“Gaviotas is a village of about 200 people in Colombia, South America. For three decades, Gaviotans – peasants, scientists, artists, and former street kids – have struggled to build an oasis of imagination and sustainability in the remote, barren savannas of eastern Colombia, an area ravaged by political terror. They have planted millions of trees, thus regenerating an indigenous rainforest. They farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals, and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor.
“The United Nations named the village a model of sustainable development. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has called founder Paolo Lugari the ‘inventor of the world.’”
These words are from the website of the Friends of Gaviotas. When I first read the book, which was published in 1995, I had a great surge of hope. The book made it clear that this is how people were designed to live together. It ended for me any belief that people were naturally warlike. One of the things I like best, the book doesn’t talk about it at all, but I detect the presence of Spirit. They first planted the Caribbean Pine trees because they were the only thing that would grow in the impoverished and almost toxic soil of the savanna, the huge eastern plain of Colombia. The trees grew well, but didn’t reproduce themselves which was a point in their favor. Years later, when the oil crisis was forgotten and no government agency was funding projects for solar pumps, electricity, etc. the Gaviotans had to find a way to make the necessary money to keep going. It turned out that the pine trees exuded a resin that was in demand for paints and varnishes. They had not weeded the trees which had been recommended, and found that their trees began producing sap earlier and in greater abundance than in other resin farms. One of my favorite parts in the book was the massive effort, 24 hours a day for 24 days to plant a million trees. Gaviotas continued to thrive, and one day someone went back to the earliest plantation and found that the original rainforest was regenerating under the trees.
Chelsea Green Publishing has released a 10th anniversary edition of Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World with an afterword by author Alan Weisman