An Experience of Social Worth

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Bahia de Caraquez is a working lesson in urban livability that collapsing industrial society urgently needs to adopt. For a transition toward a more sustainable future, new techniques and practices alone aren’t enough. By themselves they give off a chilly contrived feeling that rings false and heightens a sense of displacement rather than belonging. There needs to be a spirit and theme that is undeniably true and accessible to anyone, and capable of being celebrated and shared with strangers. Bahia has many features such as greater reliance on interpersonal relationships instead of money (lagalou) and widespread reuse of materials, but its livability is a rare quality that has unique and supreme importance. It is the quantum factor that converts a multitude of needed improvements from coldly planned impositions to congenial workability.

Planet Drum Foundation has the good fortune to occupy an office cum living quarters for a Field Projects Manager and up to five volunteers that is in the city center. Everything from meetings to meals and parties take place in this convivial shared space, and it is extremely close to places that are visited daily. Most of the time we can joyfully forego the need for transportation and just walk.

“Extremely close” access to basic necessities is uncommon in most cities. It’s worth describing in detail so that jaded urbanites can comprehend how different this feels. The main food market for the whole city is only a half-block from the office/apartment. City Hall is two blocks away. Travel to work at the first revegetation tree-planting site in Maria Auxiliadora barrio, and one of the newest planting efforts in steep neighboring La Cruz, is just four blocks. The beautiful public park where Ramon Cedeno holds Planet Drum’s popular after-school Bioregional Education Program classes is no more than six. Within that radius are a post office, bus stop, copy shop, doctor, lawyer, notary, barber, drugstore, a full-scale hardware store, several grocery and merchandise stores, the main church building, three internet shops, three radio stations, two newspaper offices, and a dozen restaurants. It is a mere three-block stroll to the riverfront, and an ocean beach for swimming is a ten-minute walk. In the infrequent case of needing to get to any of these places in a rush, a bicycle is completely adequate, and a three-wheeled triciclo pedicab ride is usually only a wave of the arm away.

A trip to the native plants greenhouse that is the farthest terminus of the revegetation zone eight kilometers away is less than a half-hour in a music-playing, frequent bus of the line named Ondina del Pacifico (Mermaid of the Pacific). All of our planting sites are along this route and it is possible to carry along tools, compost and even water jugs that the driver’s assistant will help carry on and off.

Here’s how Bahia’s close proximity and access to needed functions recently transformed what might be a bothersome trudge somewhere else into a float-and-drift excursion. Planet Drum is sponsoring a presentation about the remarkable new national constitution’s “Rights of Nature” which is the first of its kind in the world. It was spontaneous and we chose only two weeks to line up the right people, find a hall, write and distribute a notice, and make announcements on the radio that everyone listens to here.

One of the State of Manabi’s (Bahia’s larger political body) Constitutional Assembly members who had a direct role in developing “Rights of Nature” lives only three blocks from our office and during a visit said she was eager to be the main speaker, and volunteered to try to find one of the consulting ecologists to accompany her onstage.

Next the bilingually skilled owner of Bahia Bed & Breakfast Inn offered to moderate the evening. (He’s located across the intersection from our place.)

The Museum’s auditorium is one of the most comfortable formal listening spaces in the city so the staff was contacted and agreed to donate it for this free event with only a small maintenance fee. With the hall secured it was time to call a radio station and make an appointment to go on live with a public invitation the next morning. Immediately afterward another station recorded a plug about the talk to play continually. Then we wrote the announcement, made copies and walked around delivering them to Amigos de la Eco-ciudad (Friends of the Eco-city) as well as anyone who might be interested

All of this took place within the same small geographic circle. We not only accomplished what we needed but were encouraged and supported each walking step of the way, and as a result became infused with a confident élan that is the core of livability. The presentation is already a success.

“The New Constitution, The Rights of Nature and You” will be the topic of a presentation by Maria Soledad Vela in the main auditorium at Museo Bahia de Caraquez on Friday, October 24 at 8PM. Sra. Soledad was an asambleista who helped develop Rights of Nature at the Constitutional Assembly. She will be joined by consulting ecologists and Jacob Santos as moderator. Please attend to hear and ask questions about this important constitutional feature for Ecuador which is a first in the world. This event is free and the general public is invited to attend.

“La Nueva Constitución, Los Derechos de la Naturaleza, y Tú” será el tema de una presentación por María Soledad Vela en el auditórium del Museo Banco Central en Bahía de Caráquez el viernes, 24 de octubre a las 8 de la noche, auspiciada por la Fundación Planet Drum. La señora Vela fue una de las asambleístas quien participó en la redacción de los Derechos de la Naturaleza en la Asamblea Constitucional. Ella será acompañada por ecologistas consultores y Jacob Santos como moderador. Asistan para escuchar y preguntar sobre estos artículos importantes de la Constitución del Ecuador que son primicias en el mundo. Este evento es gratis y todo el público está invitado.

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