| Green Travel News |
Hollywood A-listers, top business CEOs, a head of state and senior environmental campaigners came together in the Maldives last week to share ideas on how to make tourism a benefit rather than a threat to the planet’s environment. The event—the SLOWLIFE Symposium, organized by the eco-luxe resort company Six Senses—drew actors Daryl Hannah and Edward Norton, business leader and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, the heads of two solar power companies and green thinkers Jonathon Porritt and Tim Smit to Soneva Fushi resort in Baa Atoll, Maldives.
They were joined by President Nasheed of the Maldives, who has committed his country to becoming carbon neutral by 2020. Progress made so far, he said, includes a plan for carbon neutral electricity, moving towards 60% solar power and changing import duties to encourage electric vehicles. He expressed the hope that his nation could be a laboratory for new clean technologies for tropical islands worldwide, even if “we won’t save the world by becoming carbon neutral—we emit nothing compared with other countries.”
By contrast, the aviation industry accounts for more than 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the whole continent of Africa. Virgin Group head Sir Richard Branson told the symposium: “We have been diverting our profit from airlines into developing fuel for aircraft that won’t damage the environment.” Since leaving the Maldives, Branson has announced a new target for making several Virgin Atlantic routes carbon neutral by using new fuels.
The actor Edward Norton—whose work with the Masai people in Kenya is already helping tourism raise millions to fund conservation—congratulated President Nasheed on his policies. Norton also showcased his work with the Baswood Corporation, which pioneers ecologically friendly sewage treatment options for islands and cities alike. Daryl Hannah focused on marine biodiversity, praising the new designation of Baa Atoll as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Six Senses is now working with other resort companies in the atoll to pioneer a funding model to conserve the coral reefs and fish species in the area through no-take zones and other measures.
Six Senses has also committed to making Soneva Fushi a zero-carbon resort by 2013, and is in the process of installing a second large solar photovoltaic facility on the island. Both business leaders and politicians—including the Maldives environment and tourism ministers, both also present at the conference—are now discussing ways to bring multi-megawatt solar power generation to more Maldives islands on an accelerated scale.
Six Senses CEO Sonu Shivdasani noted that SLOWLIFE is an acronym for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wholesome Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. His company, established in 1995, has been honored numerous times for its green practices. It manages resorts under the brand names Soneva, Six Senses and Evason, plus Six Senses Spas.
Want to see a video summary of this SLOWLIFE Symposium 2011? Click here.