Over the last few years, I’ve been working in conservation and sustainable development on various contracts throughout Asia and Latin America. Through the work I’ve done, I’ve learned how complicated and challenging it can be to balance environmental protection and preservation with economic development.
Sustainable tourism has been a popular strategy throughout the developing world for facilitating economic development while preserving the resources on which tourism depends–both the physical environment itself as well as the well-being of the host community. However, sometimes sustainable tourism is not always the “win-win” solution it promises to be. Playa Viva is overly cognizant of this reality, which is why they created my role: Social and Environmental Impact Custodian.
Playa Viva’s sustainable tourism model is different than most, however. Rather taking pristine landscapes and developing them “sustainably” (i.e. use of local natural building materials, renewable energy sources, and minimizing waste), Playa Viva practices “regeneration”– a process of rejuvenating and restoring what has been lost through prior unsustainable practices.
Playa Viva’s land was once a monoculture coconut grove — a result of the boom-and-bust coconut oil industry that began in the 1920s and crashed in the ‘60s and ‘70s when coconut oil fell out of favor. Damaged from these extractive industries, much of the land in the state of Guerrero was left degraded and infertile.
Under the model of regeneration, we also use local natural building materials, renewable energy sources, and minimize waste, but we feel it is incumbent on us as environmental stewards to regenerate and restore this land to as close to its natural state as possible to ensure that both people and nature thrive. As such, the team here has been working diligently over the last decade to restore mangrove and coastal forest ecosystems, grow edible and medicinal crops organically, and foster better education, health, and economic opportunities in the surrounding community.
So what’s my task here? To establish a system for continuous monitoring and evaluation of Playa Viva’s social and environmental impact. They want to be absolutely certain that Playa Viva’s impact on the land and in the community is positive, sustainable, and adheres to the values on which we are founded.
The ultimate vision of Playa Viva is to create a model and living legacy for sustainable and regenerative resort development, whereby we revitalize and nurture the land on which we are built and the community by which we are surrounded.
To wrap my head around our “regenerative” concept and the whole systems thinking applied here at Playa Viva, I created a regenerative concept map. In this map you can see how PV’s core goals and objectives for social and environmental sustainability are interwoven and interlinked–how we are continually nurturing the earth and our community, and, in turn, our own lives and the people around us.
I have been here only a few short weeks and I’m already learning multitudes. I am continually impressed with all that has been achieved here in just eight years. I’m thrilled, excited, and overly grateful to be part of a community that is trying to better this world and heal our planet.