Sun n Earth Festival, 2017

Abhishek Gupta
5 min readAug 9, 2017

The United States has long consumed more energy each year for air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. In fact, USA used more electricity for cooling than the entire continent of Africa, home to a billion people, consumes for all purposes. Our reliance on electricity to cool, to heat, to light is terrifying. We have conveniently forgotten our vernacular architecture. (Shameless Plug: We are going vernacular with education at NavGurukul :) )

I was in Ladakh for last two and a half weeks attending a workshop on Sustainable Architecture or as they called it — Sun and Earth Festival. SECMOL campus in Ladakh, maintains an internal temperature of +15℃ when the outside temperature is as low as -20℃ without any use of electricity, just by the use of clever use of local material and climatic conditions.

Having no background in architecture, or construction the workshop was an experience altogether on a different plane. It was initially odd to be a Software Engineer in a large gathering of smart Architects and Civil Engineers, but nevertheless a great learning experience. While my room mate Dhruvin saw weird fireflies, foxes and what not, we had fun learning together. Just kidding, we had more fun rafting and climbing rocks together.

In the morning, we had workshops on Earthworks where we engaged in activities like Soil Testing, plastering, making Adobe bricks, making Arch using the Adobe bricks, sculpturing, actually making a usable community chowk for the village, etc. all using mud. In the afternoon, I was assigned to the track — Bioclimatism since I am an trained as an Engineer. We worked on theory behind how to use Sun effectively while construction and use of other bioclimatic factors like Wind, Humidity, etc. to be used. Enough said, time for some pictures? I have added one picture of some diagram I don’t understand just to tell you, it wasn’t all fun, okay?

We had a two day field trip (apart from the numerous trips that we had on our own ;) ). We saw amazing earth structures standing from centuries, invasions after invasions. In a water stream while returning from one of these visits we were advised to look for Trout fishes in the stream. Suddenly, we were attacked with water cannons. Sonam while enjoying the cannons found sometime to pose for an ad for an organic water attack to be used for defence purposes.

There were so many moments and stories that I would have loved to share, but I am getting tired of uploading the pictures and I can’t do a better job at them to explain what we experienced. I finished off the trip with Markha trek with an awesome Landscape architect, Sonal who told me a lot of things about nature, wildlife, etc. Did I tell you that we saw shooting stars as well?

While on the trek, we were staying with a family with which we were interacting as usual. Their elder kid who was in tenth class already knew about SECMOL. Interestingly, he knew about Sonam and wanted to go to SECMOL instead of normal school. I could only feel teary on the impact that Sonam has been able to achieve in last 22 years. Ice Stupas which made him famous as an innovator were a treat to see in reality as well. Sonam has redefined innovation for me. Local, vernacular, and aligned to nature are the important themes that I now believe are important parts of true innovations.

The trip was meditative, full of learning and fun. What touched me most was the fitness and happiness of the elderly. Even at 90+ years down, they could climb mountains to feed their sheep. And their smile? I can sing 80s’ songs all dedicated to their smiles. Can someone really knock me off the Sofa now, and ask me to stop swooning over their fitness and rather do something for mine?

I am having a hard time acclimatising to Delhi’s complete disconnect from the nature. Sadly, there is so much work to do that I will have to get back to my normal self at the priority. Do read “The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming” book by Masanobu Fukuoka. This book is a treat on natural farming (yes, it is different from organic farming). I finished this book during the trip, and still in a hangover of the same. Once I am over it, I think I will be able to reflect properly on how to use what I learned in past few weeks in my existing work and personal life.