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SMALL PLACES, SMALL CHANGES, AND BIG DIFFERENCES
At times one may see the worlds issues and problems as too big for any one person to handle or change and that it would it would simply be better being left alone to play out the way it does and in whichever way it can and will. And as a sobering message sometimes this is the case and it does happen worldwide. However, there are pockets that counteract these worldviews, and sometimes they are found in the most unlikely of places.
I recently left the Indian sub-continent, which is where I have lived and been a guest in for the better part of the last 10 months. It was my third time back, but of course, just as eye opening as ever. With 4 weeks left and with weather conditions permitting, I made it my mission to visit a very secluded part of the world, the Spiti Valley, which is located in the Trans-Himalaya belt in the state of Himachal Pradesh at an average altitude of above 3600m. As I started researching and reading about various things in the area I begun to learn that there were, surprisingly, quite a lot of community based environmental and social initiatives occurring in the area, it intrigued me to find out more.
I organised to meet up with some local NGO’s that were working in the area to ask them for some guidance and information and what I received was invaluable. They pointed me in the direction of several villages all above 4000m, which weren’t even listed on maps. So, naturally, I went off searching for the unknown, which mind you was hard as no one spoke English and I had to get around speaking with my limited knowledge on the local dialect that resulted with me getting laughed at by the locals, but thankfully they knew where I wanted to go and helped me with everything they could.
When I arrived it was, well, a shock to the system. I learned, with the help of a friend who translated, some fascinating things.
Each home was equipped with solar panels to localise their energy requirements and get off the centralised grid of unreliable hydroelectric power, which quite normally cuts out for weeks on end. Not forgetting to mention the carbon emissions saved. The village was also implementing ingenious greenhouse technology into homes, which act as a heated family room during minus 40 degree Celsius winters. This simple initiative reduced wood consumption by 60%, saving trees, reducing soot emissions that settle on near by glaciers that speed the melting process, and ultimately, saving the already resource strained villagers money.
In addition to all this a very unique and innovative social initiative was occurring here; each home acts as a “home stay” so travellers, like myself, can directly be involved with local families, traditions and cultures. What made this different from regular “home stays” was this…every year a rotation occurs within the village with 15 homes one year and 15 homes the next and so forth. The money paid by me for a roof over my head and 3 meals a day goes not only to the family, but a percentage goes into a community fund, which is used to purchase, say more solar panels or restore culturally important buildings such as the local monastery.
Are the world’s problems too large for one person to change? I don’t believe so and never have, in fact. All individuals on the planet can make a significant difference in the direction of optimistic change. The initiatives occurring in Spiti are a testament to this fact that even the smallest changes in the smallest places can make the biggest differences.