Report on Global Change Consultation at Monteverde Friends


1) We re-wrote the queries to be more culturally appropriate to our meeting, more locally focussed and more action oriented.

How has global change affected you and your community?

What actions have you taken in response to global change? Are our activities, individually and collectively, helping or hindering?

How do changes around you affect your relationship with God? How does your relationship with God affect your responses to the changes around us?

How might stories from the past or from scripture inspire us to respond to the changes we face?

How can our practices of justice, compassion and peace guide our use of resources and address significant disruption, trauma and conflict over access to resources?

How can we support each other in building a future we can aspire to in Monteverde in the face of global change?

Is there anything else you would like to say about global change?

2) We held an initial discussion around the queries, but didn’t specifically answer the queries (17 people came). We wanted to get to action but didn’t get there at the first meeting so held a second. There were many new people at this discussion and it was similar to the first (24 people attended). So we held a 3rd meeting and shared a lovely meal made from locally-grown food (with a fun show-and-tell). This time we looked at the areas for action which had been raised in the previous conversations and there was the most interest in doing something around food. So we started a Monteverde Gardener’s Network.

3) The network had it’s first activity last Saturday with 19 of us visiting 3 local food-growers. We did this in a hired minibus. This coming Saturday we have an on-foot visit to another 3 or 4 gardens planned. There are other activities in the pipeline such as an indigenous food growing and cooking demonstration at the local farmer’s market, and starter gardens-in-a-crate to distribute to non-gardeners.

4) A second transport group is considering transport alternatives such as a horse and trap demo maybe for car free day.

The notes from our meetings follow.

Global change conversation notes from Wednesday 6th July 2011 at Bob and Marcy Lawton’s place

Present: part time residents: 3, newcomers: 3, visitors: 3, members: 5, attenders: 3

There was some discussion about whether to define what was meant by ‘global change’ and whether to focus on people’s feelings about the changes but we left it open.

Comments from the circle:

I’m an English prof. and run writing courses, teach ‘Ancient Futures’, the effect of western society on an isolated indigenous[?] city. The students are astonished, defensive. Probably only know the post-globalisation world.
I’m affected by the price of fuel, I can’t afford to go home
I lecture to the tourism industry about sustainability. Mostly people are talking about the problems somewhere else. If I show them problems here people will get angry.
Large multinationals and CAFTA reduces the ability to protect the environment.
Also personal interests – people don’t want to give things up. Those who don’t already have things want them – the there’s 7 billion. It’s catastrophic, it’s unavoidable. China is still poor. It’s about carrying capacity.
And the defence industry and petroleum industry
Bill Moyer’s book ‘Secret Intelligence [Government?]’, and ‘NOW’ on TV (was axed)
We could just say ‘no’
Not all the change has been bad here. It’s much richer culturally now and there has been a lot of reforestation
Species are moving to higher altitude with ecosystem impacts, eg new prey species have no defences, amphibian extinctions. Contributing factors: climate change, road construction, changing land use patterns in the 40s and 50s opening farmland. Also population recovery with habitat restoration. There were lots of stories relating to these biological changes.
Tea party – corporate thinking
A small number of people own most of the wealth. Could have a fairer distribution of resources
Technology is a big change – inequity if you don’t have it
Everyone’s on mobiles. It’s a way to know what’s going on, to organise
What can I do except try to survive? Social security is affected.
Can we live here? Can we depend on our neighbours to share seeds?
I have lived with no income. I could do it on the Caribbean but I’m not sure I could do it here. It’s harder to grow food.
I want to boycott the US and put my energy into somewhere worth it
I don’t want toys
Costa Rica has been forced by CAFTA to have GM seeds
It’s important to get books, eg permaculture
Papaya takes 2 years to grow – getting shorter, maybe 1 year, improved varieties
We could get the bus – it’s cheaper. It takes 2 days!
What do you do about leaf-cutters? Orlando grows off the ground. Put hot water in the nest. If you can find it. Two types, big and small nests.
How much can we do this individually and how much as a community?
We need an international agreement to get off carbon
Some of our toys won’t work
Time is running out – we don’t know how long. Does it matter?
Gilgamesh: took down the cedars of lebanon 11,000 years ago, deforested, changed the ecology. It’s recovered. It doesn’t matter.
It matters to me!
I don’t think it’s hopeless and not good to act as though it is.
There aren’t that many ultra rich so their impact isn’t so great. Wealth isn’t the evil, it’s the growth in population and consumption
The money’s invested in nasty things
Things that you and I buy!
We could stop!
I have a car
If the rich gave half of their wealth away everyone could have a car
Not a good thing! There are limits to materials. We’re going to have less fertilisers, less arable land, less ocean fish, it’s all polluted (Fukushima) and becoming unaffordable
This community (10-15 sub-communities), what can we do now? Is there a will?
This community is a microcosm of the global situation. We can’t get a gas station or public transport
I don’t see a change in my family and neighbours. I can’t see we can avoid a major catastrophe. People aren’t going to change. We have neutering clinics for cats and dogs but it wouldn’t go down to well for people! I’ve been thinking more about this because of this session. I want to know what others think and do. This is good for that. I have no car, no kids and grow food, partly though circumstances. I don’t know what we’ll be able to grow. Dairy is not the best use of land but there’s a market. We need to grow what will grow – natives – and adjust our eating habits. Use greenhouses. What when we can’t get wheat and rice? Learn what people did here in the past and what will work now with new varieties and change in climate
More grounds for optimism: population projection has gone down from 12 billion to 9 billion for 2050[?] because they failed to predict the impact of economics on population growth.
Local family size has gone down because you can’t afford to send more children to college.
3 billion are starving now. 9 billion won’t work.
Carrying capacity. It’s not just number – it’s sharing of resources
We need a pat on the back – conservation of 22,000ha just in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest – carbon sink
CO2 is increasing anyway
People around the world know about Costa Rica and Monteverde and want emulate it
Many countries are oligarchies – Costa Rica is different
Make it better known what’s being done here
Monopolisation of resources, forests become pineapple plantations
Starting a community online newsletter – eg why don’t we have a gas station?
That’s the best thing!
Be satisfied with less
Resistance to the Vietnam war, we need something like that
Gandhi’s work, Mandela in Sth Africa, the Arab Spring is a good inspiration because it’s now and against the odds
Decline of the middle class means there are no customers. Big houses are empty, people can’t afford to heat them.
We should share them
Entire neighbourhoods are empty.
The nuclear family is a bad model
Dr Zhavago, when they returned to their mansion it had many families
Mortgage reluctance – people can’t afford it
Here there are big failed projects, but the economy is still ok
How many came here as a result of the values – hard working, simple living, peace, service? [many said ‘yes’] We used to have Monteverde Town Meetings with community assessments [local charges to pay for services such as water, electricity, phone and roads, mail]. We were more self sufficient.
I find global change overwhelming: people moving 5 days without water, wars – overwhelming
There is a correlation between education and reduced population growth
I wash plastic bags – I don’t do it because I have to
Building bridges – eg talking to people opposed to gay teachers. Sometimes I do what I think is the right thing and sometimes not. Not prepared to give up trips to the States to see family. We should be studying chinese, inviting muslims
Sharing information eg about composting methods
Eating meat uses more resources

Global change conversation notes from Wednesday 20th July 2011 at Bob and Marcy Lawton’s place

