Author(s): Alan Weisman
Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.
In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.
Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”
Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade
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 savannah, 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.Karen Collamore Sullivan, Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Saginaw, MI
This book tells the story of a remarkable experimental community in Columbia named Gaviotas. Founded in 1971 in the midst of the war-torn Columbian countryside and funded by the United Nations, the settlers there invented numerous technologies and t echniques that allowed them to survive in the harsh tropical conditions. The village is now widely regarded as a model for Third World sustainable development. The author tells the story of the community primarily through conversations with the com munity's residents and founder. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"...a book telling a tale too lovely for fiction, a lyrical, well-observed book that reports from the llanos of eastern Colombia, savannas tortured by guns and cows and cocaine, of an experiment in solar democracy in which 'appropriate technology' is anything but a sad product on the discount tables of broken, post-sixties idealism."--Tom Athanasiou, The Nation