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Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World Paperback – December 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the early 1970s, a unique community was founded in the los llanos region of Colombia. Located north of the Amazon rain forest, this region is an expansive savannah, sparsely populated and generally considered uninhabitable. Gaviotas originated out of the belief that the current state of urban expansion and poverty and the continued depletion of natural nonrenewable resources could not be sustained and that the future required people to learn how to live in harsh, inhospitable environments and to do so in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner. Journalist Weisman tells the story of a remarkable and diverse group of individuals (engineers, biologists, botanists, agriculturists, sociologists, musicians, artists, doctors, teachers, and students) who helped the village evolve into a very real, socially viable, and self-sufficient community for the future. The people of Gaviotas today produce innovative technologies (solar collectors, irrigation systems, windmills, and hydroponic gardens) that use the environment without depleting or destroying it. While some of their creative endeavors have not succeeded, even the failures tend to spawn ideas for future successes. Weisman does a fine job of detailing Gaviotas's evolution and placing it within the larger global historical context. The story he presents is wonderful testament to human creativity, commitment, and effort toward building a socially viable and environmentally sustainable future.?Karen Collamore Sullivan, Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Saginaw, MI
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia, known as the llanos, are among the most brutal environments on Earth, an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, more than twenty-five years ago, an intrepid visionary named Paolo Lugari set out to create a village that could sustain itself agriculturally, economically, and artistically. He reasoned that if a community could survive in the Colombian llanos, it would be possible to live anywhere. The new village was named after the graceful river terns common in the area, los gaviotas. The early inhabitants of Gaviotas soon realized that if they wanted even basic necessities, they would need to be very resourceful. So they invented wind turbines that convert mild breezes into energy, super-efficient pumps that tap previously inaccessible sources of water, and solar kettles that sterilize drinking water using the furious heat of the tropical sun. They even invented a rain forest! Two million pine trees planted as a renewable crop have unexpectedly allowed the rain forest to re-establish itself. Paolo Lugari and the Gaviotans, in their quest to create a model human habitat, serendipitously renewed an entire ecosystem. This is why Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Lugari as "The Inventor of the World." To learn more about what other people have to say about Gaviotas, please visit the Friends of Gaviotas website Friends of Gaviotas

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890132284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890132286
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,538,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author of the critically acclaimed New
York Times best seller The World
Without Us, Alan Weisman is an
award-winning journalist whose reports
have appeared in HarperÄôs, the New
York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly,
Discover, and Orion, among others,
and on National Public Radio. A former
contributing editor to the Los Angeles
Times Magazine, he is a senior radio
producer for Homelands Productions
and teaches international journalism at
the University of Arizona. He lives in
western Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Jason N. Mical on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Alan Weisman, a journalist hired by NPR to investigate solutions for environmental crises, spent years collecting information in a tiny, remote village at the eastern edge of the war-torn country of Colombia. That village was Gaviotas; this book is his result.
I read this book on a recommendation from Daniel Quinn, author of "The Story of B" and "Beyond Civilization." Quinn's entire philosophy rests on two ideas: living in a sustainable manner, and allowing the reader to come up with their own solutions for doing so. Gaviotas is a community where people did just that - through ingenuity, creativity, and hard work, the residents of this planned village created a place where water is pulled from the ground using pumps attached to children's see-saws, heat is provided by the sun, and electricity by the wind.
It's a progressive's dream come true, and an experiment that has succeeded in all possible ways. This book lays out the history of Gaviotas and its unique founder, Paolo Lugari, and places it within the context of the ongoing struggles in Colombia. In the wake of the World Trade Center attack, I decided to re-read Gaviotas to remind myself that not only is there hope for humanity as a whole, but hope that individuals will begin to take responsibility to begin freeing ourselves from the confining forces of our self-imposed prisons called "civilization," but still manage to retain the good things, too.
