Ian Lockwood

MUSINGS, TRIP ACCOUNTS AND IMAGES FROM SOUTH ASIA

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Solar Developments in the OSC Neighborhood

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DP2 Environmental Systems & Societies Experimenting with a 15 W PVC panel.

DP2 Environmental Systems & Societies students experimenting with a 15 W PV panel.

Like other parts of the planet there are significant developments in solar energy generation in Sri Lanka. The costs of photovoltaic (PV) panels have come down and net metering allows small operators to export their power to the grid built and maintained by the Ceylon Electricity Board. After many years of reading about the solar revolution it has been thrilling to have a colleague install a system at her house. Encouraged by these developments, OSC’s DP Environmental Systems and Societies (ES&S) students are investigating the basics of PV-generated energy. It has given me a chance to brush up on power and energy concepts as are applicable when talking about the generation of renewable energy.

My personal interest in energy goes back to my father Merrick Lockwood who has been working with alternative energy projects since the late 1970s. His significant work was on a biomass-fueled Stirling cycle engine that produced power to run a rice mill. You can about the joys and tribulations of his work in Bangladesh in How I Built a 5HP Stirling Engine (it is an intriguing account narrating the Rice Husk Energy project though the title was not Merrick’s choice). Stirling engines were a major focus point but Merrick has always been interested in an array of conventional and non-conventional energy technologies. I have strong childhood memories of PV cells, batteries, meters and literature on renewable energy in the wonderful clutter of his office and workshop. Earlier this year my alma mater KIS installed a 2 kw set of panels though the tireless work of Class of 1952 alum Dr. Clarence Maloney. His efforts helped get me thinking about solar energy as a viable option.

Sri Lanka sits in an enviable location to tap into renewable energy. Because it is so close to the equator (6°-9.5° N) it is bathed in insolation (solar irradiance) throughout the year. Sri Lanka is blessed with high rainfall in its “wet zone” and here it taps into large and medium-sized hydroelectric schemes which generate about half of all the electricity use in a year. Sri Lanka’s coastal areas offer great potential for wind power generation (something being explored in the Kalpitiya region). Biomass fuel provides for much of the country’s cooking needs in rural areas and if managed correctly can be a sustainable energy source. At the moment Sri Lanka’s electricity demand is growing and it gets significant power (up to 40-45%) from thermal plants burning heavy oil and coal. The chart below shows the source of electricity on 16th November 2015. Because of the high rainfall in the catchment areas there is optimal hydroelectric production (68% of the total).

This chart shows the source of Sri Lanka's electricity on 16th November 2015. Because of the high rainfall in the catchment areas there is optimal hydroelectric production (68% of the total).

This chart shows the source of Sri Lanka’s electricity on 16th November 2015. Because of the high rainfall in the catchment areas there is optimal hydroelectric production (68% of the total).(CEB)

The catalysis for my current interest interest in solar energy at OSC was my colleague’s Chamilla Ratnaweera decision to install an array of PV panels on her rooftop in July this year. She and her husband have sixteen 0.46 m2 panels for a total of 23.36 m2. They have a net-metering arrangement, which means the power that they generate goes straight into the grid and runs their meter backwards (“exporting” units on their bill). When they draw power (it is mostly at night and on weekends) the system takes electricity from the grid. Not having batteries and having to deal with the storage of solar generated electricity simplifies the process in net metering. It assumes, of course, that there is functioning electricity grid.

In September Chamilla’s panels produced an average of 14.3 kWh of solar energy every day (see graph below) and they have not paid an electric bill for the last three months! What is even more remarkable is that have also purchased a Nissan Leaf eclectic car and are able to charge the vehicle and meet their electrical energy requirements with their panels! Chamilla has access to daily, monthly and yearly data on solar energy generated (in kWh). There are several companies offering schemes and they purchased their set up through Solar Edge (marketed here by JLanka Technologies). According to their company literature a similar set with installation costs roughly LKR 1.1 million (US$ 7,700). Our class has been checking on her daily power generation every day for the last two weeks.

Graphs showing solar production in kWh generated at Chamilla’s home in September and October 2015. Even though these were relatively wet months the system generated 430.4 kWh in September and 468.87 kWh in October.

