Lessons from Sulubaaï
If environmentalism was about protection, sustainability is about survival, and regeneration is about thriving. This is a process of societal transformation and fundamentally, it is our value systems and mindsets that we need to recalibrate to carve a new trajectory away from exploitation and extraction as the core approaches to business and economic growth.
Nothing embodies this concept better than what our HER Planet Earth team experienced as guests of Frédéric and Chris Tardieu, founders of the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring the natural resources of Palawan for the benefit of the local population. Indeed, this May, we spent the most magical and eye-opening week with them on their Pangatalan island in the Philippines.
Over the past 12 years, the foundation has completely restored the 4.5-hectare island and made it self-sustainable by planting more than 80,000 trees and turning it into an MPA, or Marine Protected Area. The project has also included a robust mangrove restoration programme, and the creation of SRPs, or Sulu Reef Prosthesis (an artificial, concrete reef systems, which is recognized by UNESCO) to restore corals. SRPs were designed and patented by the Sulubaaï Foundation in 2016 and are used as platforms on which coral fragments are transplanted. From 2017 till today, Sulubaaï has installed over 300 SRP on different coral rubble patches within its marine protected area, and transplanted more than 2,500 coral fragments, belonging to more that 15 genera and 30 hard coral species. The foundation has also set up an organic farm, implemented a waste segregation system and built solar panels - all of which have contributed to making the island carbon negative.
During our visit, our HER Planet Earth team installed three artificial reefs and 30 "fragments of hope" (i.e. corals fragments). The reef is now part of the Sulubaai's Foundation’s Marine Protected Area of 50 hectares. This is a meaningful contribution, as it builds on the work of the foundation to protect the area, which is part of the Coral Triangle (hosting 30% of the world's coral reefs) and is a hot spot of marine biodiversity.
The HER Planet Earth team also met with women from the local communities around Shark Fin Bay of the Sandoval Barangay - consisting of leaders, fisherfolk, teachers, farmers, home makers, students, and mothers - so as to help raise awareness about the importance of protecting our environment. The objective of this open forum was to have constructive discussions and exchanges on how best to protect nature in this region. We also shared our hopes and dreams for our lives, our children’s lives, and our planet’s future.
As a result of our trip, we also learnt that:
Sulubaai highlights the importance of learning to sustain ourselves equitably within the resources and means of the planet upon which we rely on for survival instead of extracting and using resources at a faster rate than Earth can replenish them. The end goal is not “to sustain what we already have”; it should be to evolve our species to move beyond the status quo of destruction and exploitation, to find new ways of meeting everyone’s needs within the means of the planet. It's about respecting, cherishing and living within the natural ecosystem. Once we have established the ability to do that, when we have changed our value system, business practices, cultural conventions, and collective mindsets, then we can give back more than we take — and finally live sustainably on our beautiful planet.
To support and find out more about the Sulubaai Foundation, please visit their website here.
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