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Ecuador Dispatches, September 2000


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Planet Drum staffers Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft returned to Bahia in early September 2000 for further work in various areas of urban sustainability. These are the latest dispatches telling the status of their efforts in the hillside revegetation, water supply, alternative energy and other projects.

Index of Sept. 2000 Dispatches

[Most recent dispatches at top of list]

Why "Revegetation" Rather Than "Reforestation"… and Where? (September 27, 2000)

Two Steps Forward Without Any Backward (September 22, 2000)

Unsorted Impressions (September 16, 2000)

From a Park to a Plan (September 14, 2000)

Ecological City Plan for Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador (September 11, 2000)

The Restoration of Bahia is Underway (September 9, 2000)

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Why "Revegetation" Rather Than "Reforestation"… and Where?

September 27, 2000
By Peter Berg

When we started the planting project in Maria Auxiliadora, it was clear that this could be a testing ground for ideas about recovering eroded land with major potential locally if not throughout coastal Ecuador. Here are some of the factors that make work on only a few hectares of earth so significant. To start with, it consists of either denuded small cliffs or piled up mounds of mainly sub-surface clay soil remaining from nearly the worst kind of mud slides. Whatever works here can work anywhere where there are conditions as bad or in less disturbed places along the coast. The only exception is extreme land slippage that has left perpendicular faces ten to nearly a hundred meters high that require terracing (or might be better left to wear down and round out on their own over time). The land area that needs attention and is treatable with our revegetation method may be as much as one-third of the entire coastal region of Ecuador.

All of the plants used in the project are natives of the indigenous dry neotropical forest. None of them came from more than a few miles distant, so they are as well adapted to the site as possible. They were chosen to represent each stage of natural succession in this forest system. Paja macho grass is one of the primary plants, algorrobo and muyullo bushes are from the second stage, and Ferdnan Sanchez, guayacan and hobo trees are found in the climax forest. Some other brush and trees species including cascol will continue to be planted during the next rainy season starting in December. Plants from each stage play a different role in erosion reduction. Paja macho grass causes rain to run off the steepest slopes to help prevent water absorption into the soil, algorrobo and muyullo can also grow in steep areas and they send down roots to grip the ground, and Ferdnan Sanchez, hobo and guayacan trees put deeper roots into the subsoil as they mature over the longest period of time for any of these species. The forest that results from the mixture as soon as five years from now (plus native volunteers such as the vigorous frutillo trees that already dot the project site) will be a rich habitat for native birds and other animals. (It seems a difficult stretch of imagination at this time, but we will actually need to thin out some growth by then.) The whole ecosystem will be an effective and interesting variation on the dry forest theme.

Then why isn't this called "reforestation"? Why insist on calling it "revegetation" instead? The reasoning behind a seemingly regressive choice of terms is that the natural indigenous forest here is a wondrously diverse phenomenon. It can shift with near abruptness from tall trees on the wet side of a hill to thorny brush only a few feet across a knife-edged ridge to the dry side. The forest floor can range from bare dust to spongy humus within a couple of steps. Tree species may be stunted in one spot and overly large in another. Fern-like plants requiring relatively high levels of moisture grow close enough to be seen in the same glance as pole-shaped cacti that use little water, creating an unnerving visual effect of mixed-up biomes. There are slender vines with thorns growing on the sides that resemble spear points and are wider than the diameter of the plant. Elegant white tree snails the size of cockles climb along stems and branches everywhere. Lines of leaf-cutter ants each bearing similar sized green pieces that are larger than themselves march along like members of a flag-carrying precision musical band performing in a stadium. Any attempt to duplicate what can be found in a few hectares of native forest would have to be enormously painstaking and most likely prohibitively expensive, if it could truly be accomplished at all. If one can't actually recreate this remarkable forest, why puff up the endeavor with the high-sounding term "reforestation"? It's like the eco-hucksterism behind "ecoforestry" when it is used to describe nothing more than plantation scaled agriculture with exotic commercial species mimicking types found in different stages of natural succession (tall coconut palm trees with shorter coffee plants with ground level berries, or some similar concoction). Planet Drum's project is more sensitive to native features than most planting efforts, and if its methods were followed in all of the applicable eroded places they would succeed in helping to eventually regenerate a significant part of the indigenous coastal forest. But we will continue to be respectful of the real thing and simply call it revegetation.

