Baja beach

On November 15, 2019, the National Geographic Sea Lion, a ship designed to navigate narrow inlets and wildlife-rich passageways inaccessible to larger ships, embarked on a five-day expedition in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) off Baja California Sur in an area known as Cabo del Este — the extraordinary East Cape of southern Baja. This is where Cosolargy International in 2017 purchased a 2.3-acre piece of beachfront property in the town of El Cardonal, just north of Los Barriles.

Love for the region eventually led to collaboration between members of the exploration and Cosolargy International.

The Expedition

The MV Sea Lion has 31 cabins accommodating up to 62 guests. Along with spacious viewing decks, this nimble vessel carries innovative exploration tools, including a SplashCam, Bow Cam, and a hydrophone that enable the scientists, crew, and expedition members to look and listen beneath the waves and fully participate in the adventure. The Sea Lion regularly plies the waters of the West Coast from Alaska to Panama.

The expedition was organized by LegacyWorks Group in collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, along with support from several philanthropies and committed individuals, with the intent to develop a sustainable network of resources and an action plan for the East Cape region of Baja California Sur — a unique and remarkable natural treasure.

national geo sea lion ship

Participants in Change

The journey provided a venue to gather a diverse group of resources including scientists, community leaders, Mexican and international philanthropists, for and non-profit groups, government officials, and more — definitely a unique group of individuals and organizations, but all committed to the challenge of preserving and protecting East Cape’s resource-rich yet resource-limited area.

The goal for all was to articulate a vision and advance initiatives to:

1) EXPLORE and understand both the region’s natural riches and its challenges;
2) ENVISION the possibilities of a resilient, regenerative future;
3) DESIGN collaborative strategies to enable change and capture new ideas and input, and;
4) ACT on the highest impact opportunities to leverage human, financial and natural capital for a sustainable future for the region.

One of the 57 expedition participants was Andrew Tuck, Eco Entrepreneur and the founder of Anteros Development Group, a sustainable development consultancy and the sustainable building materials manufacturer in Baja California Sur.

Cosolargy

Gene Savoy, Jr., president of Cosolargy International, has been working closely with Anteros and Tuck to develop a Sustainable Design and Vision Document for Cosolargy’s master plan for a wellness retreat and Community Center in Mexico.

Anteros develops EARTH-BLOCK, a 100% environmentally sustainable building block which outperforms concrete in almost all metrics including strength and thermodynamics. Concrete is one of the largest industrial polluters on the planet, and the construction industry is one of the highest gross polluters on Earth.

Anteros has completed Phase One of the Cosolargy project in Cardonal, delivering the preliminary sustainable design phase and vision framework that will serve as the basis for the project. The Cosolargy retreat project is now in Phase Two: Design review, identifying optimization opportunities for the sustainability goals, and concepts.

cactus in desert

Conservation Goals

Like Cosolargy, LegacyWorks Group and all of the exploration participants believe the change needed has to come through a community-driven approach. It happens through collaborative projects and initiatives that bring people together around a shared vision and purpose, working together under shared principles. No individual project by itself achieves the change desired. Rather, each project contributes energy and momentum to the broader change process underway and builds the capacity, relationships, and critical trust needed to take on projects of increasing complexity and importance. This action-oriented approach thus yields direct immediate impact through each project while simultaneously building capabilities to create the conditions for transformative change.

Expedition participant Andrew Tuck described his experience: “As we anchored off of Cardonal, we were all taken by the sheer beauty of the location and the vision of a marine conservation area with the Cosolargy development project having the potential to be one of the first fully sustainable and regenerative projects in the region, setting an example as an early adapter and a benchmark for small to medium-size sustainable development projects.”

The challenge facing this part of Baja California is balancing mass tourism and resource depletion with development based on a respect for both nature and people to ensure a sustainable future. It is hoped that the East Cape can inspire and lead the way for a model that preserves and regenerates the small settlements and communities that honor core natural and cultural values to build a new kind of economy and prosperity.

A good example of progress made in this regard is Cabo Pulmo, a national marine park 37 miles southwest of Los Barriles. The bay, Bahia Pulmo, is home to a 20,000-year-old coral reef, the oldest in North America and one of only three ancient reefs on the North American West Coast. Before 1995, when the area was declared a national park, the area was severely overfished. Twenty-five years later, the area has seen a 400% increase in biomass — attributed to the healthy condition of the reef itself which has literally come back to life. Cabo Pulmo has since also been incorporated into the larger “Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.”

school of fish

Conclusion

President of Cosolargy International, Gene Savoy, Jr., had this to say; “The very first time I visited the East Cape, I knew it was a remarkable place. The Sun was vibrant and nature was bursting with energy. The Sea of Cortez reminded me of the Mediterannean, except calmer. Every time I visit, I feel a sense of renewal and I am invigorated. I know there is something special there. Our vision for our wellness retreat and center in Baja is based on three primary elements: the Sun, the sea, and Cosolargy. If we remember that Cosolargy is truly the quintessential environmental science, then what this group of people and organizations are trying to accomplish is in alignment with what we represent, teach and want to exemplify — harmony with nature.”

With the help from naturalists, the Mexican government, and Cosolargy, Cabo del Este will stay pristine with conservation efforts and mindful development.

baja map

Select List of Participants

Anteros Development Company & Earth-Block
Delegado de Los Barriles (La Paz Municipality)
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Global Conservation
ProNatura Noroeste
Legacy Works Group
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza
Amigos Para La Conservación del Cabo Pulmo
Cabo Pulmo National Park
Cabo San Lucas National Park
Baja Coastal Institute
Marine Conservation Institute
Director of Ecology, Los Cabos Municipality
Oregon State University
Baja Coastal Institute
NextGen Sonoran Desert Researchers

Written by Gene Savoy, Jr. with parts borrowed from the 2019 Baja California Sur Impact Expedition Log after his visit to Baja California Sur in February 2020.