Every person on earth should read and re-read this book. If you haven't, buy it now or start hoofing it to the library.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Craig Stern on December 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
A captivatingly inspirational account of story that reaches to the core of what is remarkable about human nature, human courage, and human ingenuity achieving something great and important in the face of daunting conditions. The continuing adaptive accomplishments of the Gaviotas people in the face of multiple challenges -- extreme environmental conditions, corrupt government practices, turbulent and deadly national politics, indifferent and unsupportive post-1980s corporate globalization, continuing uncertainty -- is truly an affirmation that people can, and hopefully will, achieve a kind of society that is both ecologically sustainable and humanly necessary. This book is 'the power of one' writ large on our collective future.
I teach a university course entitled: Humanistic Values in a Technological Society and, in the face of social and environmental problems caused by industrialization and electronic media-technology, it is difficult for the title not to seem a proverbial oxymoron. In the future this book will be required reading so that students can see that indeed there are solutions to our collective problems, both human and technological. One reviewer bemoaned that there was no 'useful information' in the book, meaning it was short on technical details (I am sure this will follow if sufficient positive interest is shown to this publication). In response I would point out that the people of Gaviotas have shown that the most important and necessary 'commodity' of the future is and will be human inspiration and perseverance; given these, the details will follow. I thank Alan Weisman for telling the Gaviotas story.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By GENE GERUE on February 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1966, when he was 22, Paolo Lugari and his brother drove over barely passable roads to a desolate area 200 miles east of Bogota, Columbia. The llanos area is a poor-soil barren that grows only a few nutrient-deficient grasses, a vast expanse of sun-baked plains in spite of over 100 inches of rain per year. A place of deadly water and hungry mosquitos. Conditions were so daunting that the Columbian government abandoned an attempt to build a road through the area. Lugari saw an opportunity to create something very special. And he did it. Today Gaviotas is a thriving, sustainable community of hundreds of joyous people studying, inventing, producing, singing and dancing amidst a huge forest that they planted. Residents from all walks of life have designed and built, planted and harvested, birthed, nurtured, taught, and entertained. There are teeter-totters that operate super-efficient pumps to bring water to the school, solar heat to cook meals, solar kettles to sterilize drinking water, ultra-light windmills to provide power. The hospital has been designated one of the 40 most important buildings in the world. Some have called Gaviotas a utopia. Lugari insists that, "Utopia literally means no place. We call Gaviotas a topia because it's real." Gaviotas the village is surprising, uplifting, extraordinary. Gaviotas the nonfiction book is as compelling as a novel, as educational as a textbook, as inspirational as the biography of a great person. If you need to rise early, do not take this book to bed with you.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Wendy on December 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
In 1998, journalist Alan Weisman collected and presented information about a little known, yet quite monumental, village known as Gaviotas. To get there, one must travel 16 hours by car from the nearest major Columbian city, Bogotá. Even then the path there is not a smooth one; rough, muddy roads and severe political unrest serve as some major barriers in getting to Gaviotas. So why then is such an arduous trip worth it; in essence, Gaviotas is yet another tiny village located in a generally uninhabitable region and possesses none of the modern modes of transportation or communication that we are accustomed to. While in a sense these aspects may be true of Gaviotas, it is also undeniable that this community holds as one of the most efficient, supportive, and thoughtful communities on the planet.

Started in 1971 by a group of Bogotá scientists, Gaviotas originally was created as a sort of scientific experiment, a reaction to the way things were - which clearly wasn't working. A Gaviotas saying goes "the real maturity in life is to realize your dreams" and the founders of Gaviotas did just that when they decided to create their own society. The harsh life and extreme poverty that had been rampant in developing urban areas paired with the blatant depletion of natural resources was enough to spark the idea that maybe there should be a change. Yet instead of trying to make changes in the system already in place, this group of determined individuals took on the radical notion of creating an entirely new, segregated, yet completely self-sufficient, place to live. And that is just what happened.
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