Tag Archives: Planet Drum

Drum beats louder

Nearly a year  has passed since the Tank made Ecuador a routine dateline, and the former reforestation project we worked at has announced some exciting developments.

Planet Drum, a non-profit based in San Francisco, has been reforesting the coastal ridges of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, and a site we worked on has been completed with more than 500 native trees. These species will help the hillsides fight the erosion that devastated Bahia de Caraquez during El Nino more than a decade ago.

They also have a steady flow of volunteers, and this guy still running the show in the field.

Orlando! Todo lo que es el  hombre, err, all that is man.

Orlando and the rest of Planet Drum are planting 4,000 trees this rainy season. 4,000! That’s manly — and womanly.

Feels good to have contributed; feels good to know they are continuing and improving. To read more, go here.

Unquote” Plummer

A great Sports Illustrated article about former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer included his moving quote from his eulogy of former teammate and deceased U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

“I was in the store the other day and I saw People magazine, and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or America, and there was a picture of Pat,” Plummer said. “It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, it’s not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you you’re right or wrong. Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing life’s little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies. Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no facade — what you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”

Blogroll update

When the Tank’s links include a connection to a conservative commentator — Robert Novak — who died 18 months ago, the time is ripe to update the list.

People might not click on them, but the Tank is proud to have included Wikileaks years before it reached the front pages and top stories of mainstream news. And Al Jazeera as U.S. cable companies were (and still are) denying the Qatar-based news organization from airing its English TV station on its programming packages.

It’s been a while since the Tank has clicked on them, and was saddened to see Cagle’s best political cartoons through MSNBC either gone or moved. Other casualties include alternative news sources such as Guerrilla News Network and Real News as well as a blog from talented foreign journalist Dahr Jamail.

The Tank was pleasantly surprised to see Owl Farm Blog from Hunter S. Thompson’s wife, Anita, still alive and well. As I listen to new sounds of Chris & Thomas, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Anita posted some Gonzo journalism from its founder, HST:

“Music has always been a matter of energy for me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel.”

It’s ironic because when I’m not transcribing interviews for stories during the day, I’m listening to music. I’m with HST, it’s fuel. It was also ironic this evening. While I was checking out “Entertain Me or Else,” a blog from my friend Will A, also still alive and well,  Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” played through my headphones. It was fitting because we got fuel from that tune in Duluth circa 2009.

Some other blogroll updates include John Rash, a Star Tribune editorial writer, who had this nice observation, “The CNN identity crisis could also be seen in recent appearances of its current star Anderson Cooper. In the course of two weeks, he got beaten up by Pee Wee Herman in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, then took real punches from pro-Mumbarak mobs in Egypt.”

Rash had this too, “USA Today has five foreign correspondents, according to American Journalism Review, and 27 entertainment reporters, according to a leaked staffing chart.”

Another new link is to “The Enlightenment of Gray,” a blog from college friend Blake Hendrickson. He resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it’s certainly enlightening to get his non-ethnocentric comments.

Another final newbie is Basetrack, the Web site the Tank wrote about two weeks ago. It was from journalists embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan before the U.S. government shut them down a few weeks ago. Although it’s stagnant now, I wouldn’t have known about the lack of success of drone attacks without their Facebook link to a Washington Post story.

The story, which brings up some noxious numbers, said 119 drone attacks, costing $1 million each have killed only two senior-level terrorists.

That’s scary, and with a diversified information list — err, blogroll — we now know such things.



Stop the Sprawl


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

A man, his machete and the first tree he planted.

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.

Pessa and Clay, Planet Drum´s field project leader, discuss tree types in the greenhouse.

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.”


The beat of Planet Drum


Upon arrival, a centipede greeted us in our bedroom in the capital, and a lizard welcomed us in our kitchen in this small coastal town.

Upon daybreak, cars and their horns woke us in Quito, and a variety of birds and their whistles did the same in Bahia.

We reached our second destination on our six-month journey through Latin America at about 6 a.m. on a Monday after a bumpy, jerky and rattling seven-hour bus ride from the Andean highlands to the Pacific coast. That´s a long bus ride for a country the size of Colorado.

Taking the night bus was Pessa’s idea so she could sleep and not feel the dizzying effects of vertigo, the illness she has struggled with for about a week.

Good news: She slept. Bad news: I nearly vomited.

As we traversed the Andeas, the bus never maintained a constant momentum for more than five seconds. Accelerate. Turn. Shift. Brake. Turn. Shift. Ascend. Accelerate. Shift. Decend. Turn. Accelerate. Brake. Decend.

My sleep was scant, but that was of little consequence six hours later as I wrote on a set of oceanfront steps. When the waves are mighty enough, they reach the lower step my feet rest on.

While the ocean water near the equator is surely warm, the water at the Planet Drum house is far from welcoming.

Pessa’s sister, Laura, warned us in a text that the communal environment for the reforestation project we were coming to was “dirty,” but no details followed.

With our own eyes, I thought the second-level apartment was about as dirty as a college frat house – add tropical critters – but the bathroom was downright repulsive. Think about the worst childhood camp latrine you encountered and add equatorial heat. To give a little more detail, the water is sometimes off and you have to use recycled shower water to make your darker deposits flush.

Laura, however, did text that the putrid bathroom was easy to overcome. The daytime waves on my feet surely helped, but we fully understood what she meant when we met the entire group at the daily tradition – el caida del sol or the sunset.

Every night a smattering of residents from this 20,000-person town on a peninsula gather on the western shore to watch the sun disappear into the Pacific.

“Muy rico,” or ¨very refreshing,¨ said Orlando, one of two Ecuadorian men that we just met and would lead us in our reforestation work.

Life on Planet Drum 

Slightly after Tuesday´s daybreak, the slow bass drum of music started beating at about 7 a.m. Our life on Planet Drum had just begun.

That lede makes it seem as though we´ve joined a cult, but its far from it. It´s more laid-back, hippie commune.

(As I would later learn, one meaning of Planet Drum is that we the volunteers are supposed to be setting the beat for bioregionalism, or regions that are more environmental conscious and self-sustaining.)

Our first project would be the reforestation of Bella Vista, a gathering of small, bamboo homes neighboring Bahia to the south. Bella Vista is built on a steep hillside and needs varying tree roots to help stave off erosion, bring it back to its natural habitat, as well as provide cover from the hot sun.

Above the neighborhood’s school and next to one-bedroom homes, I was giving back, digging holes for about seven different varieties of native trees.

Under the blazing hot sun and 90-plus degree temperatures, I would soon praise the  ¨work to live, not live to work” mentality of both our Ecuadorian leaders, Orlando and Ramon.

Come our noon quitting time, we had more than six hours to get ready for another “caida del sol.”

Lost in translation, wealth

During a ensuing caida del sol, I stumbled in telling Orlando about my dad’s plans to buy 20 cows this spring.

“Mi padre comprar viente vacas es primavera,” I said.

He replied with a feigned, “Oh.”

I was thrown off. His response was very subdued for a typically joking and happy middle-aged man.

I know my espanol is broken, but I thought it was comprehendible there. Plus, I thought Orlando could relate to that comment, given his work.

I might have received the answer to his uncharacteristic reply when we returned to Bella Vista the next day.

Orlando lives in a tiny bamboo house in the middle of the barrio, or neighborhood. He probably not only didn’t understand my words; he probably didn’t even relate to being able to purchase something like that.

That doesn´t mean Orlando doesn´t have pride. As we pulled into Bella Vista with a pick-up full of trees, he would shout to neighbors and point to the tiny trees.