Graphs showing solar production in kWh generated at Chamilla’s home in September and October 2015. Even though these were relatively wet months the system generated 430.4 kWh in September and 468.87 kWh in October.

As a part of this study I visited the Sri Lanka Department of Meteorology on November 6th. On this initial trip I had several interesting discussions with the meteorologists who run operations and I was also able to purchase solar radiance and rainfall data. The graphs below chart solar radiance (in MJ/m2/day) against the solar energy generated by Chamilla’s panels (in kWh/day). Other than the days where there was maintenance on the panels there is a clear pattern between radiance and solar energy generated as one would expect.

Chart showing solar energy generated vs. solar radiance as recorded by the Sri Lanka Meteorology Department. Noe that at the beginning of the month the panels were not running at their full potential. They were serviced on September and.

Chart showing solar energy generated vs. solar radiance as recorded by the Sri Lanka Meteorology Department. Noe that at the beginning of the month the panels were not running at their full potential. They were serviced on September 22nd and 25th. There is 5-10 km between the two locations where the data was recorded, which may partly explain discrepancies.

Chart showing solar energy generated vs. solar radiance as recorded by the Sri Lanka Meteorology Department for the month of October. Like the graph above the energy generated follows the pattern of the solar radiance.

Chart showing solar energy generated vs. solar radiance as recorded by the Sri Lanka Meteorology Department for the month of October. Like the graph above the energy generated follows the pattern of the solar radiance. The data from October 9th and 27th was originally missing and I have substituted near values.

To better understand solar energy the class tested a small 31 x 37 cm 15w panel that the Physics class purchased last year. Will Duncan, the Head of Science, gave me a primer and demonstration on how to rig up the voltage and current meters and make calculations on energy generated by the panel. We are using Vernier’s Labquest2 devices and these are versatile data loggers that allow students to gather raw data from a variety of probes. This year we purchased the pyranometer probe, which measures irradiance (in w/m2) and allows you to then calculate the efficiency of solar panels. I ran trials with the Labquest simultaneously taking in data from three probes (voltage, current and irradiance). The raw data is then imported into Loggerpro where power and efficiency is graphed and analyzed.

Measuring raddiance (in w/m2) in a Colombo neighborhood

Measuring electromagnetic radiation (irradiance) (in w/m2) over the course of the day in our Colombo neighborhood. The results are given below.

Graph showing irradiance data gathered over a 12 hour period at our home in Battaramulla on November 7 2015. The Labquest2 with the pyranometer gathered data every minutes for 12 hours (720 minutes). The total energy available, thanks to functions on Logger Pro, for the day was 2.65 W/ m2 or …NEEDS TO BE COMPLETED.

Graph showing irradiance data gathered over a 12 hour period at our home in Battaramulla on November 7 2015. The Labquest2 with the pyranometer gathered data every minutes for 12 hours (720 minutes).

Map showing irradiation (radiance) levels in kWh/m2 draped over an elevation model (sourced from SolarGIS).

Map showing annual irradiation (radiance) levels in kWh/m2 draped over an elevation model (sourced from the amazing website SolarGIS). Both Sri Lanka and southern India have optimal conditions to tap into solar energy!

Weather is obviously a major factor in producing solar energy. We have just experienced unseasonably wet months in September and October. In fact his last Sunday- an overcast, gloomy day that experienced rainfall for much of the day- Chamilla’s panels generated 6.89 kWh of solar energy! That is lower than the 14.34 kWh September average but still significant. We have not yet done a full cost benefit analysis of the panels but it is quite clear that they pay for themselves quickly. If the electricity bill was roughly LKR 25,000 a month, the system would pay for itself in under four years. The company, like many here in Sri Lanka, is advertising the system to have a 25 year lifespan. If you are a house owner or run a large institution, such as a school like OSC, investing in a PV systems makes both sense for the climate and your wallet.

Sun or shine there are ample opportunities to generate solar energy on OSC's roofs.

Sun or shine, there are ample opportunities to generate solar energy on OSC’s many roofs. With net metering the school could potentially offset its high monthly bills.

In the next post I’ll explore rainfall data in these last few months in order look at patterns and changes from past years.