Yesterday (9/26) city engineer Ivan Aguirre drove me around the base of the hills through Astillero barrio and Leonidas Plaza to make an initial survey of land slippage from El Nino rains and the earthquake. We started at the back of Armada (Navy) headquarters on a street named 3 de Noviembre where Astillero begins. This spot also marks the end of the La Cruz area that is the most threatened location near downtown Bahia de Caraquez. and was rejected as a site for our revegetation project because the likelihood of losing the entire hill top and sides in the next major land perturbation is extremely high. It is a similar if less dramatic situation at the highest point about 75 meters above the Armada building. The purpose of the survey was to determine which areas could be treated through the means used in Maria Auxiliadora. I judged the upper part as not possible through planting alone and the lower as possible but continuously imperiled by land slides above it. The total area for both parts is about a hectare (2.47 acres). The next section along 3 de Noviembre extending to a short street named Eugeno Santos and comprising about a hectare and a half is nearly perpendicular from top to bottom and was listed as not possible. In support of this determination, there are no houses above the string of them immediately bordering that side of the street. Just as my hopes for transposing our method from Maria Auxiliadora to this barrio were failing, the next 4 to 5 hectares of hillside along 3 de Noviembre from a point before an unnamed side street with a pumping station on the corner to the beginning of a curve in the road beyond is completely remediable by planting native species alone. Similarly mixed prospects continue to the end of Astillero and the beginning of houses in Leonidas Plaza.

The main road turned left onto Sixto Durn Bellan boulevard but we took a right and went on a dirt road to the top of a hill. Most of three to four hectares on both sides were treatable through planting until the crest where a perpendicular cliff rose from the roadside for twenty meters above us. The opposite side of the road was at a slightly upward angle that seemed to just drop away. Ivan got out and gestured for me to join him there. The ground at our feet was step-like from land subsidence. Suddenly the ground ended at the lip of a cliff that fell away more than 125 meters below us revealing all of the Astillero section we had just driven through. It was a genuinely astonishing moment. Not only could we clearly see the precipitously steep conditions that we had strained to judge from below, but we were humbled by the magnitude of fallen earth that started its slide two years ago from the point where we were standing. "Did you hear it?" I asked Ivan. "What did it sound like?" "Oh, at first it was so loud!" He put his hands over his ears and made a hoarse creaking sound. "Then it went shwoo-schwoo-schwoo for a long time." Now his hands repeated pressing down movements in front of him and I could feel what he was describing in my stomach as though I was on a roller coaster.

We drove back and through the flat El Toro neighborhood that is actually the flood plain of a large creek that begins inland and sent a flood of mud to level houses here before ending as new landfill in Rio Chone. The survey should eventually include the whole creek watershed coming into the river, and the rest of Leonidas Plaza to Kilometer Ocho which makes up the greater planning area of Bahia de Caraquez. For now there is sufficient evidence to begin making funding proposals for revegetating a significant part of the potential slide area above the most heavily populated sections.

A note on cultural adaptation as a two-way street. Yesterday a waiter at El Capitan restaurant, an open-sided place on the bay front Malecon favored by locals that specializes in hearty chicken dishes of several types, gave me a choice of the typical fruit punch that is included in the almuerzo lunch special or bottled water. Having just gotten over a gastro-intestinal episode, I chose pure water and expected to pay extra because anything not included in an almuerzo is usually charged separately. I was happily surprised to only be billed the normal amount. Today at another place named El Pepoteca, I passed on a beef almuerzo offering and the waiter who knows me immediately suggested substituting fish for the same reduced price. Normally no substitutions are possible.

They may seem small and inconsequential, but these gracious adjustments in my favor were the opposite of what defensive visitors believe thinking everyone is out to rob them. I was prompted to consider how many ways the residents of Bahia have had to alter their expectations to deal with me, other gringos, and even Ecuadorian outsiders. Speaking some English, listening to bad Spanish, explaining conditions such as unreliable electricity which they take with cooperative good humor, apologizing for the lack of unfamiliar things that strangers might feel are essential, tolerating loud laughter and finger pointing, or ignoring lack of appropriate respect, or accepting inappropriate dress, or….how many other concessions are there? It is undoubtedly a longer list than the most finicky outsiders can produce to complain about.

