Category Archives: Permaculture

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Esperanza Project at a Crossroads

This year The Esperanza Project will celebrate nine years of life – nine years of bringing inspiration and hope to the work of environmental and indigenous rights journalism. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and poised to take our work to the next level. Please read on to see our highlights, our exciting plans for 2018, and how you can help.

PLATANAR 13In 2017, we gave voice to so many sources of inspiration. To name just a few:
* After a wave of earthquakes left thousands homeless in Mexico, scores of natural builders, architects and visionaries stepped up to ‘bio-reconstruct” a new, resilient society from the rubble;
Roper-Current-1 (1000x750)* A Maryknoll sister who spoke out against Salvadoran death squads who assassinated her sisters in the civil wars of Central America in the 1980s, now speaking for the Web of Life;

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XV Vision Council “Call of the Water” harvests solutions for threatened Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar

Above: Cayuco Maya, the venue for the XV Vision Council, “Call of the Water,” was held on the shores of Bacalar Lagoon. Foreground: The Rainbow Peace Caravan’s Circus Tent has been a trademark gathering space for two decades in Vision Councils from Peru to Mexico.

BACALAR, Quintana Roo, Mexico — The XV Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth gathering drew more than 600 participants from 27 countries and representatives of nearly a dozen indigenous nations to the shores of this pristine yet imminently threatened Caribbean lagoon. This time, the weeklong itinerant gathering chose the Yucatan Peninsula for its venue, and it was the “Call of the Water” that convoked activists, ecologists, healers, artists and indigenous and community leaders to generate proposals and solutions to environmental problems that endanger the lagoon as well as the Great Maya Aquifer, the second largest reserve of fresh water in the country.

The XV Vision Council, "Call of the Water," brought more than 600 participants from all over the world to the shores of the endangered Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar for a multidisciplinary event seeking solutions for protection of the water. (Martín López photo)
The XV Vision Council, “Call of the Water,” brought more than 600 participants from all over the world to the shores of the endangered Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar for a multidisciplinary event seeking solutions for protection of the water. (Martín López photo)

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Bio-Reconstructing Mexico: Toward an Architecture for Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For ArchDaily.com

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, a nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – has stepped forward, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes long-term resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. This article is part of a series featuring a few of those initiatives.

In the days after the earthquake that brought reality crashing down for millions throughout central Mexico, Huerto Roma Verde, the community garden and green gathering space at the heart of one of the most stricken sectors of the city, was transformed into a major hub for emergency relief. With the help of more than 5,000 volunteers who arrived to lend a hand. Roma Verde became a civilian-organized shelter, community kitchen, aid distribution center and much more, offering a space for rescue workers, medics, attorneys, psychologists, chefs, bicycle and motorcycle brigades and professionals of all kinds to offer their services to a traumatized public.

In the ferment that arose in the round-the-clock disaster response, a vision evolved of a sustainable society arising from the rubble. By the third day, recalls Arnold Ricalde of Cuatro al Cubo, a network of environmental organizations connected with Roma Verde, immediate needs were being covered and it was time to look forward to a sustainable reconstruction.

Bio-Reconstruye Mexico,” they called it, a reconstruction initiative based on the Spanish word for natural building techniques – bioconstruction, an architecture of life. Continue reading

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Visionary gathering brings regenerative development to Caribbean shores

All the pieces are beginning to come together for the XV Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth “Call of the Water” gathering. This year, the itinerant ecovillage and high-impact social movement has set its sights on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near the border with Belize. The gathering is set for the shores of the magnificent Laguna de Bacalar, which in Mayan means “Gate of the sky where the reed grows,” also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors.

Sian Ka’an Bakhalal, the Lagoon of Seven Colors – site of the XV Vision Council, the Call of the Water

This year, as it was in 1992, the goal is to protect a unique coastal ecosystem, organizers say.

“We are talking about a unique lagoon ecosystem in imminent danger,” said Santiago Palomar, one of the event organizers. Palomar and others on the team have been working to strengthen community networks and to teach techniques applicable for protecting the bioregion.

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Spirituality Council, XIV Vision Council – Call of the Sage, Teopantli Kalpulli, Jalisco, Mexico, 2015. (Santiago Palomar photo)

For seven days in November-December, hundreds of environmentalists, healers, artists, activists, spiritual seekers and people from all walks of life will create community for a gathering which, unlike most festivals, is designed to leave the site better than they found it. From Nov. 26-Dec. 3, the open-air ecovillage will be the site of workshops, ceremonies, forums, performances and celebrations, all geared toward shifting the paradigm to one more in tune with the rhythms of the planet.
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Juan del Río prometes the Transition Movement in Spain. Photo: Juan del Rio

Translating Transition: New book shares experiences of Spain and Latin America

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine

Rob Hopkins is one face of the Transition movement, but there are many more. In the Spanish-speaking world and particularly in Spain one of those faces is Juan Del Rio.

Del Rio, author of a new book in Spanish on the movement of transition, La Guía del Movimiento de Transición (February 2015), was one of the first outside the English-speaking countries in pushing this movement forward and researching its evolution. Del Rio shared his thoughts about his new book, the way in which Transition developed in Spain, the cultural differences and similarities, the  Occupy and Indignados movements and more. A Spanish version of this interview can be found on the Magis website.

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Other names, other colors: Transition, Latino style

Above: Transition Network founder Rob Hopkins, left, grants an interview to Raul Velez at the train station in Totnes, England, birthplace of the Transition movement. (Raul Velez photo)

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine

One of the early Transition Town initiatives was launched in Ensenada, Baja California, by an American expat, Robert Frey. Frey went to Queretaro, Mexico, in 2010 to a permaculture class taught by Raul Velez, founder of a nonprofit environmental education project called Ruta Ahimsa. Frey invited Velez to Ensenada to do some permaculture trainings, and shared his excitement about the new initiative he’d launched. Velez accepted the invitation – more to see Baja California than to learn about Transition.

“Actually I was skeptical,” Velez recalls. “I thought, OK, I live in a country that has been colonialized by European culture, and then the American way of life – another concept from another part of the world and we need to apply it now and change.’ But I was ignorant.”
Three weeks after Velez’ visit to Ensenada, Frey was found murdered in his own home.

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Rob Hopkins, Transition and the Power of Just Doing Stuff

Above: Rob Hopkins (left) at a workday supporting the Atmos Totnes project. Photo: David Pearson

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine


Once there lived a permaculturist, far from the city on an old Irish farm. Together with his wife and four children they had nearly finished creating the house of their dreams, a house of cob in a grassy ecovillage with an organic farm. By day he taught permaculture in a nearby college; by night he broke bread with his family and neighbors.

Then one day it all went up in flames – a conflagration that turned their dream upside down, but led them to begin a movement that has swept the world.

That man was Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement. It began as a collection of seemingly small and disparate initiatives, but now they’re scattered across the globe: a community-based solar power grid in a Japanese village; a mural project in Michoacán; a barter fair in Queretaro; a community bakery in a Brazilian favela; and a time bank in New Zealand, to mention a representative handful – and they are all local expressions of a movement that has taken root all over the world, employing a wide range of creative techniques to confront some of the most overwhelming challenges of our times.
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