The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005

June 22 am Workshop Report 2202
Sustainable Energy Use: Living off the Grid

Suhasini Ayer-Guigan, Auroville, India
Gael Watson, La Havre Bakery, Nova Scotia, Canada
Sanjit Bunker Roy, Barefoot Collge, India

Rapporteur: Kathleen Ives
  Living of the Grid Workshop Presenters
Suhasini Ayer-Guigan Innovative Practice or Strategy
  • Development of an eco-city.
Alternative Vision:
Vision – creating a city dedicated to human unity and international understanding
  • Do away with property
  • Unending education – constant and unending process – question everything
  • Learn from the past, other cultures etc
  • Site of material and spiritual research
Centre of the city is the spiritual centre

Success Factors:
Key aspects in developing a sustainable settlement
  • Environmental restoration – began in 1968 Auroville was started on barren plateau prone to erosion and dust storms only 10 days of rain a year
  • Began first with land regeneration – tree planting, first for simple reasons to provide shade. Over years realized ground cover was needed to prevent erosion. They also introduced species that could withstand the conditions
  • Organic and urban agriculture – dispensing with chemical fertilizer and pesticides, polyculture and crop rotation, use of manure, comp and mulch, use of legumes as manure etc
  • Solar panel architecture – try to do away with electrical and mechanical needs of ventilation. Want natural daylight without the heat (tropical temperature is too high) so they try to create courtyards as cool air traps, creation of transition spaces for lowering the air temperature before it enters building, etc.
  • Different kinds of building materials, different finishes
  • Rainwater harvesting – building of swales, ponds etc
  • Renewable energy – bio, wind and solar
Key Challenges:
There have been many challenges introducing this new way of living (.e.g establishing sewage recycling system, convincing locals that planting trees is a viable idea). The amount of rain fall in the area is also a challenge.
Suhasini Ayer-Guigan Suhasini Ayer-Guigan
Gael Watson Innovative Practice or Strategy:
Gael has lived for 28 years without electricity in Nova Scotia, Canada. She and her husband built their house with products from barn and they reused shingles. For the first 18 years they lived without power of any sort then began using a propane fridge. They raised animals for food. They also realized they needed to live according to the climate – because the winters are cold in Canada they needed more protein in the winter and less in the summer. They have two solar panels for computer use, music, lights etc. They grow food in the garden, compost their waste and burn wood from their property.

In 1985 Gael started a bakery. She uses local, organic ingredients, and operates the bakery with people power. She uses the lessons she learned from living off the land to operate her bakery.

Mainstream Practice:
Most residents in the province consume tremendous amounts of resources from water, to electricity. Alternative Vision:
We do not have to consume as much as we do. Her lifestyle is far less expensive than the lifestyle of most Canadians. She believes people should reduce the amount they consume and revert back to nature.

Lessons Learned:
  • Everyone should ask themselves, how much power do I need?
  • We need to adjust as the climate changes
Sanjit Bunker Roy Innovative Practice or Strategy:
  • Rain water harvesting stations – collecting rain water from roofs for the purpose of drinking
  • Solar energy
Mainstream Practice:
  • Digging wells to collect ground water
  • Non electrified villages
Alternative Vision:
  • Villages and schools will have access to sweet water
  • Villages will be solar energized
Success Factors:
Barefoot approach is unique – first prepare the community
  • First go to non-electrical village and introduce the idea of the new technology
  • Second, take the most illiterate, unemployable person in the village and train them as an engineer at Barefoot College
  • In 6 months, the person is a solar engineer
  • Go back to village and implement solar technology
  • Collect fees from villagers to pay for equipment and a stipend for the barefoot engineer
Key Challenges:
  • Getting government to accept new technologies and change practices
  • Recruiting women
Sanjit Bunker Roy Sanjit Bunker Roy
Comment Chairman of Shell and others need to hear these stories so that the third world can be provided with these technologies.
Comment The technology is there but the big companies don't seem to want to use this.
Comment The point is not to get the corporations on side but do it at the community level because that's where the possibilities are.
Q How many composting toilets are being used? (in Auroville)
A There are composting toilets but there are cultural barriers as well as environmental barriers (such as the hot, humid climate)
Comment There was a Canadian artist who wanted to build a house. He explored where a pack of wolves lived and started thinking about how Canadian animals live, in a country where it freezes for six months. He built similar housing structure to the wolves. Animals have a lot to teach us about adapting to our climates and how to live efficiently.
Q Does the solar electrification allow for cell phones and does communication become a plus or does it complicate things – what is the social transformation for a village that has been isolated?
A Isolation in India is not the same as in Canada – a country that is 8 times smaller with a population that is 6 times larger
Q I've always believed that the power of planting trees is one thing we could do to transform the world – you have managed to plant 3.5 million trees – can you provide insight? (Auroville project)
A When we first planted it was very difficult – it took a long time but once the birds came back the trees planted themselves

Every building project is started with landscaping
Q For Gael – on the one hand we have a person who exists in a society that consumes so much who manages to remove the excess and on the other side, they are bringing a small amount of energy to places that have none. Is there a point that there is too much, too little?
A We need to recognize what gives peace of mind – when you use less energy you consume less.

Spend time in nature, see how well nature works to use less
Q Gael how does your water system work?
A Outhouse uses rain water and little sink

A well goes into pressurized tank so there is pressurized water in the house.
Q Since the world is urban how do you translate your inspiration to the challenges that are getting worse and worse?
A Major problem in India is transportation – need to stop compartmentalizing so people can walk to where they want to go

Slow down the pace of life

Take care of your own children – stop giving them to other people to take care of

Urban agriculture
Comment In Canada when things are going bad we say soon we will be like a third world country – should be learning from the presenters from India so we can keep on living and forget about the evils and perils about becoming a 3rd world country
Summary What's missing systemically is a lack of limits – e.g. living without electricity, - limits is the issue

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Next: next Workshop Report 2203:
Holistic Land Management and Soil Health Restoration
  What they are saying about Rethinking Development

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