Which brings up the other side of cultural adaptation. It takes a thorough regimen of new practices for newcomers from developed countries to avoid becoming sick from contaminates in public water supplies. (See the US Center for Disease Control web site for details that guarantee Ecuador's safety from being overrun by hypochondriacs.) Not drinking unboiled water and sticking to beverages that come from sealed containers are obvious measures. Raw fruits and vegetables are suspect unless they have a fairly thick outer skin that can be peeled away. Fresh salads are notorious for causing problems. Whether or not brushing teeth is done with bottled water depends on personal susceptibility. In case all of these fail, it's always wise to carry a little of your own toilet paper.

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Two Steps Forward Without Any Backward

September 22, 2000
By Peter Berg

Each trip to Bahia de Caraquez starts with ideas about what will happen that become transformed in profound ways before the visit is over. Two mutations in plans have occurred so far this time. Our revegetation project has morphed into a proposed city park, and what began as a tentative outline for an overall ecological city plan has become an action document.

Vicente Leon of the city planning department visited Maria Auxiliadora's erosion control cum urban wild corridor site with me and together we walked out the courses for paths in an eventual park. A high trail follows the ridge line and joins a lower trail running through revegetation areas that will feature identification placards for native species that are found or were planted there. Secondary paths from the lower trail will loop over to ruin sites consisting of part of an overturned house, a broken cement staircase, and a solitary leaning wall. Vicente is preparing an official planning map for the Forest in the Ruins. Planet Drum assistants Claire Dibble and Tony Mattei have started to assess jobs such as clearing brush, building steps, grading parts of trails that run across slopes, and using crushed rubble to cover paths in some places.

Chief city planner Ramon Farias has agreed to help draft a proposed ordinance authorizing a city park at the revegetation site. Jacob Santos and I wrote a set of "whereas" points and a geographic description of the park to go into the proposal. We expect the ordinance to be batted back and forth several times between planning and legal departments, and between them and the city council before it is approved. Whatever happens next, this process has moved through the bureaucracy with unexpected speed thus far.

The main reason for the park's easy success with the planning department became clear during a dinner meeting Flor-Maria Duenas generously hosted at her Casa Grande home that included the new mayor, Patricio Tamariz, Nicola Mears, Keibo Oiwa (leading a group of 20 or so Japanese student eco-tourists) and all five Planet Drum associates who are here now. Ostensibly, we were there to review and modify the ecological city plan outline that I had written which Jacob and Patricio had translated into Spanish for this gathering. The mayor led us elsewhere instead when the question came up of how community participation which is essential in formulating a final plan document might evolve. He elaborated on differences between the indigenous mountain people who started with a thorough ecological plan that was worked out through community assemblies in Canton Cotacachi (but has yet to be applied much to cities there), and coastal people such as Bahians who are less culturally homogenous and in his opinion more conflicted and less cooperative. (This contrast of cultures between the mountains and the coast is at least as old as the modern nation of Ecuador and continues to represent a formidable hurdle for consensus on many issues.) Mayor Viteri next turned to the subject of developing participation through each barrio in Bahia as well as elsewhere in the municipalidad and suggested that there needed to be new voices who were genuinely enthusiastic about urban sustainability practices and issues. He accepts the need for citizen cooperation in designing a Bahia de Caraquez eco-ciudad plan but feels that it has to come about through an appropriate means, and told how he brought in a consultant to help devise a program to accomplish this. The mayor is committed to fulfilling Bahia's Ecological City Declaration of over a year ago. The planning department staff has been so cooperative about the park because it was quick to sense his dedication.

When we had a chance to speak alone after dinner, Mayor Viteri asked me to become the principal ecological advisor to his office. The next day he introduced me in this capacity to planning, public works, and sanitation department heads, encouraged their cooperation with any requests for information or assistance that I made, and promised to make a copy of his new community participation program available before I leave at the end of September. He also drafted a letter of introduction to agencies and groups outside Ecuador for purposes of gaining their support as his "International Environmental Public Relations Representative." It's an honor whose full meaning is taking time to sink in, but so far I've agreed to search for a bilingual environmental planner and a grant writer for the city, and to start seeking financial support for ecological projects from the Ecuadorian communities in San Francisco and elsewhere.

