From the beginning, the stewardship and care of Holy Isle's beautiful natural environment has been high on Lama Yeshe's agenda.
With a far reaching vision, the Holy Isle Project is working to address the spiritual value of land through restoring and conserving the natural ecology.
The Centre for World Peace and Health was designed to incorporate the existing 1820s farmhouse into a new building, guided by seeking a compromise between form, function and environmental considerations. The final design minimises the environmental footprint of the building process upon the island while providing a modern facility for its guests. Wherever possible environmental sustainability has been the guiding principle:
- Solar panels are being installed to help heat the water for the Centre
- The paint used inside the Centre is non-toxic and bio-degradable
- All the insulation materials used are environmentally friendly
- Sewage is processed using a reed-bed system, resulting in almost clear water being discharged into the sea
- Water for gardening is collected from the down pipes of the buildings
- Much of the furniture for the Centre was designed and made by a former resident of the island, using oak from a sustainable forest source.
- The "Shieling Dryer" provides a green alternative to the energy-consuming tumble dryer in our ever busy guesthouse laundry.
Although still very much at the pioneer stage, the project has achieved impressive results in the last 15 years:
- Reforestation with native species - 35,000 trees have been planted in various areas of the island to recreate a woodland habitat that will support biodiversity, provide future shelter for the wildlife, and enable wood fuel to become an option in future energy plans.
- Nature reserve - The east coast of Holy Isle has been designated as a nature sanctuary for the animals, birds, and sea-life. Visitors are respectful of this voluntary boundary and the wildlife is now flourishing.
- Rhododendron control - Despite the beauty of its flowers, the rhododendron, introduced to Arran in Victorian times and subsequently to Holy Isle, has a toxic quality that lets it colonise the landscape by creating a poisonous soil base that prevents the growth of other species. The rhododendron eradication programme is a long-term management objective to provide space and opportunity for native species to flourish. So far, about half the initial area of rhododendrons has been cleared.
- Bracken control - Similar to rhododendron, bracken is also a non-native species introduced in Victorian times for its decorative quality and is very successful at colonising all available land. For the last thirteen years bracken has been controlled in a few sites on the island and this shows signs of enabling other species to return. It is also important to clear spaces for pasture land for the grazing animals of the island.
- Soil conservation and production - Throughout the world, the erosion of topsoil through intensive farming practices and the spread of the urban landscape places soil preservation top on the list for resource management. On Holy Isle, we are restoring existing soils and creating new soils for organic food production through the use of local resources such as pony manure, seaweed, and bracken. This is a long term management objective which will enable present and future generations to benefit from our actions.
- Dry-stone dykes - Holy Isle has some very fine examples of dry stone dyking thanks to the island's ranger. The original walls have been restored and new walls added.
- Education - Visitors are given a short orientation to the island by a resident volunteer, which provides an opportunity to share the vision of the Project and to remind guests to take only photographs, leave only footprints. In the Information Centre, other useful information is provided about the natural and spiritual values of the Project.
- Water conservation - All the water that supplies the Centre is collected from rain-fed natural springs. Thus, water conservation is high on the agenda during the drier summer months when the Centre has the potential to over-consume water. Mindfulness is encouraged in all areas where water use is concerned. We hope that this approach is a simple reminder to people of the wider global picture, and that by fostering mindfulness of water consumption on Holy Isle, people will take that awareness away with them into their own homes and communities.
- Local lobbying - The Holy Isle Project has contributed to successful campaigns by the people of Arran in inhibiting two potentially harmful projects on the neighbouring island of Arran. At present, the "Community Of Arran Seabed Trust" is proposing to the Scottish Assembly that the whole of Lamlash Bay become a marine reserve, consisting of a "No Take Zone" and a Marine Protected Area. The Holy Isle Project is very much supporting their initiative.
Ecological Foot Print
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Historically, Scotland was once covered in a vast forest. However, excessive tree felling, heavy grazing, and frequent burnings brought an end to this forest. In the last few decades, mankind has become more aware of the importance of trees on our planet and many people have started to take better care of them. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: "The commitment to environmental protection through planting new trees and taking care of the existing ones, is rapidly increasing all over the world. At the global level, trees and forests are closely linked with weather patterns and also the maintenance of a crucial balance in nature. Hence, the task of environmental protection is a universal responsibility of all of us."
Because of its exposure to rough weather, Holy Isle was probably not completely covered in trees. Nevertheless, environmental experts agree that planting trees and allowing the spontaneous seedlings to grow is a good thing both for the island and the planet as a whole.
In the period between 1993 and 1996, 27,000 trees were planted by volunteers, guided by a professional forester. This number rose to 30,000 in 1997, and 35,000 by 2006. All the trees that have been planted are native Scottish trees, and most were grown from local seeds. Special effort has been made to plant the rare whitebeams and rockbeams that are indigenous to Holy Isle and Arran. From the beginning of the Holy Isle Project, there has been an opportunity to sponsor trees on the island, dedicated to or in memory of a loved one. Sponsored trees do not carry a plaque, but a register is kept of all sponsorships.