a part of ourselves, and when we gain the capacity to feel the pain and scream of the Universe and use every action to contribute to global healing, then we know that our inner work is properly done. The universe we live in is a mirror of what is within us, so we don’t need to look outside for the answers, they were with us all along.
We are living in an extreme crisis: we are amidst the 6th mass extinction since the beginning of life on Earth, a lifestyle model that demands nearly 2 planets in terms of resources and the threat of climate change which poses us the daunting task of cutting our carbon emissions by at least 50% in 10 years to avoid some of the most catastrophic effects.
As the concerns increase, solutions seem to emerge. Technological innovations offering energy efficiency are taking place, businesses are growing more conscious of their impact and global environmental governance agreements are on their way. Nonetheless if we look at the effort required to cut down our carbon emissions to protect our civilization from collapse, the current efforts seem to be no more than palliative measures.
The problem has grown too large and complex. It demands a different mode of thinking and being. As Albert Einstein has put it, we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Hence we need not only to shift how we do business or manage natural resources. We need a complete shift in our values and belief systems – a shift in consciousness.
This shift in consciousness requires us to move away from anthropocentrism, where human wants and needs are put in the center of everything, and a move towards eco-centrism, where the intrinsic value of life on the planet is taken into account. For if we don’t value nature for its own sake, how will we ever make the right choices to protect it? If many of us are not aware of the interconnectedness of the web of life and the role we play in it, how will we ever take responsibility for our own personal impact on the planet?
Time has come to go beyond the idea of a triple bottom line. Balancing people, planet and profit has led to some positive changes such as increased corporate social responsibility, fair trade and general environmental awareness. Yet the change required is in a more subjective and subtle level, the very way we perceive the world. For this, we come to realize that the dimension of spirituality needs to be brought into education, culture and the general social imaginary.
By spirituality we don’t mean a particular religion. We mean a humble recognition that humans are not the center of the world, that selfishness and individualism will ultimately lead to the collapse of all, that pursuing endless material comfort is leading to irreversible destruction and that each single one of us has an impact in the great chain of life. We believe that it is in spiritual awakening where the greatest potential for a change in attitudes and behavior rests.
By considering a quadruple bottom line, where spiritual awareness is equally pursued along with shared abundance, environmental protection and social wellbeing, a more holistic model gains the chance of guiding us towards a new way of life – and hopefully out of this crisis.
In this context India has much to teach to the world. Since the beginning of Indian civilization, material renunciation and the refusal of that which is vain and unnecessary has been perceived as an elevated attitude. The interconnectedness of life has been described in Vedic scriptures thousands of years ago, showing how a harmonious living in the planet takes place once all forms of life are recognized and valued.
Despite the urgency for change, the shift in consciousness and its reflection in action are likely to be a gradual process. For this transition to happen, the sector of education can play a great role. The spiritual insights necessary for a shirt towards eco-centrism can come through the facilitation of experiences that lead to an intrinsic appreciation of nature, greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of life of on Earth. Different types of education centers can carry out this facilitation, such as schools, universities, institutes and NGO’s. By facilitating a shift in consciousness we are training the agents of change: people with a sense of planetary citizenship who can positively affect their communities with regenerative or sustainability initiatives.
Being the current generation, we have the great responsibility of making decisions that will affect the future of many species, including ours. Although any kind of sustainability may seem good at this point, we have to be aware of the fact that some lead to technological fixes that ultimately maintain the destructive status-quo. Promoting a quadruple bottom line is effective as it gives us the opportunity to review our own attitudes and mode of life, the very cause of the problem. Supporting spiritual ecological awareness is likely to be the most powerful tool today, as it is the very basis of ecologically sound behavior.