A surprising outcome of the present high level of official regard for ecological priorities was a request from the National Police commandant in this district to assist in designing traffic solutions. Bahia clearly doesn't have the formidable problems of larger cities, but after driving around one morning to test the actual conditions I saw a definite need to create special lanes on the busiest streets for triciclos and bicycles. There should also be crosswalks in a half dozen places to safeguard and encourage pedestrians. These are minor proposals that can be found in many places and only required transposition to Bahia. Major Medina, who accepted my hopeful characterization of him as a peace officer rather than merely a law enforcer, was delighted with them and literally saluted by snapping his hand up to his hat visor. He has ordered painting lines on the appropriate streets., so we'll soon see whatever variations are sure to come into the Bahia versions. "Traffic calming" is one of the transportation points in the ecological city plan (see Ecuador Report 2) and it is truly astounding to me that although only written a week ago, the plan is already bringing about changes.

Landscape note: Judy and I rode a bus that played salsa music for twenty or so miles to San Jacinto, a small fishing town in Canton Sucre that has some modest vacation accommodations on a long white sand beach. Fernando Moreno operates a human scale guest facility with rented cabanas there and previously offered to take us around to see significant features of the area. Before long it became readily apparent that Fernando is an intellectual with unique perspectives. Once a law student, then a psychologist, and later an ergonomist studying work patterns and conditions, he now considers himself to be an ecological "warrior" who has found the place to make his stand. Oblivious to the quizzical stares of small farmers along the dirt road we passed through, he brought us to an enormous ceibo tree with a dozen main trunks that were each the size of normal members of this elegant species. "It must be eight hundred years old," he half-whispered. "Those are several hundred years." He pointed to others nearby that were only half as large but significantly bigger than any I had seen. Fernando led us up a steep hill where the view became grander with each step. We faced the Pacific and a beach twelve kilometers long strung between a river mouth with a mangrove reserve and a nearly perpendicular high cabo (cape). The interior land was marked with flat shrimp rearing farms and salt ponds that filled with underground sea water intrusion and dried out leaving piles of shimmering white salt. It is sandy, dry, spare country resembling parts of the Mediterranean shore or southern coast of Australia that only has a green appearance when seen from above looking down on the canopy of trees. We also saw distressed open areas where all of the trees had been cut and most ground vegetation stripped by grazing animals. The most unusual land forms to be seen from the height of our hill top were small rises that seemed to proceed in rows through places that were flat otherwise. Fernando explained that these could well be tolas (mounds for burials or other purposes) from some period of the past millennia of "ancient people." A flat area dotted with ceibos that stretched between sets of tolas he called "the archeological plain." I asked if it had been dug to establish its authenticity and he shrugged off the question. "It doesn't have to be opened up to prove that artifacts are there. They are everywhere in this area anyway, but that spot should have fantastic remains." We walked down, saw the "oldest ceibo in the world" a last time, and drove to the archeological plain. "Who owns this land," I asked. "A woman who keeps a goat herd. See how low the grass is gnawed." Immediately bordering the fenced off field was a popular dumping area for garbage. A new midden in the site of an ancient one. We gazed across the plain and in the middle saw a mound about thirty feet long that had been raised ten feet. Several ceibos were growing from the top of it, but a thousand to three thousand years ago it could been a bare fresh grave for a leader of the coastal people who left countless remnants of rich lives that are now barely understood. The next day we had the good luck to once again meet Javier Veliz, archeologist for the Museo Nahim Isaias B. in Guayaquil, one of the few people who has specialized in studying the prehistoric cultures of Manabi (the district where Canton Sucre is located). He described one group that had lived south of where we visited that was remarkable for its humanity as rendered in pottery figures and drawings. Not just animated faces and moving bodies, he insisted, but behavior that would even be instructive to people today. "A man cradling a baby in his arms and looking at it with a particularly tender expression."

