Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Conference!

The conference was a raging success! The event was called Foro Nacional de Technologias Apropiadas (National Forum of Appropriate Technology). There were groups doing work with solar technology, recycling, biodiversity, alternative energy, organic farming and production, sustainable building, bio-diesel, alternative health, free software, education and more. I don’t know exact numbers, but a couple hundred people came to the evening speeches and discussions and about 4,000 came through the tabling fair on Saturday and Sunday. We had a booth with information about Walk With Earth, solar ovens for sale (we sold all of them within a few hours), and art activities and games for kids. Our coolest feature was the “Arbol de Esperanza” or “Tree of Hope.” We drew a trunk and branches on a big piece of butcher paper and asked people to write or draw their hopes for the earth on paper leaves. People got way into it and the tree is now going to live at Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca.

Here’s the Arbol de Esperanza on Saturday morning, then on Sunday afternoon. The woman with the piece of paper is Renata Austin. She is from Berkeley but is living in Oaxaca until August. Rolene hired her to help with the conference planning and she is a great organizer and friend.
This is Gustavo Esteva who founded Universidad de la Tierra, the major co-sponsor of the conference. There were about 10 people on the planning committee, but Gustavo was the major organizer. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend much time with him because I was sick before the conference and then we were all too busy during the conference. He is planning on doing another conference in 6 months since this one went so well.

Rolene led a workshop based on the work of Joanna Macy. We talked in small groups and shared with each other as if it were the year 2039 and we had already made great changes and had learned how to live in harmony with the earth. We got to talk about how bad “it used to be” back in 2009 and the challenges we faced in making it better.
The next activity was called “Council of all beings” and people volunteered to wear a mask and speak for the animal they were representing. The masks were pretty hilarious, but people were emotional in their responses and spoke very deeply about their concerns for the environment. This was a very cool way for people to talk about their fears and passions. Mr. Cheetah spoke about how scared he was about the loss of habitat and how he didn’t know if he could care for his children.

This group, CAMPO, built a small house in two days right in the middle of the tabling fair. They made the frame and then poured dirt in and compressed it with a machine and then moved the frame up to make the next layer. If they were making a permanent house they would then mud the walls to seal it, but at the end of the conference they just knocked it down and hauled all the dirt away.

bike-powered water pump

We were in Oaxaca for the first day of Spring. Part of their celebration was this parade. The kids were all dressed up and needless to say it was CUTE!

We just got back to Managua, Nicaragua and are headed out to visit friends of my friend, Lisa, today. I only have a few more weeks of walking, then back home after a couple weeks in Mexico. Time flies!

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