Eric's notes and observations taken through out the conference on Gaviotas

an extraordinary example of what can be accomplished
in "real" community !!!

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 Paolo Lugari the "inventor of the world."

At the New Mexico workshop, Paolo Lugari will discuss three exciting new developments in Gaviotas:

1) In September Gaviotans will launch two airships equipped with infrared
to patrol the 36,000 acre forest that they have planted. The airships will
serve as an early warning system for fires, provide surveillance 24 hours a
day, and can respond within 15 minutes.

2) Since February, the community has been totally energy independent - no
longer using diesel fuel. They generate power with turbine engines fueled
by the aging Carribean pine trees in their forest. These pines are being
slowly crowded out by the regeneration of indigenous rainforest.

3) Gaviotans have discovered that their pine forest can produce twice as
much resin as any other resin-tapping forest in the world. Tree tappers
normally use sulfuric acid when making incisions, but Gaviotans use an
enzyme that appears to be beneficial for the trees. The use of mycorrhiza
fungus on the roots of the trees may also contribute to their productivity.

A huge mural painting of what Gaviotans have already accomplished
and their vision for the future.  Note airship in the background.

Notes from the
Gaviotas Conference - Sept 9-11, 2002
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Paolo Lugari:   the founder of Gaviotas some 30 years ago.  About 60 plus years old, Paolo is a high energy person, very bright and well read in just about everything from the ancient Greek classics to modern contemporary philosophical thought.

Gunter Pauli:   A Belgium with a background in economics,  Gunter founded “ZERI” {Zero Emissions Research and Initiative ( some 5 years ago}. He is about 40 years old, bright, articulate, high energy, speaks several different languages and often translates for Paolo whose English is limited.

Monday 9/9/02 :   After a brief introduction to Paolo and Gunter, the conference started off with a slide show of Gaviotas located in the eastern plains’ savanna of Columbia, south America.  Gaviotas is literally in the midst of some of the worst guerilla, drug lord, and paramilitary fighting in Columbia.  Yet they have essentially managed to be untouched by it.  The one expellable offense in Gaviotas community is the possession of a gun.
(This seemed to be Gaviotas' way of surviving in the midst of exceeding large amounts of 'mindless' violence by the drug lords, guerillas', etc.  By not having any weapons at all in their possession, the Gaviotas community was not viewed as being a threat.)

        One of Gaviotas’s major accomplishments was not only the building of a hospital in such a remote location, but also the fact that the hospital won praise from Japanese architects who reviewed it.  Unfortunately because the community did not have a resident surgeon, as per regulations, the government eventually ruled that the hospital had to be closed down.

Paolo who is very philosophically oriented, such that at times he would say "This is nothing more practical than a good philosophy"; would tend to give out inspirational thoughts via some striking quotes at times and/or via renditions of  “My father would always say…” .
Example:  "It is much better to have an enthusiastic student, then a depressed Nobel Laureate.
(For me it was striking and very interesting to have this philosophical orientation and yet to be so obviously successful in the very pragmatic creation of this community.)

One key to successful community:   Paolo: My father would always say; "Know all the people in the community.  If the community gets so large that this is no longer possible, it is time to split off and create a new community."
(What a striking contrast to the huge population groups most American's now live in and call their 'community'!!)

Gaviotas' governance:  The community's population is comprised mostly of 'very simple' people (Paolo's comment) with the majority of them being native Indians.  Spanish is definitely a secondary language in Gaviotas.  This with the fact of everyone knowing everyone else makes for simple governance and decision making such as that which was required in the selection / creation of the hospital's design.   (Yet, this 'simple' decision making resulted in something creative enough that it received the high praise of a foreign country's architect.)

Process of success:     (Part of the key here seems to contained within the word "Process".) There seemed to emerge from different comments after a while, a collective picture of what makes Gaviotas such a success.   Part of the success is bred by a high degree of personal freedom in the community.  No one "has to" do anything.  They are left (and encouraged) to find that which interests and excites them the most.  In conjunction with everyone knowing everyone else, this also seems to result in a high degree of personal responsibility.
        Paolo a number of times would present a truncated version of the notation about the composition of the Chinese charactergram for "crisis" which contains two elements; one representing "danger", the other representing "opportunity".   Paolo would say that "Crisis leads to opportunity!" and that the community needs to have a new challenge every 2 or 3 years.  And if one didn't come up by itself, they would create one!   Another related comment was that "In Gaviotas, the only constant was change."
        He also briefly expressed a believe in something that might be called "communal intelligence" or "group mind" which can be achieved through people living together in a high state of mutually supportive friendship and trust.

