A podcast with Robin Banerjee P.Eng, owner of the Algonquin Eco-Lodge
To listen to this podcast, click on the Play button below.
The power of regeneration in nature
In an untainted landscape there is a glimpse of something developmental, perpetual, and timeless. And in Algonquin Park, the oldest provincial park in Canada (established in 1893), you can be far from the madding crowd and yet only three hours from Toronto, the largest urban centre in the country.
In this natural wilderness, a quarter the size of of Belgium or of Wales, you can also transcend human time. Sitting beside a partially frozen waterfall on a snowy forest path, as I did, you might also find yourself re-focusing your mind and senses in order to listen to the simplicity of a consummate natural environment.
This is also Canadian Shield country where a diversified and heavily forested terrain also engenders a unique ecosystem.
But to reach the Algonquin Eco-Lodge, you must either walk or ski for 2.5 kilometres; and I can assure you that this smooth transition from the clamour of the 21st century is achieved gradually and gently. On the trail leading to the lodge, your brain may already start to feel endorphinized or you may experience a slight dopamine rush.
And as many naturalists will tell you, this integration with an infinite natural environment is the real essence of the mind-body connection.
But there is another transition that occurs at the Algonquin Eco-Lodge. The lodge is completely “off the grid,” which also means that guests experience the state of being totally unplugged. There is no cell phone service, no video games, no television, and no radio — just the sounds of silence.
Small is beautiful
In his now classic book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, E.F. Schumacher asked his readers to look carefully at the basic assumptions of modern economics.
At one point in the book he says the following:
“[A modern economist] is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. . . . The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.”
The book has also been described as “weaving together threads from [John Kenneth] Galbraith and Gandhi,” but a book that also looks very closely at the pragmatics of emphasizing decentralist economics, and most importantly the scale of any organization and the extent to which that scale must be considered an independent and primary problem.
And Schumacher emphasizes that “Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress; they are a denial of wisdom.”
He also stresses the importance that “[N]o system or machinery or economic doctrine or theory stands on its own feet; it is invariably built on a metaphysical foundation.”
In recent years, of course, we have seen a growing concern and controversy over excessive consumption on the Blue Planet, as witnessed especially by climate change. We have also seen other trends towards a simpler but purer way of life such as the “Slow Food Movement” which emphasizes a global and grassroots approach to linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to local communities and the environment.
But Schumacher’s work also emphasizes that “limitless economic growth of a material kind, without proper regard for conservation … cannot possibly fit into a finite environment.”
And these are some of the themes and issues that the Algonquin Eco-Lodge embodies and personifies.
Pay a virtual visit to The Algonquin Eco-Lodge
Watch a video of Robin Banerjee explaining the feat of engineering that is very much part of the lodge.
To watch this video, click here.
In the evening, shortly after supper, we heard the wolves howling. We rushed out to the deck and into a very dark but starry night. I grabbed my recording equipment, but forgot my reading glasses! Furthermore the darkness did not help; and by the time I managed to get the equipment right-side up, the wolves had decided that they had had enough communing with homo sapiens sapiens and retired for the night. So all I was able to record were a few humans pretending to be wolves.
Links and websites
This material from the Canada Science and Technology Museum suggests why Algonquin Park is such an historic and ecological destination in the Province of Ontario.
In the Province of Ontario, there are many organizations and individuals who understand why Algonquin Park is a very significant natural resource.
A well-developed system, Ontario Parks can provide travellers with all the information they need.
The above is Robin’s sister company, named for Robert Service’s famous poem of the same name.
To see and hear the poem, click here.
And last, but not least, check out the Lodge on Facebook.