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Bahia Reports from Carey Knecht, Feb/Mar 2000


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Carey Knecht writes, "I joined up with Planet Drum and the Eco-Bahia project because I was deeply inspired by the task of integrating nature and a city. That is a task that requires not only reforesting one hillside, but actually changing culture. ..." In the reports below, we learn how she attempted to carry out this vision.

Index of Feb/Mar 2000 Dispatches

[Most recent dispatches at top of list]

Eco-City Declaration First Anniversary Celebration, March 3, 2000

Bahia Reports from Carey #1, Feb 21, 2000

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Eco-City Declaration First Anniversary Celebration, Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
March 3, 2000

By Carey Knecht (Planet Drum Foundation field staff person overseeing revegetation project)

I joined up with Planet Drum and the Eco-Bahia project because I was deeply inspired by the task of integrating nature and a city. That is a task that requires not only reforesting one hillside, but actually changing culture. Sometimes I wonder how these projects relate. Sometimes I feel like the only nature I'm bringing into the city is in the mud on my boots. But sometimes the parallels jump out at me. 

This past weekend, I participated in events that brought the reforestation work down from the hill, into downtown Bahia, in a festive, concrete way. This past weekend was the celebration of the One Year Anniversary of Bahia's Ecocity Declaration. The events of the weekend started with a parade through the town. The children in the Clubs Ecologicos marched in lines, holding signs with environmental messages. "Queens" decorated in skirts of leaves and flower necklaces rode on triciclos festooned with palm leaves. This river of young life and vegetation flowed through the streets of Bahia for two hours. 

After the parade, the Fiesta Verde began in an open park on the beach front: theatrical acts and clowns; music including Latin rock, merengue, cumbia, and even The Police; the singing of Anja Light. The music, the party attracted a large group of onlookers — bringing ecology to the people. 

The next day, nature came again to downtown Bahia. The patio under the Municipio (city hall) was filled with seedlings, demonstrations, and posters — an exposition of many ecological projects in Bahia. Enthusiasts brought tubs filled with mud and worms, samples of every seedling we're planting in the project and many more, a formidable (meter high) chunk of Paja Macho grass. Next to the composting-worm folks, we set up a display with posters showing where we're located, happy to finally be able to thoroughly explain what we're planting and where. 

At the same time, inside the building, experts gave speeches on the wildlife of the region and the environmental law in Ecuador. Although the large venue left many seats open, I was surprised at the number of adults interested in listening to semi-technical information in the middle of a Saturday. Still, to me, more telling than the number of adults scattered throughout the back of the theater, were the children, who filled the two front rows. 

To finish off the weekend, Sunday and Monday were work days — short projects like trying to create a healthy home for Miguelito la Tortuga — a tortoise from the Galapagos Islands — and ceremonially planting mangrove trees for the Dia de Mangles. 

After the weekend, back to the hillside, to plant again. To dig a hole, put the clump of grass in, cover it up, wish it well. (To do this on a 75-degree slope of loose dirt clumps or, even worse, wet clay.) After three days of rain, I returned to a whole section of grass that had seemed completely dead. Out of every brown dried-up clump of grass, every one, was one small green blade of grass — a new sprout. 

This week, in two days we planted 924 seedlings — 500 frutillo and 424 guayacan — and three-and-a-half pickup truck loads of grass. Now, after three cool days of alternating rain and sun, when I walk on the hill, the ground no longer looks barren — I no longer envision it washing away. I imagine the sprouting stakes and the lines of grass merging into a forest. 

Last weekend, in two days, the Eco-Bahia Celebration planted many more than 924 seedlings. Now, when I walk through town, it no longer looks barren — I no longer imagine the concrete winning. I remember the parading children, the dancing crowd. I imagine the seeds of thought they planted in the minds of the onlookers, blossoming into a town where nature is welcomed.

El Aniversario de la declaratoria de Bahia como Eco-Ciudad, Clubes Ecolσgicos (25 Feb 2000). [Anniversary of the Declaration of Bahia as an Eco-City, March of the Ecology Clubs] 

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Bahia Reports from Carey #1, Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
February 21, 2000 

By Carey Knecht (Planet Drum Foundation field staff person overseeing revegetation project) 

The word that defined the first week was Tranquilo — Peaceful, Tranquil. Not that life WAS tranquil, but that was the ideal. Deal with all the pressures of the job and not break a sweat (Ha!), make everything up on the spot, and still exude assurance. And then at the end of the day, slip back into the spirit of Bahia — tranquilo.

That was the first week. The word that has defined the past several days is Aguaje. Literally, it means high tide. But it comes with the full moon, and every force of nature is more intense. Full moon. Strong sun. Bigger waves and more dangerous currents. People restless, walking the streets late at night. Aguaje. 

Aguaje also means there's been no rain. No rain for days and days. Aguaje is not a good time for planting. The idea of shutting down operations for a week because of the moon seemed ridiculous a week ago — I was warned that aguaje was a bad time to plant, but I didn't consider changing the plans, and no one even suggested it. But now, looking at the dry plants, it seems logical. The ground is dry, nothing new has sprouted, and the grasses we've planted are withering. If it doesn't rain until Thursday or Friday, like Marcelo estimates, we're going to have to water the plants ourselves. Finding this water is not going to be easy, not when everyone's rain barrels are low. Even underground cisterns are emptying. The pipes into both Bahia and Leonidas Plaza are not delivering water, I don't know why, so the people go out to the streets and fill barrels from big trucks. I'm going to write to the mayor and ask if he can send a water truck up to fill the cistern at the big white house next to Station One. 

Still, the plants persist, and so do we. They are still alive (stakes, seedlings, and grasses) and as the moon and the sun release their grip on the water, it will come down from the sky, and all that has been planted will absorb and swell with green. Ojala. 

Besides that, all is going well. We have 800 plants to pick up tomorrow from San Vicente. Today we picked up the remaining plants from Flor-Maria. Besides that, what we do — always — is sacar paja/sembrar paja (dig grass up/plant it on the hill).

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