Creative, Profitable and Sustainable venture:   Gaviotas pulled off a major financial coup for themselves and one which has increased their own financial independence while at the same time creating a definitely increased environment 'sustainability'.    The 1997 Kyoto environment accord created an innovative way for signing nations to 'decrease' their carbon emissions into the atmosphere.   Instead of actually physically decreasing the carbon emissions of their industries, the accord allowed them to accomplish the same effect by taking whatever measures they could that would result in the reduction being accomplished by increasing  the reabsorption of the carbon.
        Some Japanese industries found that it would be significantly cheaper for them to hire places like Gaviotas to plant new forests to absorb carbon dioxide than to reduce their own emissions.   And this is exactly what happened.  Gaviotas contracted with Japanese industry to replant some 34,000 acres of the savannah in Columbia with tree cover.  Not only did they get paid for this, but then afterwards the Gaviotans developed a process of taping the trees for their natural resin which resulted in an even greater profit from its sale worldwide.
        Gaviotas also built and installed some 50,000 solar waters in Columbia.   Paolo emphasized that innovation is very great in Gaviotas.   One aspect of this seems to that if one person brings forth some new innovation, it invariably ends up benefiting everyone else in the community via the work and resulting financial rewards.  AND since everyone knows everyone else in the community, the creative individual is immediately acknowledged and recognized for his/her contribution.  The person feels very good about themselves.  The whole result is a positive cycle of increased effort and innovation.

Tuesday:    There was another 'slide presentation' via CD projection.

Paolo emphasizes the importance of cross disciplinary educations.
Quotes Carl Sagan to the effect of:
"The only absolute truth in science is that there is no absolute truth!"
There is great value in the "Opportunity to think together."
Repeated emphasis on:   "The importance of an Open Mind."
The first challenge often is to "Unlearn what we have already learned."
Emphasizing in the community, a "Loving Democracy!"
Paolo:  "Nothing is more unjust than giving the same solution to different problems."
        It is very important to generate multiple solutions for each individual problem.  Acknowledge the 'opportunity' to disagree.

A new term:  "Glocal"   (Taken I believe from Hazel Henderson's well known admonition to "Think Globally and act locally.")  'Glocal' is the result of combining global and local.

Part of the Social Success in Gaviotas:   "Telling the truth and supporting each others dreams."
Paolo:  "We are very free, yet we have few conflicts."
            "We have no priests, no police, no governors."
There also seems to be a strong emphasis on MUSIC in Gaviotas.  There is much musical expression.  Paolo:  "If someone takes up a musical instrument, learns how to play it and joins with others in musical expression, he will never take up a gun."

(While Paolo emphasized Gaviotas' social harmony, I inquired a couple of times about how their resolve conflict.  At first he simply tended to gloss over the inquiry with statements like the one above regarding music and no guns.  However he did mention that recently they did have a major conflict in the community, but didn't go  into any detail.  After a break in the conference session that day, we returned and I brought up the subject again and asked for more detail about their recent conflict.)
    Paolo:   "Some people think that Gaviotas is 'Heaven on earth.'  But that's not exactly true.  The people there are not angels.  Its more that perhaps we are half way there.   Regarding conflict:  It is important to let people unburden themselves completely, as often as they need to."
    "Listen to people.  It requires Patience & Tolerance."
Regarding their recent conflict; Paolo somewhat obtusely at first simply said it involved something like "desiring your neighbor's wife".   The situation apparently involved 4 people, 2 couples, where there was some unacknowledged sexual involvement between 2 of the people which the other 2 didn't know about.  Apparently the social/sexual norms in the savannah region of Columbia (perhaps among the indigenous Indians) is different from what we in the U.S.A. are brought up with.  "Marrying" is synonomous with free union.  There are occassionally 'unfaithful' actions which are accepted in the union.  Paolo's comment, in a soft tonality (perhaps in deference to knowing of our normal standards), was that "It was not necessarily bad."
        Yet in this particular situation among the 4 people involved ("None of the couples were actually couples, but they behaved as couples.") there was some sexual intertwinings among 2 of them which the other 2 didn't know about.
        According to Paolo, the situation was resolved by open talking.  "Nothing can replace eye to eye, face to face contact."  Again he brought up the idea of creating a new community if the current community's size increases such that it is no longer possible for everyone to know everyone else.

