BAHIA de CARAQUEZ, Ecuador
The inspiration to write a Rage Against the Machine “song” came when I held a machete in my right hand and heard the sounds of yet another parking lot being built.
Here’s my hackneyed rendition:
[Que a wicked Tom Morello riff…]
Stop the sprawl
Take the jungle back
My machete clinking
Their construction beeping
They want to flatten and pave
We try to create and save
We plant trees
To counter their fleeces
They want you to line, buy and dine,
But you’ve got to fight that militant consumer mind
They scheme greedy forces
Expose them with intelligent torches
Stop the sprawl
Take the jungle back
That sunny March afternoon seven Planet Drum volunteers traversed a hillside looking to slash any creeping vines or other undergrowth that threatened the fledging 700 trees planted there last year.
Meanwhile at the base of the hill, a contingent twice our size operated heavy, noisy machinery in the capitalistas´ ongoing quest to seemingly pave everything.
That juxtaposition could not be overlooked.
Furthermore, that day’s location was near one of the capitalistas´ failed and now deserted enterprises.
In the sprawl of Bahia is En Pacadora, an old shrimp production that is now a ruinous collection of buildings. The hillside trees help return the surrounding area to its native beginnings.
The beginning of Planet Drum started 11 years ago in Ecuador. In that time, the reforestation and bioregionalism project has had two main goals:
1. Help this small coastal city recover from the devastating landslides that left many residents homeless after el Nino downpours in 1998.
2. Set an example in creating a self-sustaining bioregion.
Peter Berg, the founder of Planet Drum, helped define the term “bioregion.” According to Berg, a bioregion is an area of land with varying sectors – urban, suburban, rural and wild – that work together in an environmentally-conscious way to sustain each other.
An article circulating the Planet Drum house explains how defining our place in bioregions instead of political boundaries is the first step to becoming more environmentally aware.
Instead of thinking of living in Duluth, you should think about living in the Lake Superior watershed.
Instead of thinking of living in Bahia de Caraquez, you would think about living in the Rio Chone estuary.
According to the Freeman House article, that mental framework would creep into your decision making. When traveling to the market, you would more seriously consider bringing a canvas bag over receiving plastic. With your nearby lake, river, forest, mountain or ocean more present in your consciousness, you are more likely to act in its best interest.
Freeman House says corporations, however, are not beholden to borders, either political or environmental.
“Corporations have an address, but they don’t necessarily live anywhere,” Freeman House wrote. “The bigger they are, the more profitable they tend to be. The bigger they get, the further their headquarters become removed from their resource base.”
Removal from a resource base, Freeman House says, makes proper environmental stewardship even less of a priority.
In their stead, the Planet Drum Foundation, which is based in San Francisco, tries to pick up that proper stewardship.
Planet Drum beats along with a tiny budget, but is seeking the status of a non-government organization in Ecuador.
That status will help Planet Drum obtain more funding to, in turn, plant more trees and continue the message of bioregionalism.
Meeting this goal became more attainable with Ecuador’s latest – and many think, greatest – constitution yet. It’s the first in the world to grant rights to nature. People from anywhere can serve as plantiffs against negative environmental actions. The government must stand up to maintain the environment’s “natural cycles.”
In the words of one of Ecuador’s indigenous groups, “panamana” is sustained, meaning there is “a place where life can grow.”