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Unsorted Impressions

September 16, 2000
By Peter Berg

Bahia de Caraquez is a small city but its regional importance magnifies its size. How small depends on the particular perspective that a question might require. How many people? Twelve thousand or three times that depending on who is answering and why the number is important. (World Watch Institute uses 25,000 population as the standard for defining a city, so Bahia qualifies at the high end of the range.) The low figure accounts for year-round residents and the smallest geographic area. The higher limit includes both renters and seasonal second home owners as well as homeless or invasion (squatter) populations, and covers territory eight kilometers out from the city center. (The homeless/invasion throng was growing faster than any other group during the mud slides and earthquake two years ago, and is still growing although slower.) If the subject is how many people use or frequent Bahia, the number swells considerably because it is the municipal center of an entire canton (large county) that holds several urban parochias (suburban towns). It is the terminus of a four lane highway, a port for the ferry and water taxis across Rio Chone bay, a center for manufacturing and shops, a haven for professionals, and a destination for thousands of both Ecuadorian and gringo tourists. Altogether they might push the number upward at times close to six figures. Its residents are unquestionably proud of the city's desirability and their unofficial civic motto which appears on various signs is, "Bahia, no tiene copia … cuidala! (Bahia has no equal … take care of it!) Evidence of fidelity to this sentiment can be found in everything from clean streets to generally well-maintained houses, and in a certain self-assured attitude.

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One of the traditional mainstays of Bahian life is triciclos, tricycles with a railed cargo platform between the front two wheels and a driver's seat forward of the rear one. They are work machines for an incredible array of uses, and their drivers are both strong and ingenious. Their anarchistically different colored frames and fenders (some still green from Ecological City Declaration Day in 1999) are commonplace in central Bahia and can often be seen peddling slowly throughout the city. They are capable of carrying a spectacular array of loads. People use them as taxis either as single passengers or in small groups, sitting erect as gymnasts on a center board placed between the side rails, gliding by effortlessly and decorously. The machine's inherent heavy duty character is exhibited by massive piles of heavy cement bags or large black water barrels taller than the heads of their sweating drivers who must stand to gruelingly pedal even in flat places looking like their sporting counterparts climbing a mountain in the Tour de France. Anything can be carried on a triciclo it seems. Mirrors, toilets, bureaus, tables, chairs, altars, and everything else that can fit through the door of a house passes in frozen surrealistic moments. Stacks of lumber are balanced in ten deep V-shapes with the acute angle facing forward and two sides framing the driver in an exact construction that seems at least the equal of any that will be made from them. Decorative iron work may enclose the driver in a cage that protrudes forward and back of him. A few days ago I saw a cargo which convinced me that everything I had seen before was merely an introduction. Proceeding along in its own solemn and timeless space, a triciclo with a silver-handled gray coffin centered on its top rails, head and foot extending outward on both sides, calmly passed down the main street with a row of blocked traffic following behind.

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High and low cuisine notes. We've put off buying cooking gear because our assistants who arrive today should approve of the things that are obtained for use during the months after we're gone. This left two options, eat out or make things that don't require cooking. There's a definite stand-out among restaurant offerings. It is a version of the traditional camaron (shrimp) ceviche that is served at Herradura's hotel restaurant by creator and owner Miguelangelo Viteri. Ceviche is fish, shrimp, clams, squid, or all of those mixed together that's been cooked by the action of a solution of lemon or lime juice (Bahians boil the seafood briefly). To this basic mixture Viteri adds a number of finely chopped raw vegetables (onion is the only one I'm absolutely sure about), spices and some mystery ingredients to formulate a flavor that is zesty in an unusual way but also tropical tasting enough to want to drink straight. The finger size camarones are perfectly fresh and firm.

Judy and I have developed some favorite emergency rations that turn out to be triumphs of low cuisine. Avocados and papayas keep for a couple of days in the fridge and we make local bakery roll sandwiches out of them as small meals. Papaya aged a few days to a soft texture is especially good this way, but the hands-down prize culinary discovery is pineapple sandwiches. Why these haven't gotten the attention they deserve is an oversight of civilization scaled proportion. I first tasted the singular magnificence of chunks from whole pineapples in bread when Carey brought me a loaf of San Francisco sourdough when she arrived here. Seizing on something to eat with it, I pulled a four day old, aromatic and candy sweet specimen of the noble bromeliad from the fridge, peeled back some skin and cut a slice to insert in a torn-off handful of sourdough. Since then these sandwiches have been made from fresh as well as aged pineapples, and the effect is fundamentally and spectacularly the same. Have faith that this isn't a case of malarial delusion, and I'm not regressing to childhood in the way of some people who dive into a nearly bare pantry and come out raving about puerile combinations of peanut butter with onions or tomato sauce. Canned fruit won't have the same flavor and is not advised. Judy favors mixing in ripe papaya, but save that for advanced variations. Start with nothing more than a whole fresh pineapple and a well-baked loaf to put an end to unwarranted gustatory deprivation.