REFERENCES

Biello, David.  “Less polluting energy sources are proliferating in the U.S. If other nations join in, the results could have global impact.” Scientific American. 18 November 2015. Web. 24 November 2015.

Jayawardena, Dulip. “Potential for renewable energy in Sri Lanka.” Sunday Times. 31 October 2010. Web. 14 November 2015.

NASA. Global Maps: Net Radiation. Web. 17 November 2015.

NASA. Net Radiation (1 Month). Web Data Portal. 17 November 2015.

Plank, Alexandria R. et al. Renewable Energy With Vernier. Vernier, 2012. Print & Web.

Renné, Dave et al. Solar Resource Assessment for Sri Lanka and Maldives. Boulder, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2003. Web. 14 November 2015.

Renewable Energy for Rural Economic Development Project-Sri Lanka. Web. 13 November 2015.

Rodrigo, Chatura. “The Road to Becoming an Energy Independent Country: Can We Deliver?” Talking Economics. 5 August 2015. Web.

Solar GIS. Irradiance Portal. Web. 14 November 2015.

Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Authority. Solar Resource Atlas of Sri Lanka. Web. 14 November 2015.

Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Authority. Sri Lanka Energy Balance 2007: An Analysis of Energy Sector Performance. Web. 14 November 2015.

Solid Waste Reduction Initiatives: The City, the School and the Home

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Compost at three  stages in our garden. The Vernier Labquest shows the temperature of each bin.  The active bin and temperature is on the left with a temperature of 47.1 C.

Compost at three stages in our garden. The Vernier Labquest shows the temperature of each bin. The active bin and temperature is on the left with a temperature of 47.1 C showing healthy levels of metabolic activity.

One of my struggles as a human being living in a 21st Century industrial, consumer-driven society is how to better live up to the ideals that are imbedded in the concepts that are a part of the course content that I teach. The IBDP Environmental Systems & Societies course promotes ideas of sustainability (defined roughly as the extent to which natural income is utilized without affecting the natural capital of a system). IBDP Geography also looks at sustainability but spend time on populations, resources and the broad concept of carrying capacity. In the IBDP Creativity Action & Service (CAS) course outline the issue of “considering ethical implications” of one’s actions are highlighted in the eight IB learning outcomes. One contemporary environmental challenge that I have made efforts to address since my days as an undergraduate student is the issue of solid waste. I see our home as a virtual laboratory to test just how much we can cut back and reduce our family’s ecological footprint. In this post I’ll review the recycling and solid waste situation at three different scales here in Sri Lanka.

THE CITY

Colombo faces significant solid waste challenges as it experiences rapid growth in the post conflict years. The problem is not so much one of human numbers but of human lifestyles with per capita consumption and solid waste generation going up. Local newspapers (see References below) highlight problems with disposal, tension in communities stuck with city waste and controversial plans to incinerate waste. Approaches to recycling have changes during the last 10 years that we have been living in Colombo. In 2006-7 the Colombo Municipal Council set up several eco-kiosks for consumers to drop off recyclables at. It was a nice idea, but from my observations and interactions, the eco-kiosks had a mixed rate of success. Some discerning citizens used them regularly and deposited loads of cleaned recyclable materials. However others treated them as places to toss unsorted waste. Without proper supervision, the two eco-kiosks in our area (Talawathagoda and Battaramulla) became foul-smelling, cluttered sites that few people wanted to use. They were closed down two years ago. Most households now rely on a municipal neighborhood solid waste collection service that comes by with a tractor and trailer every week. Households are requested to sort their waste into two broad categories (organic and non-biodegradable items). The municipal workers sort the waste into organic and non-biodegradable sections (see image above). Their tools are basic and they endure unsavory working conditions. Unfortunately these hard working teams are unrecognized for the key role that they play in the city’s environment. The waste is carted off to one of several sites where it might be further sorted and then is basically left to rot, with some of it being burnt. It is this reality that has been the subject of concern amongst citizens and environmentalists in the city.

Haphazard solid waste disposal and burning behind a major grocery store chain in the Pelawatte/Thalawathgoda neighborhood. The practice of burning waste, which often includes significant amounts of plastic and other synthetic materials is widespread.

