ARRCC/GOVINDA VALLEY RETREAT COMMUNITY
- LEARNING TO "WALK ON THE EARTH MORE GENTLY".
The Yoga community at Govinda Valley Retreat, an hour south of Sydney, is an ideal location to encourage and nurture positive personal change.
As a restorative environment which champions personal growth and spiritual reflection, Govinda Valley Retreat inspires in all who visit, the importance of 'walking on the earth more gently" and treating all things with respect. Nonviolence, or 'Ahimsa', is a guiding yogic principle, making us aware of the food one consumes and your impact on the planet.
The GovInda Valley Retreat, Living the Change event, facilitated by ARRCC, brought together many local residents, permanent Govinda Valley staff and international volunteers, along with expert speakers and educators. Such a diverse range of attendees really demonstrated the broad reach and sense of personal duty so many of us feel in the face of today's climate challenges.
From the policies implemented by the local council, right down to the plants you choose to populate your garden with, the event provided many suggestions for those present, with the opportunity to make a personal commitment in relation to: diet, home energy consumption or transport use.
The Lord Mayor of Wollongong, Gordon Bradbery, opened his address by paying homage to the aboriginal relationship to the land, acknowledging the reverence they bestow upon the natural world and their symbiotic partnership with the Earth. Lord Mayor Bradbery pointed out that since the fall of man, in the garden on Eden, we have continued to move further and further away from our once harmonious union with the Earth.
We must now take considerable steps in order to return. Citing various global causes, the Lord Mayor indicated the steps his Council are putting in place to mitigate climate change. A city-wide inventory of emissions has highlighted methane production as the greatest local issue. Urban greening strategies, food waste management and energy saving actions are all areas which the Council are endeavouring to tackle.
Govinda Valley Director, Andre Melis, further built on the theme of nourishing and renewing the Earth. He expressed how we are merely the custodians of the land; a group of people passing through. As such we should utilise our considerable intelligence to support, maintain and improve the land, instead of the current trend of domination, abuse and exploitation.
Over the years Govinda Valley Retreat has implemented a number of sustainability projects, including the capture of rain and creek water and the growing of many types of fruit and vegetables. In addition to these types of practicalities Govinda Valley also works hard to integrate the local community, along with the many volunteers who spend time here.
Using human energy without an economic value is a radical notion within our international capitalist framework. Yet, the positive energy and exchange of skills that volunteering facilitates is exactly the kind of personal and community empowerment which galvanises positive global changes. Once we stop placing a monetary value on everything we better have the opportunity to make well-informed mutually-beneficial decisions.
Heather McCabe, a coordinator from Milkwood, who teach and share permaculture skills. Govinda Valley hosts permaculture courses throughout the year, utilising the principles in its own gardens.
Heather described the skills and power an understanding of permaculture can offer an individual, allowing you to create resilient systems within your own environment in order to make less of an impact on the earth. Fundamentally permaculture enables you to take back control and make small changes to decrease your carbon footprint.
Further building on these ideas Beth Moth from Birdlife Australia spoke on the importance of flora and fauna diversity. Climate change has already impacted on this part of the world with many species appearing in the area due to the sub-tropical zone shifting further south.
Small bird populations have plummeted as vegetation complexity is lost as a result of urbanisation and the simplification of garden environments. Proactively planting just a small amount of garden space can encourage a complex habitat to once again thrive.
Dr. Reetu Verma from University of Wollongong spoke on the aspect of climate change in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs). She discussed the effects of climate change on food security, poverty, homelessness at the global level, while also discussing the effects of climate change domestically with reference to Great Barrier Reef and electricity usage. Reetu then lead the group discussion on sustainable actions that each individual can take to make a difference such as reducing food wastage, reducing our consumption of meat, travel less by cars/flying etc.
Govinda Valley Managers, Gopi and Arjuna lead guests on a tour of the Govinda Valley organic gardens, bush regeneration and Bush Tucker Trail which was followed by a vegan lunch, rounding off an excellent morning of uplifting community endeavour.
Many of those who attended were also inspired to make a pledge and change an aspect of their own behaviour, by committing to help reduce the Carbon Footprint by: Flying less for a safe climate, reducing food waste for a safe climate, eating less meat for a safe climate, cutting down on dairy for a safe climate, composting food waste for a safe climate, and installing solar for a safe climate, demonstrating every individuals potential to make a difference.