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From a Park to a Plan

September 14, 2000
By Peter Berg

September has been overcast nearly every day since we arrived nearly two weeks ago. Some locals have taken to wearing sweaters and jackets and making mock shivers when the say 'Esta frio (It's cold)!" But most continue to wear T-shirts as Judy and I do who feel that it's pretty reasonable weather for San Franciscans. It reminds me of the opposite sweating and immobilized reaction that I have to January's heat which most residents tolerate sufficiently that they can still walk around. This grey weather is actually incomparable for working outside. If it lasts a few weeks after our assistants arrive tomorrow, we'll have an easier time accomplishing some of the heavy labor involved with moving fallen brush out of the way to dig steps for paths that will run through the revegetation site that we now call Bosque en las Ruinas (Forest in the Ruins).

Jacob Santos and I met with the agreeable city planner Ramon Farias to create a procedure for writing the first draft of a new ordinance officially establishing Bosque en las Ruinas as a "wild corridor" city park in Maria Auxiliadora barrio. Hopefully, Jacob and I can do this within a week and present it for his review, after which it goes to the city council. There's a new national civil defense disaster preparedness map of earthquake and mud slide prone areas in Canton Sucre where Bahia de Caraquez is located. Three increasingly dark shades of red show danger levels from low to high threat (amenaza alta). Maria Auxiliadora is darkest red, affirming that the choice we made intuitively to initiate erosion reduction work there was correct. By recognizing that the site has the highest peril in a geological catastrophe, this report has handed us one of the main arguments we will use to support the ordinance. Namely, there is no more appropriate use for the land than a park because it is too unsafe for houses or other construction. Additional arguments will include the revegetation work to restore native habitat and species that has already been done, the instructional value of plaques we intend to make for identifying plant species along walking paths, the lasting tribute that the stark ruins will represent for the sixteen people who died there, and the symbol that the Forest in the Ruins will represent for the community's overall efforts to overcome adversity There need to be precautions about avoiding parts of some ruins because they contain hidden holes that were formerly underneath or beside fallen houses. It was stepping in one up to my crotch and the lost leg dangling without touching bottom that made this point glare like a white plaster cast. I quickly explained to Ramon that the entire site didn't need be put off limits because of a few small areas that could be avoided by our paths and marked, filled in, or fenced. Even ancient ruins that get thousands of sight-seers have restricted areas. I requested that someone from the planning department make an examination to identify the potentially unsafe spots, and I will accompany his assistant to do this tomorrow.

When meeting with the new mayor Leonardo Viteri ("Dr. Leo") about the proposed park ordinance, I optimistically suggested that his fresh four-year term of office could begin with a thorough-going plan to fulfill the mandate of 1999's Ecological City Declaration. (See "Model Law.") The plan would cover changes in fundamental areas such as water, energy, transportation, and others over short, medium and long range stages of time. He suggested an informal dinner meeting within a few days with some principals in the eco-ciudad process to get different perspectives. It could take place as early as next week so I've begun distributing a suggested framework for the plan that follows. It's meant mainly as a quick introduction to the discussion and as a guide for eliciting suggestions and comments.

An important confession to readers. Drawing up a list of desirable alternatives to the present grossly unsustainable condition of cities is nearly as easy as getting mad in a traffic jam. It can also be as unworthwhile. Any plan eventually involves many more people than the initial planners. Unless the majority of the residents in Bahia, regardless of their social or economic positions, welcome and animate this ecological wish list, it won't be realized. The greatest obstacle is exclusion.

Ecological City Plan for Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador

Prepared by Peter Berg, Director
Planet Drum Foundation, September 11, 2000

I. Introduction — The need and purpose of a plan to create an ecological city.

A) Need

1. Ecological City Declaration

2. Understanding, coordination and participation with all ecological endeavors

a. Projects and activities — government and private

b. Public participation — consult and assist in developing various activities and projects. Public information — government, schools, media, visitors, etc.

