At the end of August 2022, a group of business students from the University of Washington enjoyed a visit to Khao Sok in Thailand, where they considered the sustainability of tourism in the local area through the lens of the Sustainability Compass.
By the time they arrived at Our Jungle Camp Eco-Resort they had already been in Thailand for several days, and sported tired-looking faces but were thoroughly engaged and interested in the activities that were on offer.
The students already showed a good basic understanding of the four elements of the Sustainability Compass: Nature, Economy, Society and Wellbeing, having completed the free online course back in the USA.
The main activity for the morning was hiking in Khao Sok National Park, which they did in small groups that were each given one Compass point to consider on their journey. Afterwards, it was clear that each group had different ideas of how sustainable hiking is as a tourist activity, which prompted an interesting discussion back at Our Jungle Camp’s outdoor education center, called Jungle Life Camp.
That afternoon, Jungle Life Camp itself came under scrutiny as the students used the Compass Tools to come up with suggestions for how to make a positive change to the workings of the camp. Jungle Life Camp provides schools in Khao Sok with free activity camps that teach children about their natural environment. Nestled inside one of the world’s oldest rainforests, it is important that the local community understands how and why the forest should be preserved.
In order to fully comprehend how Jungle Life Camp operates, the students participated in one of the more popular activities that visitors enjoy: Amazing Insects. The activity starts with the story of the fig wasp, a little-known hero of the jungle. These wasps are solely responsible for pollinating one of the most important food sources for many of Khao Sok’s bird and mammal species – the fig tree. If these wasps – which are so small that even with magnifying glasses the students could barely find them – were to decline in number, there would be a huge impact on the entire ecosystem.
The activity continues by catching insects from the camp’s farm and discovering which are helpful for the crops and which are harmful. We finished by weighing up the pros and cons of organic farming by considering the long-term sustainability and relationship with the local environment – all while remembering the story of the heroic fig wasp, of course.
It was obvious that the Compass significantly affected the thought process of the students throughout the whole day, from the fun icebreaker game (act out and pitch an innovative and sustainable household appliance) to the interview questions that they set for Jungle Life Camp staff when preparing for their action plan proposals. You might expect a group of business students to be concerned with income generation and operating costs but the proposals that they put forward were very much centered around increasing community engagement and empowering local staff. It just goes to show that when it comes to sustainability, people of all backgrounds actually share many common goals.