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This is a video on the work of Paolo Lugari, founder of "Gaviotas", a project that managed to build a sustainable community in one of the most environmentally and socially hostile parts of the planet – the highly acidic and aluminium toxic soils of the Colombian Llanos.

What made this possible was (a) the development of fairly ingenious appropriate technology, and (b) the establishment of an energy surplus returning forest where no one considered it possible – by using an appropriate mycorrhizal symbiont.


  1. In the late 1998s, my friend Alan Weisman was a science reporter for National Public Radio. He wrote the book: Gaviotas, a Village to Reinvent the World.
    It is really worth reading this book to get the background on why Gaviotas is such an amazing example of hope in the world.

    From the Library Journal:
    In the early 1970s, a unique community was founded in the Los Llanos region of Colombia. Located north of the Amazon rain forest, this region is an expansive savanna, sparsely populated and generally considered uninhabitable. Gaviotas originated out of the belief that the current state of urban expansion and poverty and the continued depletion of natural nonrenewable resources could not be sustained and that the future required people to learn how to live in harsh, inhospitable environments and to do so in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner. Journalist Weisman tells the story of a remarkable and diverse group of individuals (engineers, biologists, botanists, agriculturists, sociologists, musicians, artists, doctors, teachers, and students) who helped the village evolve into a very real, socially viable, and self-sufficient community for the future.

    The people of Gaviotas today produce innovative technologies (solar collectors, irrigation systems, windmills, and hydroponic gardens) that use the environment without depleting or destroying it. While some of their creative endeavors have not succeeded, even the failures tend to spawn ideas for future successes. Weisman does a fine job of detailing Gaviotas’s evolution and placing it within the larger global historical context. The story he presents is wonderful testament to human creativity, commitment, and effort toward building a socially viable and environmentally sustainable future. by Karen Collamore Sullivan, Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Saginaw, MI

    Here is an interview with Weisman

  2. Cate,

    the one thing I learned from that book was that, ultimately, it will be the trees that show whether what you do has long term viability or not. They are the most important assets as they are procreative. No amount of degenerative assets – buildings, roads, etc. ever could save you if you run into resource shortages.

    Nota bene: Gold also is not a use-ful asset.

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