Trips to Gaviotas


In 2010, two groups of 20 people each (including a 1-year old baby girl). They traveled all the way to Colombia’s eastern plains to visit this unique community. (Click here to view pictures). Gaviotas hosted another group of visitors in March 2012.

By natural law, energy is neither created nor destroyed – it simply transforms from one medium into another. No matter where you are, it is always there for the taking. One might even say that it is so close, that most people are unable to see it! One should always use all the locally available energy first – tap all locally available resources first – before even thinking of bringing in energy from somewhere else. In that spirit, here is what Gaviotas has done recently:

For years, Gaviotas has been generating its electricity by means of a steam turbine running on wood culled from its forest. This year, the villagers have developed a novel fuel mix made of turpentine (distilled resin tapped from the pine trees in the forest) and plant oil (extracted from the fruit of the palm trees in the forest or from recycled cooking oil) that now runs all their diesel engines – electric generators, tractors, and soon trucks as well. All that was needed were stainless steel filters (developed in-house) to replace the regular paper oil filters in their engines. This new fuel mix doesn’t require any changes to the engines’ diesel fuel injection pumps.

Gaviotas features a community dining hall that is very popular with the villagers. Its kitchen makes about 200 meals a day. The massive cooking stoves have now been equipped with internal piping through which water is heated to near boiling and is then circulated without a pump, simply via natural convection (thermosiphon). This new heat exchange system replaces the 30 solar collectors that used to sit on the roof of the dining hall. The old collectors (also thermosiphon with no moving parts) are still in top shape, so they will simply get a new paint job and be sold for $1,000 a piece!

Biodiversity in the Gaviotas forest continues to increase. The villagers have planted a mix of pine and palm, and now fruit trees, and nature is adding the rest: hundreds of native plant and animal species are emerging that had not been seen on these arid plains in ages.

From May 17-31, Portland-based theater troupe Do Jump presented Entusiasmo, a theatrical show based on Alan Weisman’s story about Gaviotas. Artistic Director Robin Lane created the show in 2003 after attending a weekend “Dialogue on Community” about Gaviotas. Entusiasmo tells the story of Gaviotas through narrative, acrobatics and humor accompanied by traditional Colombian music. The show is available for touring.

Do Jump hosted a visit by Paolo Lugari to see the show. He participated in a Q&A discussion with audiences after performances on May 30 and 31.

Green Village Philadelphia hosted a visit from Paolo Lugari and organized several Gaviotas-related events in early May, including:
  • A public lecture for the local community
  • Visit to an elementary school and tour of project
  • An interactive 3-day workshop
  • A fundraising brunch  
View an interview with Paolo Lugari filmed during the his visit.

Carnegie Mellon University awarded Paolo Lugari an honorary doctorate during its graduation ceremonies in May. The visit provided an opportunity for the campus community to learn more about the pioneering efforts at Gaviotas. 

View the documentary video about Paolo Lugari and Gaviotas, produced for the occasion.

As part of an initiative to expand the reforestation efforts at Gaviotas, ZERI (Zero Emissions Research Initiative) organized a fundraising trip to the Colombian llanos from June 25-27.   

As you know, Gaviotas has planted a large forest that is generating biodiversity, sustainability, and safe pure drinking water, and is acting as a giant lung for the atmosphere. The Colombian government has agreed to release huge additional tracts of desolate savannah around Gaviotas, and further out at Marandua, to expand the reforestation

The government provided an escorted flight to Marandua, with a stopover in Gaviotas, for 10 supporters of the reforestation project. Participants were able to see Gaviotas firsthand, and then learn more about the planned activities at Marandua. Each participant donated $1,000 for the planting of 1 hectare of forest (2.5 acres). 

When Paolo Lugari visited the Boulder Biodiesel facility in 2003, he realized that Gaviotas could mount a biodiesel operation for far less cost and effort than he had originally thought. He invited the Boulder team to help him establish a biodiesel plant for Gaviotas, and immediately began brainstorming with them about how to set up a dual biodiesel and palm oil operation. 

In April 2004, Friends of Gaviotas accompanied six volunteers from Boulder Biodiesel and the University of Colorado to Bogota for a biodiesel installation workshop. Together with staff from Centro Las Gaviotas, they built the first biodiesel plant in Colombia. It is the first in the world to utilize crude palm oil at a semi-industrial scale. The joint Colombian/North American team also converted one Gaviotas truck to using crude palm oil as fuel. With this plant, Gaviotas now is completely independent from fossil fuels. See the photo gallery for more pictures.

Sustainable Resources article

Friends of Gaviotas arranged Gaviotas founder Paolo Lugari’s visit to the Colorado in Fall 2003, which was partially supported by a grant from the Threshold Foundation. Highlights included:
  • A visit to Rocky Mountain Institute to meet with Amory Lovins
  • Tour of the Boulder Biodiesel facility
  • Keynote lecture and workshops at the Sustainable Resources conference
  • Weekend retreat, “Dialogue on Community,”based on the social context that has fostered an amazing spirit of innovation at Gaviotas.
This trip inspired at least two followup initiatives: a biodiesel installation workshop in Bogota and a play based on the Gaviotas story in Portland. See the photo gallery for more pictures.

Gaviotas founder Paolo Lugari and ZERI director Gunter Pauli led a workshop based on the experience of Gaviotas from September 9-11, 2002. Over 150 people from all over the US (plus Costa Rica, Canada and Mexico) gathered at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Author Alan Weisman joined on the final day with translation/commentary that provided some comic relief.

Paolo described various Gaviotas initiatives and technologies, punctuated with frequent philosophical reflections, such as "Gaviotas is not a model; Gaviotas is a way of thinking."  Gunter gave an abbreviated version of the "12 axioms of the new economics" talk, and Alan spoke about how the story of Gaviotas continues to inspire. 

Conference participants organized into a dozen different dialogue topics, including green building, permaculture, social change, intentional communities, appropriate technology. With spontaneous musical entertainment to liven up the atmosphere, they talked late into the night. The event ended all too soon, but it sparked an ongoing dialogue and the formation of Friends of Gaviotas.