Haphazard solid waste disposal and burning behind a major grocery store chain in the Pelawatte/Thalawathgoda neighborhood. The practice of burning waste, which often includes significant amounts of plastic and other synthetic materials, is widespread.

For a variety of reasons there is a high prevalence of small-scale waste burning in Colombo’s residential neighborhoods. Traditionally people must have lit small fires of leaf litter and other collected waste that is swept up at the end of the day. In our area (that falls under the Battaramulla municipality) many neighbors continue to burn mixed waste. One neighbor suggested that the burning is timed to suppress mosquitos. The problem is that now household produce a good deal of waste that is synthetic and this gets thrown on to these same fires. There are few days that we don’t pass by a fire with burning plastic, PVC, styrofoam and any number of other items. This obviously has serious health consequences.

How domestic solid waste is collected from our home in Pelawatte, Sri Lanka.

How domestic solid waste is collected from our home in Pelawatte, Sri Lanka.

 THE SCHOOL

OSC with its 500 + students, teachers, administrators and support staff produces a significant amount of solid waste that is collected by the Battaramulla municipal council teams. There is some sorting at the cafeteria where wet waste is partially separated from all other kinds. The OSC Recycling and Sustainability (R&S) project has a mission to reduce the volume of solid waste and raise awareness about environmental and sustainability issues on campus. The group has a stated goal of reducing the school’s ecological footprint. Its weekly activity consists of collecting recyclables from classrooms and offices. The recyclables are sorted and the data is recorded with the idea of studying long-term trends to see if the efforts to reduce are having any impact. The group also works on projects with the canteen and administration to reduce waste at source and promote energy conservation. Over the years we have had several notable and energetic student leaders including Olivia Molden, Yi Suel Shin, Yulia Alex Mylvaganam, Satyanshu Sapra, Jennifer Anderson, Constance Klemplin, Yoon Jae Hwang, Nishant Matthews and several others. See the blog link here  and below to get a sense of what the group has done in the last five years (the blog was started in 2010-11). Environmental issues also figure in course content in all three IB programs. The Primary School is very good about raising awareness about issues and the Middle Years Program (MYP) does studies on energy and ecological footprints. In the Diploma Program the Geography class uses the issue of solid waste and recycling to run field studies and surveys. This is shared with the wider OSC community through the weekly newsletter and R&S blog.

OSC recycling in action (from the top): Students in the Thursday afternoon R&S service activity collect and sort paper, cardboard and other materials outside the recycling room near the gym. DP Geography students weigh and sell cardboard to our main scrap dealer buyer who will resell it for recycling in India. DP R&S student leaders Nisala, Nandini and Nishant work with younger students on a reflection at the end of the Thursday service session. Data about patterns in consumption and recycling is gathered and analyzed as a key part of this activity.

OSC recycling in action (from the top): Students in the Thursday afternoon R&S service activity collect and sort paper, cardboard and other materials outside the recycling room near the gym. DP Geography students weigh and sell cardboard to our main scrap dealer buyer who will resell it for recycling in India. DP R&S student leaders Nisala, Nandini and Nishant work with younger students on a reflection at the end of the Thursday service session. Data about patterns in consumption and recycling is gathered and analyzed as a key part of this activity.

THE HOME

It must have been was growing up in Bangladesh where I learnt that there is no such thing as garbage; only resources. Nothing went to waste in Dhaka, from empty beer cans, to office paper and even plastic bags: all had real economic value that was obvious to most consumers. The key to Dhaka’s successful recycling had little to do with any government planning or fancy development plans. Instead an army of informal workers, each with their own basket and weigh scales, competed to buy, collect and sell whatever they could. Houses in the wealthy neighborhoods of Gulshan and Baridhara were lucrative areas to trawl. High-income lifestyles, especially amongst the foreign community, were relatively wasteful and generated large volumes of perfectly useful materials that could be resold for a decent amount. Extreme poverty helped drive some of this recycling dynamism but the resilience and work ethic of the families collecting and sorting through the materials (often in hazardous conditions) played a key role. Their efforts helped to significantly reduce the need for landfill space, incinerators or other methods traditionally resorted to in industrial societies.