Money within the community:    Financially Gaviotas started off via Paolo donating his own money to the community.  (He mentioned that in his prior role of being a consultant to business, he charged "a lot of money" for what he did.)  Gaviotas for several years now has been economically independent from 'scrapping along' and external support.  The replanting of the savannah's trees and developing the business of exporting the tree's resin has proved to be a boon to the community.  It is now a non-profit foundation and is anticipating very shortly an increase in its financial well being.  (Apparently they are anticipating getting more tree planting contracts.)  The 200 people in the Gaviotas community are officially employees of the community.

Some interesting ideas, reframes from Paolo:
    "Anyone who works at something they don't like is actually unemployed!"
He emphasizes regarding the university educational process, "It is so important to get the universities to teach "uncertainties" as opposed to theories of certainty."
Paolo sees himself as a "facilitator of learning".
With regard to the InterNet: "We have an over abundance of information.
                                              We have a crisis in Creativity!"
        Many of the people in the community are children of the original Gaviotas members. (I found this to be a fascinating comment on the success of the community.  Very often intentional communities in the U.S., experience their children leaving the community for the 'big cities'.)

Governance: For the past ten years Gaviotas has run itself.  Ironically because of the guerilla violence and that fact that he is fairly light skinned, Paolo rarely goes there now. (Fair skinned people, particularly Americans; are at extreme risk of being kidnapped and either murdered or being held for ranson.)   Paolo several years ago apparently was indeed kidnapped on his way there.  He is a quite a talker and the story (half way jokingly) goes that he talked so much (philosophically on what life was all about) that finally the kidnappers released him!   He runs the business office of Gaviotas in Bogota, Columbia's capital.
Paolo: "When I die, I am certain that Gaviotas will continue, perhaps even better."
        Gaviotas is a very participatory community.  Their governance tends towards consensus.  They have many meetings.   The high degree of face to face contact and exchanging of multiple ideas promotes the people's self esteem.   And this is particular so when a person sees his/her idea being taken on by the community as a whole.  It is a positive cycle of innovation and creativity.

Wednesday 9/11/02
Gunter Pauli:   A Belgium with a background in economics,  Gunter founded “ZERI” (Zero emissions Research Institute some 5 years ago). He is about 40 years old, bright, articulate, high energy, speaks several different languages and often translates for Paolo whose English is limited.

Gunter spoke for a couple of hours or so on Wednesday morning on his ZERI institute and the work that it does.   His own "Do something positive" ecological orientation is a natural compliment to Paolo's work with the Gaviotas community.  Gunter spoke of the 5 'kingdoms' of nature: Animal, plant, fungi, bacteria, and virus; and some design principles which flow naturally from an awareness of what ecologically works and what doesn't work via these kingdoms.

1)    "Don't eat your own waste."
2)    What is a toxic waste product for one kingdom is a nutrient for another kingdom.
3)    The more local the eco-system, the more efficient the system is.  That is the more the eco-system naturally (& healthily) conducts its circulation of food/waste among the five kingdoms within a local area, the more efficient the system will be.

He too emphasized the need for "Innovation".  Indeed with regard to new models of business and economic systems, he noted that the old paradigm involving innovation and risk is that the greater the innovation present in a project, the greater risk that project would have.  BUT now with the increasingly rapid changes going on in the world, the reality had shifted... the New paradigm is "The more innovative the project is, the less the risk that will be associated with it!"
        One way of looking at this is that with the ongoing and world wide rapid change process in effect, any project which is not innovative will almost certainly be left behind.  That is it will be at tremendous 'risk'.   On the other hand, the greater the innovation capacity that is present in any given project, the greater the chance that this project will be able to adapt to ongoing change and therefore succeed.

        Gunter closed with a fascinating story of innovation.  It involves the creation of a new 'organic' type of electrical battery created by some Brazilian kids.   Ironically these kids (without the bias of too much formal education, which might well tell them this was impossible) have come up with a design of an 'organic' electrical battery which is comprised of waste products from bananas and fish bones.   It runs on the electrochemical interaction of potassium (from the bananas) and calcium (from the fish bones) and produces electricity.   The information on this will apparently be coming on around November 19th of this year.

        Several times Gunter emphasized the importance of "Perseverance" in both the creation of community like Gaviotas; and in the development of new models of conducting business and running economies in such a way that they are ecologically sound.

The web site for more information on the Gaviotas Community is:
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