Storytelling school

What Robinson Crusoe Island taught me about sustainability and storytelling

This article was sponsored by Lenovo.

AAs part of Lenovo and Island Conservation’s #workforhumankind project, I had the chance to live, work and work for one of the most remote islands in the world – Isla Robinson Crusoe, off the coast of Chile in South America. South. Hiking, camping, kayaking and snorkeling, I experienced volcanic rock formations, red soil deserts I could only imagine on Mars, century-old forests that evolved in isolation, stunning pangue-shaped umbrella that collect water on rainy days, the endangered red Juan Fernandez Firecrown hummingbird and the endemic Juan Fernandez fur seal that rebounded from extinction.
Given the rugged beauty of the island, it’s no surprise that the small island community feels a deep connection to nature and the urge to protect it. Indeed, 97% of the Juan Fernandez archipelago, of which the island is part, is a protected national park!

As part of the Work For Humankind project, I was invited to present my work on sustainable tourism storytelling and advice to the Mayor and Municipality of Robinson Crusoe Island — and to present my ideas for a more sustainable future for the island. ‘Isle :

Solar energy

Robinson Crusoe Island is currently running 100% on diesel generators and is keen to switch to cleaner energy. A volcanic island similar to American Samoa recently went entirely solar powered, thanks to what is now the Tesla Foundation, so the technology already exists. Together with the Municipality of Juan Fernandez, I prepare a proposal and contact potential organizations for technical and financial support to help the island transition to cleaner energy.
Using my recently acquired LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) skills, I do a basic calculation of how a person’s carbon footprint on the island compares to that of mainland Chile.

Community farming

Most vegetables, fruits and even leafy greens arrive at Robinson Crusoe Island on large boats from mainland Chile twice a month. Locals told me that until a few decades ago, most island families grew their own produce. But when televisions and freighters started arriving on the island, things started to change.

Even though the soil is fertile and there is at least one idyllic family farm on the island, hardly anyone grows its produce. So we’re working on a community farming project – inspired by the community farms I’ve seen in Cape Town, and arranging farm tours for schoolchildren to develop an appreciation for fresh, organic, home-grown produce.

I wish I could stay on the island for a few more months to see these projects come to fruition, but time is running out. I hope the seeds sown now will continue to grow (literally too) as I continue to work remotely to push these ideas forward – thanks to all the smart Lenovo technology that has made connecting with the island so much easier.

Image credits: Callum Thompson