Three stages of compost at home. The bins are made by Arpico and also marketed/promoted by the CEA.

Three stages of compost at home. The bins are made by Arpico and also marketed/promoted by the Sri Lanka Central Environment Authority (CEA).

Living in Pune I was exposed to ideas of composting and vermiculture. Ever since, our family has successfully been able to completely manage all of our own wet organic waste. Here in Colombo we have three bins that have waste being cycled through them. Because of the warm, humid temperatures in Colombo we can recycle most organic waste through the system relatively quickly. It takes about 3 months between the time that a bin is started and then emptied out into the garden. The opening set of pictures shows the temperatures of the three bins. Temperatures are high (@40-41 C°) in the active bin where metabolic activity is high. Then, as the compost breaks down, the temperature drops back down to normal air temperature (26-32 C°) as different organisms works to break down the waste. I’ve learnt to mix an equal amount of leaf litter/grass cutting with food waste in the bins. Any meat waste is kept out and feeds neighborhood dogs and monitor lizards. The plastic of the Arpcio compost containers is hardy and keeps most rodents at bay. I regularly roll the bins on the ground to aerate the compost. I also add a little water to the non-active bins to keep them moist and conducive for decomposers.

This is a rough estimate and breakdown of our household waste in terms of composition and weight (see table below).

This is a rough estimate and breakdown of our household waste in terms of composition and weight (see table below).

Table of Data 2

In Colombo we generate, what I would assume is, an average amount of solid waste, but based on my research we put out far less garbage than other similar families. Unlike many other houses in the area, our waste (mostly plastic packaging) is not mixed with rotting food (a source of unsanitary conditions and an invitation for stray dogs that like to open bags of mixed waste). Through a combination of active recycling and composting I believe that our household has been able to make major solid waste reductions. At the school and certainly at the city level there is still a great deal more that needs to be done. The issue of dealing with solid waste in a scientific and ecological manner is quite straightforward, while the bigger challenges of the country developing into a resource-consuming society looms with uncertain consequences.

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Berenger, Leon. “Garbage Crisis growing by the day.” Sunday Times. 22 March 2009. Web. 23 March 2014.

Central Environmental Authority. Web. {this is the main Sri Lankan government body dealing with solid waste. See Waste Management Unit.}

Dissanayake, Chathuri. “Garbage collection waste deep in management and disposal.” Sunday Times. 15 September 2013. Web.

Ratnayake, Niranjanie. “Issues related to solid waste management in Sri Lanka.” The Daily News. 16 July 2012. Web. 23 March 2014.

Wipulasena, Aanya. “Waste rots, want lots.” Sunday Times. Web.

Written by ianlockwood

2015-03-24 at 1:23 am

Sustainability Lessons at the Sholai School

Kitchen area of the Sholai School oveshadowed by  the higher Palani Hills.

Kitchen area of the Sholai School overshadowed by the higher ranges of the Palani Hills.

Several weeks ago my family and I took an eye opening day trip to the Sholai School just down the hill from Kodaikanal. The visit has helped me think about ecological teaching and learning as well as themes that are at the center of my work as an educator, photographer and writer. I entered the teaching profession in order to make a living learning and teaching about the planet with a special focus on South Asia. Increasingly, as I was reminded of on this trip, the idea of sustainability has come to be a central theme in my professional and personal life.

The Sholai School, also known as the Center for Learning Organic Agriculture and Appropriate Technology (CLOAAT), was set up by Brian Jenkins in 1989. It has grown slowly and now has considerable land area and a broad range of educational goals that it addresses. The school size is small-only about 40 students- but it addresses a range of ecological and sustainability themes . Students actively participate in their living, food production and the maintenance of the school. The teaching of J. Krishnamurti have been instrumental in shaping Brian’s world view and the pedagogical focus of the Sholai School. Brian is an old family friend who I first met when he spoke to our senior auto maintenance class at Kodaikanal International School in early 1988. The Sholai School also owns a Stirling Dynamics (India) ST-5 biomass-fueled engine which my father Merrick spent time looking at and advising Brian on.

Brian Jenkins the founder, principal and man behind the Sholai School vision. Seen here collecting rubbish at the school's landmark footbridge.