I read in National Geographic recently about the Nth African and near East unrest, young people were provoked by the internet. Facebook may be a tool for change
people find out they’re not the only ones that feel that way
the media exaggerates the importance of Facebook. It can endanger activists. It’s used for surveillance
NPR said that cellphones were more important
Doesn’t take mass communications to storm the bastille. Spain has had demonstrations since May in Barcelona
They have a long tradition of anarchist organisers. But the internet legitimises feelings
It’s good news for Monteverde if it doesn’t need the internet. Activism needs to get beyond cyberspace to be real.
Internet is Euro/US focussed, other parts of the world don’t have the same access.
In Asia and Africa there are a lot more cyber cafes where anyone can go whereas in Europe and US you have to have your own computer so poor people don’t have access.
In Columbia, SC there have been Transition Town meetings [Transition Towns is a network of communities that are attempting to make the transition away from petrochemical dependence] Phones are where you can really reach people
They can shut them down – they’d shut down FB in the US in an emergency
They use mobile phones in Africa for checking that drug packs aren’t counterfeit and for collecting health stats
Many of the riots around the world are due to increased food prices. We’re all going to find food more expensive
It’s a product of population. There’s increased vulnerability to catastrophic swings. I have a colleague who worries about a large volcano, cold wiping out crops. We’re dependent on surpluses.
They’re blocking the highway over the free trade agreement, importing rice from the US. Costa Rica could produce its own
How do we want to live? Costa Rica could support 20-25 million, but I don’t want to live like that.
It’s the traders that make the money, not the producers
We could buy Costa Rican
We could grow more of our own
What about in the cities?
Well, there’s something really wrong there
In San Jose people have chickens
One approach is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The big picture is overwhelming. What can we do locally? I’ve been involved in Ecovida, but it’s falling apart. It supports subsistence farmers to get their products to market and go organic. There was a TED talk about how it comes down to 3 things: sharing stories (we’re doing that now), tools (which we have), faith. Faith for me is about community connections.
Wendy’s farm could do CSA with us.
Wendy’s dad is sick and can’t work. The farm is too much for her mum.
Can W. produce cost competitive?
I don’t want to compete. Would rather produce what we can’t currently get locally.
Some ideas eg organic pineapple
Wendy’s mum needs help with the work. CSA can work that way.
MV wholefoods wants to get local food but things come from china, etc
No one will touch farm subsidies
We kept Walmart out of NY
It’s hard to find seeds that aren’t GM.
You can get them from CATIE
People save seeds/share seeds eg for high altitude. Let’s not lose this knowledge nor all the genetic material. Let’s preserve what we need. It’s going to crash – it’s unsustainable.
New people don’t know a lot of the things that people who grew up here know, eg when to plant.
Hermen Brenes’ farm is a good example. He likes to proselytise.
Who grows how many varieties of their own food? [many grow some, a few grow many] Who grows much of their own energy needs (ie staples and oils)?
Traditional farmers such as Jean’s mother-in-law – maize and beans
There are other issues than food, eg multinationals, transport
You can sign on-line petitions, eg at MoveOn you can start your own. Work towards global consensus.
The problem is changing ourselves. Give up plastic bags. Recycling. It’s hard to give up a car.
Hybrids: write to Toyota. Get them to subsidise a hybrid for us.
Effective public transport. Car sharing.
Transport is expensive for Ticos
Ticos want things – computers, you name it
culture needs us to want
SA will only allow Walmart in with unions
Free trade is to enrich US farmers at Ticos’ expense
Farming industry, not farmers
We could change the bus to a hybrid minibus
The Institute has a minibus, maybe it could be used
The scattered community makes transport difficult. Needs clustering.
The Cooperativa Santa Elena donated fruit trees to coffee farmers
The cheese plant need investors. It pays a good price to farmers and is paying a lot for a loan. It invested in the local economy to build it up. It’s very democratic. Three types of shareholders: producers/ex-producers/workers. Producers can dominate and push up the price of milk.
Support the farmers’ market, CSA
How to have local organisations that are viable long-term?
The footprint of the dairy industry here is way lower than the US
Producers are saying we’re not very efficient here. We’re not efficient in labor but are in technology.
Grain for ethanol is pushing up the price
It’s hard to mechanise here because of the terrain
The problem with being sustainable is you can’t make a living?
Sustainable agriculture can get a higher return/acre
My father-in-law’s family comes from an area where people live by subsistence and people live to over 100. They have lack of stress – there’s always food and family/community support
I see a lot of concern about growing consumerism here and wanting to keep the values of sticking together. Wanting to keep the young people. My daughter is suddenly working on the farm after looking like she was going to be drawn to urban living as a teenager.
We could encourage more people to grow more of their own food. Not many people grow food here, it’s like the city. Experienced people can share their knowledge.
I created a wiki Monteverde-sostenible for sharing this kind of info, eg who knows what and where can you get propagans from. [a wiki is a collaborative web site that any invited person can edit] The world people want to live in isn’t compatible with ‘the invisible hand’
I appreciate what’s being said, like the internet acting as an echo chamber. has a free course [ I think (o para español)]. These problems are a symptom of what ails us. Unless we address the causes we will continue to have the problems. We need to change our relationship to the Earth.
I tried to make a community calendar to get people together. If there’s a motivated group – it’s difficult for one person. It’s good for people to know their neighbors
Ancient futures shows a very communal society filled with joy. [You can watch the video here] I am curious and find this exciting – I want to be part of what happens. It needs to be concrete – to go beyond words
I’m an observer – I won’t be around but action is good. Speak by example. Local economy, food was a big theme. Do something. Use local food. Include locals. Make food from local produce.
I’m also visiting – this is an inspirational community
I learned a lot about your visions – I like these topics
We can get involved in what’s already going on – bring these ideas to the things we’re involved in
Next meeting – bring something made of local produce, in the Meeting house so there’s more space

