Social Experience

Bryan Plymale, Social Experience teacher with students on a recent SoEx Saturday trip to the Grasslands

Grassland Restoration

Pulling trees instead of planting them? Can this help the environment? – Yes, indeed, it can.
29 students from the grade 6 to 12 made this quite confusing experience in the framework of the Vattakanal Grassland Restoration.

Last Saturday, these students, along with Bryan Plymale and myself went to a marshland near to Pillar Rocks to help with the restoration of the grassland in this area. Bob and Tanya Balcar- the founders of the Vattakanal Conservation Trust  – were already there to explain the objective of this project to them. “We’re just pulling a specific tree called Acacia mearnsii” said Bob indicating the species in question. The problem with these particular trees is that they out compete the indigenous flora, soak up all the rainwater and transpire it into the atmosphere; making the water unavailable to the ecosystem that depends on this precious resource.

Before Acacia was brought to the hills due to economic reasons, the hills were shaped by grasslands. These grasslands work like sponges. At first, they store the water and later release it so that there is enough water present both during monsoon and dry season. The Vattakanal Conservation Trust tries to solve the current water deficiency by restoring the former ecosystem. They have achieved to save these grasslands from extirpation by cleaning these areas from the detrimental Acacia species. As this kind of work is really hard and exhausting, Bob and Tanya appreciate every help they can get. In this case, they got 62 extra hands as support and these 62 hands did a great job.

Thanks to all of you!

Tree pulling

Vanessa Luttermann,  Social Experience Volunteer

Field Trip to Auroville & Sadhana Forest:  Video by Angelica Rigas-De Almeida

Check out the video I made about the Eco-Watch Field Trip to Auroville/Sadhana Forest

The Earthship

On 5th November, a Saturday morning, 3 students,  3 staff members and 1 former staff from KIS visited the Earthship at Karuna Farms, which is about 40 minutes away from the KIS campus, located near the Kodaikanal Christian College.

The Earthship Karuna is the first of its kind in the whole of India. It is the result of Alex’s dream fifteen years ago. Construction started a few years ago and the Earthship is now almost completed.

By definition, an earthship is a completely sustainable home. This means that the earthship is completely off the grid; organic food is grown indoors and outdoors and water is harvested through rain and other means. The food, water and energy are not only free in the earthship, but are also available in plenty all year round. Because it is completely self-sustainable, there are hardly any expenses of living in the earthship. The earthship is also extremely eco-friendly because of its sources of energy and because of the materials used to construct it.

Just because the earthship is completely sustainable doesn’t mean that there is a compromise in comfort. Living off the grid doesn’t mean that you do not have enough electricity. The solar energy and hydroelectric energy generated is enough to connect most of the electric appliances, except for air conditioners, which are not at all needed. This is because the earth ship is built in such a way that it is warm during winter and cold during summer. Using appropriate technology can also be called “Contextual Architecture”. Contextual architecture means that the earthship is built with the local conditions in mind. It is built in such a way that it keeps the inhabitants comfortable without using too many resources.

The construction of the earthship is a quite cheap, although highly labour intensive. It is cheap because almost all of the resources used in the earthship are obtained locally. The earthship also uses many non-biodegradable materials that we refer to as trash. For example, the earthship uses rubber tyres and plastic bottles, as a replacement for bricks in the walls. The use of rubber tyres makes the structure strong and also helps insulate the earthship.

An example of appropriate technology in the earthship is the roof that is transparent and can open up. The roof is transparent so that, during winter, the heat from the sun enters and gets trapped in. It can be opened so that, during summer, when it gets too hot, the roof can be opened, making all the trapped heat escaped. An example of ‘contextual architecture’ would be the technology used in the walls of the earthship. The walls are made of mostly locally available soil and tyres. This is contextual because of the usage of local resources (soil) and because of the usage of tyres that are suitable to the local climate (by providing insulation).

An earthship, by being very eco-friendly and completely self-sustainable, helps us to create a holistic, symbiotic relationship with everything around us. Because of the low costs involved with living in an earthship, the inhabitants of an earthship can do more important things in life rather than earning money.

Our experience at the earthship was great. We got to learn about the earthship first hand. During our visit, we help in constructing a wall with plastic bottles. Our visit really taught us to think out of the box. All of us that visited the earthship would strongly recommend a visit to the Earthship.

Revanth Rao Nadipally, with collaboration from Isabel Fernandez Montes