B) Purpose

1. Guide activities toward shared goals (present and proposed)

2. Create timelines

3. Stand as a document of intention

II. Areas of consideration.

A) Statement of inclusiveness and invitation for additional activities

1. Request new public and private efforts

2. List needed and potential new activities

3. Regular updating of plan

B) Plan format requirements

1. Geographic scope

2. Listing of existing projects and recognition in appropriate sections

3. Timelines need to be developed short, medium and long term for each item

C) Water

1. Supply

2.Testing and treatment

3. Distribution

4. Conservation, reuse, recycling, and waste

D) Food

1. Public garden spaces

2. Private small farm and garden spaces

3. Availability of tools, seed, compost, and instruction

E) Energy (public, industrial, agricultural, and household)

1. Conservation and cost reduction of existing types

2. Renewable forms

a. Determining appropriate types

b. Developing plans for sharing of new production

c. Construction and installation of renewable forms

F) Transportation

1 Evaluation and suitability of various private means (cars, bicycle, etc.)

a. Priorities for alternative fuels

b. Restrictions or encouragement of use

2. Evaluation and suitability of public means (buses, taxis, etc.)

a. Priorities for alternative fuels

b. Restrictions or encouragement of use

3. Re-design of highways and streets for traffic reduction, traffic calming, etc.

G) Recycling

1. Zero garbage policy

2. City-wide recycling program

a. Industrial and agricultural

b. Offices and businesses

c. Household

d. Roadside and beach clean-up

3. Government office and operations recycling system

4. Public uses for reused and recycled materials

a. Evaluation and ordering of municipal stocks and equipment (paper, furniture, construction items, etc.)

b. Encouragement of local remanufacture businesses

c. Compost

H) Sewage

1. Public biological treatment facilities

2. Private alternative facilities

I) Wild habitat and species (ecosystems)

1. Bioregion and watershed mapping and inventory

2. Habitat and species protection

3. Habitat and species restoration

4. Field programs (observation, experience, education, etc.)

J) Human resources

1. Volunteers

2. Skill bank

3. Special mobilization

4. Employment counseling and service

K) Education

1. Schools and universities

2. Public classes and workshops

3. Government statements and media

L) Culture celebrating natural systems and ecological practices

1. Public information and installations (Green Map. murals, markers, etc.)

2. Arts workshops

3. Awards program

4. Events

M) Business development

1. Sustainability emphasis and incentives (incubators, consultation and guidance, etc.)

2. Visitor services (eco-tourism, facilities, etc.)

N) Funding

1. External (international, national, foundations, etc.)

2. Internal ("green tax," sales, benefits, donations, bequests, etc.)

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The Restoration of Bahia is Underway

September 9, 2000
By Peter Berg

Bahia de Caraquez has already lost its earthquake-struck look. Some prominent buildings of several stories that retained cracks and holes where cement was lost in 1998 have been patched or otherwise restored, and the absence of those particularly eye-gouging open wounds has an uplifting effect..

The people have a similar forward looking attitude. It's an accepted fact that the economy is pathetically unstable, and in a controversial move, the US dollar officially replaces the native sucre currency on September 12 .But strangely this has become a challenge rather than just a condition for despair whether people are opposed to it or not. Government posters with photograph-like images of a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half-dollar declare, "Conozca la moneda! (Know the money!)" There is no question that everyone is frantic to learn how to make correct change in less than a week's time remaining before the deadline. This shared quest is presently the most major national event.

Judy Goldhaft and I have homed in on the Leonidas Plaza office/apartment where one of the next-door sawmills is grinding with a continuous guttural whine while this is being written at 7PM. (It's not out of place for the work to continue so late considering that it begins at about the same hour in the morning.) This is an almost achingly working class parochia (suburban city) where only small stores operate out of house fronts, nearly all of the streets are unpaved, most buildings are single story, and packed buses of low-salaried laborers head into adjacent Bahia in the morning and back home at night.