Brian Jenkins the founder, principal and man behind the Sholai School vision. Seen here collecting rubbish at the school’s landmark footbridge.

During the course of our visit we were able to see most of the campus and enjoyed a personal tour from Brian. The school was not in session but the staff was working on various projects and the fields. The Petupari Valley, where the school is located, is known for its coffee, fruit production, home-made cheeses and idiosyncratic people looking to make something different in the world. With an altitude of 1,000-1,400 meters it is a less extreme environment than the upper Palani Hills plateau. This is well suited for agricultural experiments and has the “goldilocks” just-right feel to its weather. Effective water management is a crucial aspect enabling success of the Sholai School experiment. The school uses surface water from streams, collects rain water and also has several wells, such that they are self-sufficient and free of any municipal or government water supply. They are  independent of grid electricity and generate power through photovoltaic panels and a micro-hydroelectric turbine. Cooking is done on biogas (fed by waste from cows and the campus toilets) and wood collected from the large compound. The campus includes numerous plots of agricultural land where the community grows much of their own food using organic methods. The buildings, built of stone and covered with tiled roofs, are aesthetically pleasing and look similar to the nearby village hamlets.

We weren’t able to observe classes in session but the critical aspect of the curriculum involves teaching students the practical skills for living sustainably. The Gandhian ashram ideal has influenced the planning and the whole community participates in daily maintenance (seva) of basic needs. Although Brian has had his differences with neighbors there is clearly an attempt to break down barriers and invite the local community to participate in the experiment. I appreciate this, remembering how so many international schools that I have been associated with function as bubbles of elitism in their communities. At the Sholai School there is an emphasis on hands on learning that primarily focuses on providing healthy, organic food.  Brian has a special interest in mechanical learning and there are automotive and wood workshops, reminiscent to me of Johnny Auroville’s place. Brian’s historic 1930s Austin 7, the vehicle that our class had inspected in 1988, is still working and Sholai students get a chance to work on it and several other vehicles. Place-based pedagogies are important and the students learn about the area’s biodiversity, the traditions of the Tamil villages and the history of the area. I was thrilled to see that they have a GIS lab and have done interesting work in map the watershed that their streams are fed by. The school offers students a chance to sit for the Cambridge (IGCE) exams, which allows them a chance to reenter the other world and attend university. There are also opportunities for older “mature students” (university age) to spend time learning at the Sholai School. Clearly the Sholai School faces its set of challenges: recruiting and retaining faculty and staff  is difficult and it takes a special teenager to take on the challenge of living and learning in its isolated valley. Brian is charismatic, headstrong and clearly eccentric, but he is a passionate voice for sustainability in the wilderness.

Further up the hill from Sholai School is Kodaikanal International School (KIS), now moving into its 112th year. It is an established school that played a historic role in introducing the International Baccalaureate into India and the South Asian region. Ideas of critical thinking, service to the community, an appreciation of the idea of India and learning based on values are important elements of the KIS educational philosophy. As students many of us were exposed to ecological and conservation issues through weekend outings and explorations into the Palani Hills. In my experience, our self awareness and spiritual growth was nurtured not in the church pew or classroom, but by these outside experiences and the interaction with friends of diverse backgrounds all in a unique, south Indian mountain landscape.

Flag Green on the main KIS campus. A favorite place for lazy afternoons, south Indian lunches and classroom lectures.

Flag Green on the main KIS campus. A favorite place for lazy afternoons, south Indian lunches and class interactions.

THe Ganga Campus of KIS, site of the primary and middle schools. THe large area gives a sense of the "old kodai"- cool, spacious and green.

The Ganga Campus of KIS, site of the primary and middle schools. The large area gives a sense of the “old kodai”- cool, spacious and green.

