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Adam. Steve and the Green Hornet

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Property Report SEA. Posted: 24th Jul 2012

Let's start off at the beginning of time.

Way back. Before the internet, shopping malls or the innocuous peril of two-party politics. Of course, we may be treading on Darwin's theory of evolution here and that age old monkey to man debate, but bear with me. There was a guy named Adam in the Garden of Eden. We all have these mental images of "GoE" - now a hipster acronym for a laid back party place that brings to mind something between a tropical Four Seasons luxury resort and Hef's Playboy Mansion - but the primary soundstage for the passion play is undoubtedly green, uncluttered and pristine.

These days I spend much of my time shuttling between Asia's two brand name resort destinations Phuket and Bali. While the premise here is certainly a promise of paradise, long stretches of alabaster beaches and nature's best -let's just say things are evolving from a dreamlike state into something that might more aptly be called Rehab - cold turkey, the night sweats, torn sheets, and a body covered in deep gashes and badly bruised. A drunken encounter with the toxic twin of mass tourism and property in a back alley fight club.

It's not a pretty sight. Beaches strewn in garbage, roadsides littered with plastic bags, bottles and all manner of dumpster trash. And of course, the inevitable legacy of out-of-control development - be it hacked down mountains, forests cut to the ground or a straining, inadequate infrastructure.

Is this the new face of the Garden of Eden? I recoil back to the Mickey Rourke effect from too many damaged surgeries gone wrong, or some ageing former beauty queen who cut corners with a low rate plastic surgeon and now has nips and tucks that look more like the elephant man.

What about the colour green in Asia? How did the global economic superstar fall so far behind the world in addressing sustainable building and development practices? I've got to say, living here for some 27 years it's easy to lose track of the importance of big picture thinking. Many a time the Al Gore movie has come on at home and instantly thrust me into an opium like trance of sleep within the first two minutes.

My mind often stalls when caught at the moral intersection of green and blue containers when I'm about to bin a Starbucks coffee cup. I tend to just close my eyes, reach out and hope for the best, the quickly flee the scene.

Recently, we took on a new eco-based hotel project in Bali and started to shortlist hotel brands which were keyed into CSR and the ilk. Funny thing is, we could count them on one hand, and still have enough fingers left over to count the loose change. As for Six Senses, their dismal financial failure shows that arguably that a green base is not enough to be a success on the frantic business stage.

As for sustainable real estate, I recall sitting on judging panels which fell silent and took on a sort of epic dumb and dumber feel when tasked to name the region's top green projects. Huh, is there an elephant in the room? I, like many, want to be better. It's the badge of honour as you grow older and wiser, but where to start and how?

If Karma wields a wicked blow, and Asia's continued blind sighted development runs amok in its Gardens of Eden, there will be a bitter taste in days to come.

As for Steve (can't help but throw in Jobs references), even he didn't weigh on the issue much, so what does that mean for the rest of us?

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C9 Hotelworks Founder and Managing Director Bill Barnett is a noted columnist, author and leading authority on travel trend, hotels and property.

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