From the first day that we obtained a field office here, we have contributed use of the main room's space during the day to a women's collective named Arte Papel that is sponsored by the Eco-Bahia Center for Environmental Education. It makes stationery and other articles out of recycled paper decorated with wild flowers in unique designs. Several other companies in Ecuador manufacture similar items, but this group of a dozen neighborhood people who were formerly unemployed only began about a year ago and has already progressed to the point where their extensively handcrafted paper products can be successfully marketed. It is an easy-going relationship because we leave before the paper makers arrive and usually return after they have gone. Since Planet Drum staff have been here irregularly so far, this arrangement provides continuous evidence of our participation in the process of creating an ecological city and our partnership with the Eco-Bahia Center.

For eight cents each we ride the crammed buses each morning to have a breakfast of several fruits, cafι con leche, small rolls, and buttery omelet at Jacob Santos' Bahia Bed & Breakfast Inn and plan out the day. Besides his position as secretary of the Eco-Bahia Center, Jacob has become a major figure in the eco-ciudad movement by being essential to many different projects. Recently he has been dutifully assisting Augusto Bravo, a Brazilian community water systems master's degree candidate (at a Danish university!) who is working under the aegis of Planet Drum to recommend the most ecological strategies for sourcing, purifying and delivering water in Bahia.

Although there are plenty of things that require attention, each day's activity develops its own stubborn will in spite of us. Bahia is small enough that acquaintances who might be difficult to reach elsewhere simply appear while walking on the street. It is actually difficult to complete tasks or keep appointments because of multiple conversations between starting out and arriving somewhere. Strength of character here sometimes involves nothing more durable than keeping your own schedule. In one week we've met or visited almost everyone known from the past three trips.

Judy took photographs while I reviewed the revegetation project twice and found that most plants have survived five dry months that thus far followed last winter's rainy season. Paja macho grass seedlings comprised half of the ten thousand original plantings that were made and almost all of them flourished and bore seeds which should sprout in huge numbers when downpours come in December to make brown slide areas green again. Their role in reducing further erosion is to cause runoff of rain on the steepest slopes so that water won't saturate the clay soil and slurry it away in mudslides again. Distinctive grey-green leaved algorrobo shrubs (a relative of desert mesquite) with wiry soil-holding roots seem to have all come through as well. Disappointingly, only a handful of muyullo and hobo trees which were planted throughout the site as cut stakes rather than seedlings have struggled through to this point. The rainy season was late and relatively scanty this year, so even though we put these in first they probably never received enough moisture. On the other hand, Ferdnan Sanchez and guayacan tree seedlings are doing well. At least fifty self-seeded fruitillo trees have grown ten feet since El Nino mudslides scrubbed the soil bare two years ago, giving an intimation of what the eventual forest will look like.

We met the new ecology-minded mayor and requested park status for the city-owned revegetation site. He's in complete agreement and wants us to propose an ordinance for approval by the city council. It could be a memorial park for the mudslide victims who died there and retain the ruined house walls and a fractured cement staircase as testimony to their fate. Marcelo Luque has begun a survey to determine where walking paths might go to best show native plant specimens in the Forest of the Ruins. Developing the paths may be the principal work of our new assistant Caire Dibble and her boyfriend Tony Mattei when the come on September 15.

Plant note: The elegant seiba (or seibo depending on how the speaker feels toward it) tree that resembles African baobabs and has smooth green skin in maturity looks totally extra-terrestrial as a young plant. Its skinny trunk is dotted profusely with large brown thorns and crowned by a plume of green and red leaves. Science fiction film art directors are more modest.

Animal notes: The revegetation site has tangara birds with delicately colored rust-tan and white wings that give them a floating look in flight. While walking on a ridge during a visit to Jacob's farm we saw a good-sized scat containing mostly seeds and hair that might have come from an animal about the size of a small pig. The farm overseer mentioned that a coastal wild cat had been seen nearby. This is the first sign I've had of the extremely elusive larger coastal mammals.

Obligatory cuisine note: The traditional restaurant midday almuerzo lunch is unquestionably the best thing to eat each day. Half the price of dinner, or less, it comes as a set menu with a fruit drink, soup, vegetable or salad, and rice topped with a small but concentrated savory sauce. An unforgettable example of the latter was made with fresh sardines, onions and potatoes. There might even be a small dessert of fruit or cookies. Large lunches are the rule here followed by at least an hour's rest. Anyone who tries to maintain a different pattern in the equatorial climate doesn't get any of my sympathy.

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