Making native plants signs for eco-tours.

May 14-May 18, 2007

There are Ceibos and Guarango trees in our greenhouse that we seeded in November that are already two meters tall. Some of them are poking through the lower sections of the roof of the greenhouse. Although it is very late in the year to be planting, we are finding homes for them. We will plant a fresh batch of these species for next year’s reforestation sites later in the season, roughly three to four months before scheduled planting so that they are the proper size. With some more rains like we’ve been having, these late planted trees should be fine, and the extra space in our greenhouse will allow us to grow even more trees for next year.

On Monday and Tuesday we made an impromptu site next to the Inter-Americana School (where Planet Drum has planted in the past). This site is on the Mayor of Bahia’s land. We planted 65 trees (Ceibos, Guarango, and some leftover Guasmos) on an entirely deforested hill. The Mayor is very excited to be reforesting on his land and has even installed tanks for water and has caretakers there who will water the trees for us.

On Wednesday we split up into a variety of small groups taking care of Bioregional Education material preparations, a greenhouse trip to do some upkeep and bring home five big Ceibos that we are donating to the Bellavista community, bottle hunting, and sign painting for the Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas. We are making signs to put up in the Ruinas park that will identify some of the native species that we have planted there. This will be part of the eco-tours that we are hoping to help start.

Thursday some volunteers went back to the greenhouse, picking up bottles from the Fanny de Baird school on the way, to meet with a friend of ours from the Los Caras barrio at kilometro 16. This is another very motivated community who are trying to develop eco-tourism and ecologically friendly growth. They have soy bean farms and make their own soybean products, including a soy meat substitute similar to tofu, soy yogurt, ice cream, milk, cakes and a variety of other creative foods. They are also a member of the Cordillera el Balsamo group (see previous report). They expressed interest in some of the extra trees we have in our greenhouse. They even brought their own truck to the greenhouse to pick the trees up. And we are invited to visit them in a few weeks to check up on the trees and get a tour of their community. Maxi, our friend from Los Caras, helped us load up a bunch of Ceibos, Guasmo, Cedro, and Seca. The greenhouse is looking pretty empty with so many of the big trees gone. This is good since we already have a bunch of small trees sprouting out of our seed beds.

While those volunteers were at the greenhouse, others stayed home to work on Bioregional education. I graciously thank Tomas and Mariana from Portugal who came by for a week of volunteering at just the right time. Tomas, your translation of bioregional education materials for the booklet we are making for the children of Bahia was an incredible gift, which we can now proudly use to teach them of the importance of finding balance with our natural surroundings. At the same time, Marianna and I made preparations for a presentation to the city consejales on the topic of cell phone antenna tower construction in downtown Bahia. Apparently a letter that we wrote in March about the potential dangers of cell phone antennas led to the halting of construction of a cell phone tower in the middle of Bahia. Because of this initial involvement, we were invited to give a presentation to city government representatives who will be deciding whether or not the tower construction will continue. Other presenters included representatives from the giant cell phone companies Porta, Alegro, and Movistar, the commissioner of health for Bahia, and an Ecuadorian telecommunications official who had rather overt connections to the cell phone companies. It should be rather obvious who was on which side of the debate. With the vital help of a surprise volunteer, Marianna, who has a degree in environmental law, we spent the day touring the municipality building gathering information and developing our argument.  Mariana, your determination and wit helped to put together an excellent presentation, which drew from the constitution of Ecuador and declaration of Bahia as an eco-city. Many of the other presenters used detailed scientific data and studies to support their arguments for why the towers and antennas are safe or why they are dangerous. In the end, the presentation I gave attempted to question what Bahia represents as an eco-city, what that entails, and how its citizens can relate to the technologies that have become an integral part of daily life. The overall response to my presentation was very positive. Additionally, there was clearly an overwhelmingly strong sentiment against the construction of antenna towers within the compact city center. Many local residents came out for the public event, some of them live in houses bordering or very nearby the potential construction site. The latest news is that construction has been halted, and it seems as though future tower and antenna construction will happen outside of downtown Bahia. A movement to remove the few (three?) antennas which already exist here seems unlikely to succeed. The entire event was quite intense and there was a lot of tension in the air between the opposing sides of the debate. 

On Friday we took sanctuary in the greenhouse and decompressed a bit after the antenna presentation by planting a bunch of Guachepeli, Dormilon, Caoba and Seca seeds. Confronting multinational corporations makes working in the greenhouse that much more soothing.

Sunday morning I took a visit to the semi-weekly, ecological radio program and participated in their discussion of some of the environmental issues facing Bahia. Afterwards I talked to Don Pedro Otero who runs the radio program and owns lands in the El Toro water basin. He invited me to take a tour of his land and scope out potential sites for reforestation next year. That afternoon we went out and hiked around his farm and admired the forested hills he is dedicated to protecting. Though beautiful, unfortunately much of this land was pillaged of the most valuable wood as recently as fifteen years ago. There are two possible locations on his land that would make great sites for us with water available close by. Don Pedro also expresses interest in delivering a presentation as part of our monthly adult education series.

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