KIS has its roots in American Christian missions that used to send their children from across Asia to attend what was then a small residential school in a very sleepy, unknown Indian hill-station. My parents were both amongst those children, travelling from Madhya Pradesh and Ceylon to a far off place called Kodai. All that has changed now and the school caters to a largely urban Indian/global clientele. The town has grown into a small urban area with year-round tourist traffic (think of Daytona Beach crossed with a picaresque hill station, set to a pulsating Bollywood dance number!). The school is physically surrounded by this growth, though it has some of the largest, green pieces of property in the township. The school maintains excellent academic standards, places students in outstanding world universities and has produced citizens that seek to change the world in a positive way. Service to the local and global communities are important values in KIS but students are nevertheless pampered. Many of the students come from extremely privileged backgrounds and a large, hard- working support staff helps to keep the campus fed, clean and running. Environmental education is thus far limited to a classroom, service projects and the hiking program and there is room to explore ideas of sustainability. As an educator and KIS graduate it seems that there is much to be learned from the Sholai School experiment just down the ghat road. 21st Century learning, an evolving pedagogical idea of our times, will have to extend itself from using media and technology in learning to addressing the pressing ecological needs of our times. Sustainability and how we as a species can thrive and survive without destroying our life support systems is a fundamental focus need for education. As KIS and other residential schools in India look to empower students with ecological world views and a greater understanding of sustainability, the Sholai School experiment offers a small-scale case study of a possible pathway.

Further Links & References

Basu, Soma. “Thank you Mr. Jenkins.” The Hindu. 24 May 2012. Web. 28 July 2013.

“Kodai Hills Green School.” NDTV. Web. 25 November 2010. Web. 28 July 2013.

Krishnamurti and Education. Web. 28 July 2013.

Northfield Mount Hermon Work Program. Web. 29 July 2013. Check out this site to learn about the “work” program that all students participate in.

“Rocky & Mayur share a vegetarian meal at the Sholai School.” NDTV. 7 October 2012. Web. 28 July 2013.

Sholai School (Center for Learning Organic Agriculture) official site. 28 July 2013.

The Sholai WayGobar TimesWeb. 2006. 28 July 2013.

Written by ianlockwood

2013-07-29 at 5:58 pm

Auroville after many years

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Auroville’s Matramandir, seen from the visitor viewpoint that is as close as most people get.

It has been nearly 15 or so years since I was last in Auroville. The utopian community and settlement just north of the union territory of Pondicherry (now named Puducherry) was motivated by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their pioneering experiments with sustainable living in a south Indian context has long attracted my interest and admiration. I use a video that documents their experiments with afforestation, energy use, biodiversity conservation and low-impact architecture in my IB Environmental Systems and Geography classes. The film is a great resource and always makes me want to take the students to Auroville for a week of work-study. So far that has been impossible but I will continue to build links in the hope of taking students there in the near future.

Auroville, of course, has changed a great deal in the years that I have been away. The Matramandir has been completed and there are complex barriers in place to keep the busloads of tourists away from it. Because of this I could not photograph the banyan tree that overlooks it but was able to spend time with several other banyans nearby. The townships on the periphery have grown and the dusty road that leads up to the plateau from the East Coast Road has now been done in concrete. The interiors still evoke the sense of peace with the cycle lanes leading through groves or eucalyptus and native tropical dry-evergreen forest. This time I brought my family and it was gratifying to share the place with them.

Lenny under a banyan (Ficus benghalensis) tree near the visitor viewpoint at Auroville’s Matramandir. The community hosts dozens of impressive trees and, of course, the banyans are amongst my favorites.

The highlight was taking Lenny to visit Johnny Allen (now Auroville) at his hermitage in Fertile. There are a kaleidoscope of personalities and lifestyles in the community but Johnny lives my idea of the vision. He uses locally available materials for construction, the power comes from the sun and biomass and the impact on the ecology is minimal. He is still using a biomass-fueled Stirling engine to make peanut butter and dosa mix and chutney every Saturday. This was the engine that had first brought my father Merrick here. I had tagged along on several trips in the early 1990s. Johnny’s home is set amongst towering trees, thatched workshops and cowsheds. He is just the sort of teacher that helps you understand the practical side of sustainable living. Lenny was given a personal tour of the Stirling engine, a compost toilet and models of housing units that Johnny is designing for young people. The significance of Johnny’s example may have eluded Lenny this time but he enjoyed playing in the tree houses and variety of swings created from recycled life preservers.

Collage of Lenny interacting with Johnny Auroville…friend, teacher and amazing human being living in Fertile, Auroville.

Written by ianlockwood

2011-07-03 at 4:56 am