Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gaviotas - A real village

Ordinary exists! Or something very like it, and in the most inhospitable of places--Colombia.

Thirty-some years ago, Paolo Lugari, a native Colombian and son of an Italian immigrant, founded Gaviotas in the broad, inhospitable savannah of Colombia where soil is too full of iron to support food crops and the water table so deep that native populations were forced to drink fetid water much of the year.

At that time, water-borne bacteria killed more people in the savannah than the military, narctoics trafficers, and guerillas combined.

Gaviotas soon became a model experimental community of sustainability, cooperation, and ingenious inventions, including deep wells pumped by children riding teeter-totters, that are being used throughout the world to better the quality of life and lessen the impact of encroaching populations on surrounding environments.

More, Gaviotas has existed for more than three decades without locks, with no police force, with no mayor or city government, and without weapons in a no-man's land surrounded by shoot-to-kill army, guerillas, and paramilitary drug trafficers whose identical guns and camaflouge gear make them all but impossible to distinguish from one another.

More remarkable still, Gaviotas has accomplished the unexpected: they have regenerated rain forest where it had not stood for perhaps a thousand years.

But do not take my word for it. Read a transcript of reporter-author Alan Weisman's 1994 All Things Considered" National Public Radio story following his visit to the remote village. Better yet, read his book, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World. It reads like a novel and is difficult to set aside.

If you are keen about sustainability, expect to be inspired and amazed.

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