Alan Weisman Revisits Gaviotas on PRI's Living on Earth

In 1998, Alan Weisman, author of the New York Times bestseller The World Without Us, was a science reporter for National Public Radio. That year he visited the South American village of Gaviotas.

Founded by scientists and engineers in the 1970s, Gaviotas started off as arid plains and became a lush and verdant oasis—a petri dish of ecological innovation and cheap, practical inventions. Simple things like a covered well with a double action pump that, incredibly, taps water six times deeper than normal models; a design for a stackable, interlocking plastic bottle to package and ship their pure, abundant water to neighboring towns, and which can then be filled with sand and recycled into building blocks; solar panels that use the region’s diffuse light to heat water; highly efficient windmills; and more.

By planting non-native species of trees where nothing in particular was growing, Gaviotans actually helped long-dormant native species recover and even thrive. In this way Gaviotas dramatically proved sustainable polyculture’s superiority to standard mono-agriculture.

Alan talked to Steve Curwood on PRI’s Living on Earth this past Sunday to talk about the 10th Anniversary Edition of his book, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World.

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

WEISMAN: By the moonlight I can see it – a forest rising up from this formerly empty plain. Twelve years ago researchers discovered that pines from Honduras thrive in these thin soils. Since then, Gaviotas has planted more than a million. Instead of cutting them for timber, they’re selling the renewable sap for making paint and turpentine. They don’t earn as much money this way, but Gonzalo reminds me, that’s not the point.

[GONZALO SPEAKING IN SPANISH]

TRANSLATOR: We believe austerity is a better path to happiness and to man’s comfort. In Colombia’s oil camps, what have they gotten? Prostitution and alcoholism, because salaries are too high. Then the oil is gone. What’s left is misery.

Listen now:

Download the interview and read the transcript on LOE.org.

Share This:

Read The Book

Gaviotas

A Village to Reinvent the World, 2nd Edition

$24.95

Recent Articles

The Power of the Mesquite Tree

The miraculous abundance provided by the mesquite tree continues to astound us. It offers a plethora of culinary possibilities. It has the power to cure, to shelter, to elicit profound emotions, and to connect us to our environment and our neighbors in a way we may not have thought about before. The following excerpt is…

Read More

Emergence of the Mechanical Mind and Its Dire Implications

For as far back as we can remember, humans have been driven by the Mechanical Mind – a desire to evolve, to expand, to consume, to manipulate everything around them to meet their needs without thinking about the consequences. Yet some 200,000 years ago, before the advent of agriculture, there was a different view and…

Read More

Happy National Wildlife Day!

Furry friends, ecological heroes, and wild beasts—today we celebrate them all. In honor of wildlife and all there is to learn from our favorite creatures, we have curated a list of some of Chelsea Green’s best wildlife books. Get your hands on some of these and prepare yourself for a literary safari! Eager is a powerful…

Read More

From the Group Up: A Call for Regenerative Agriculture

Farmland covers 38 percent of the Earth’s land area and is a major contributor to climate change. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Soil and plants have the capacity to store huge amounts of carbon in the ground, thus how we grow food can be one of the key solutions to our climate…

Read More

A Grassroots Revolution for Pesticide-Free Communities

As the ‘poison cartel’ creeps relentlessly across food systems, there is overwhelming evidence that something must be done to stop them. The small town of Mals, Italy took a stand and started a revolution to stop the corruption and pave the way for a pesticide-free future.  The following excerpt is the foreword by Dr. Vandana…

Read More