Apr 262011
I’ve just returned from the Maldives. Sorry, that started badly. I’m not writing this to gloat – there’s a serious point to this post, as I hope you’ll soon see. Nowhere is sustainability more top of mind than there. Apart from the well documented threat to these beautiful atolls posed by sea level rises (pretty much the whole collection of islands is barely two and a bit metres above sea level), fishing is strictly controlled (pole and line for tuna, strict catch limits and the like), and some hotels, like ours, ask you to take your empty suncream bottles away with you as they are so hard to deal with out there. Once you’re in the Maldives, there isn’t that much to do. Which is the whole point of being there. So, our hotel deployed subtle behavioural messages about sustainable living to educate its customers about environmental issues. You could read about why they didn’t source MSC certified seafood (they thought it better to train local fishermen in sustainable practices than transport certified seafood for thousands to miles to the resort). There was information about their carbon offset programme, their ‘slow food’ approach, their organic vegetable and herb gardens and their community initiatives, local employment policies, water purification system and so on. They observe an ‘earth hour’, not every year, but once a week, where guests are asked to switch off lights and aircon units (which is only in the bedrooms in any case). They have a ‘no meat’ day to raise awareness of livestock farming impacts. Unsurprisingly, the manager told me they are in the process of hiring both a full time sustainability manager and a marine biologist. If you’re interested, get in touch! It really would be a dream job.

Normally, the dry season in the Maldives runs from November to late May. It’s changing fast. This year, the rains have come unusually early, and the weather was already well on the turn by the time we left. One guide told me the changing weather had been very much in evidence in the past three years. He was extremely worried about it. 

This is the point where I should tell you about the ‘dolphin cruise’ we took, but instead of seeing dolphins we came across several pods of pilot whales. Our guide said he had never seen this in 15 years of crossing that body of water. But I won’t, lest you think I really am gloating. No one quite knew what they were doing there. A climatic aberration? Perhaps. 

We returned to Britain on Wednesday night, in time for what proved to be a scorching easter holiday weekend. More hot lazy days – lucky us! But as my business partner Christopher Broadbent pointed out, this isn’t really normal. And it’s probably not a good sign. A heatwave, in April? The consequences for crop yields later in the year could be very serious. When you think of the long deep frozen winter, which ended just a few weeks ago, and now Britain’s beaches are overflowing with sunbathers on Easter weekend. Something is happening. It may seem like fun when you’re lighting the BBQ on Easter Sunday in flip flops. But it probably doesn’t spell much joy for the future. Whether in Male or Margate, the more we talk about the weather the better.