Actions identified for these meetings

Mutual understanding
Discuss whether we will be able to live here? Can we depend on our neighbours?
How much can we do this individually and how much as a community?
What can we do now? Is there a will?
Find out what others think and do.
Build bridges – eg talk to people to build coalitions
What will people do about trips to the States to see family?
Study Chinese, invite Muslims
Be inclusive of the whole community, not just the gringos!

Learn what people did here in the past and what will work now with new varieties and change in climate
Grow what will grow – natives – and adjust our eating habits. Use greenhouses.
Learn to grow staples
Use locally-produced food
Grow more of our own food
Encourage others to grow more of their own food.
Community Supported Agriculture
Start a CSA with Wendy’s farm
Get non-GM seeds from CATIE
Seeds saving and sharing, especially those specialised for local conditions eg for high altitude.
Local gene preservation
Hermen Brenes’ farm visit.

Use the bus
Write to Toyota – get them to subsidise a hybrid for us.
Effective public transport.
Car sharing.
Change the bus to a hybrid minibus
See if The Institute minibus could be used for transport
Boycott the US
Just say ‘no’ [to unsustainable practices?] Work towards an international agreement to get off carbon
Resistance, like in the Vietnam war, Gandhi’s work, Mandela in Sth Africa, the Arab Spring
Take on the multinationals
Sign on-line petitions or start your own, eg at MoveOn . Work towards global consensus.
Knowledge sharing
Get books, eg permaculture
Preserve local knowledge eg about composting methods, pest management
Use Monteverde-sostenible wiki for sharing info or start a community online newsletter

Local economy
Invest in the cheese plant
Invest in the long-term viability of local organisations
Get involved in what’s already going on – bring these ideas to the things we’re involved in

Stop buying bad things[?!] Be satisfied with less
Share big houses
Eat less meat
Buy Costa Rican
Give up plastic bags.
Figure out recycling
Rethink cars.

Family planning clinics
Make it better known what’s being done in Costa Rica and Monteverde
Change our relationship to the Earth

Global change conversation notes from Wednesday 27th July 2011 at The Meeting House

We started off with the question, ‘what do we want out of this?’
some activities we can work on

Work through the headings from last time:

Food [carbon-constrained food security] Transport
Knowledge sharing
Consumption and waste
Activism [campaigning for changes needed nationally/internationally] Local economy
Attitude/education [why aren’t we sustainable and how can we change that?]

Ideas for activities:
have an exchange day, swap things we can give for things we want – we’d find out deeper things about each other, what we can do
set up a local currency (‘funny money’?) to keep our business within the local economy
develop a sense of security/community/interdependence so as not to feel alone in a difficult time. Stories/tools/community – we’re in this together. Long-termers have a sense of community. Newcomers don’t. Be conscious – can be isolationist.

There was a truck that went to Nicaragua during the war and volcano with cheese, clothing etc. We could buy the excess cheese from the fabrica and give it to people
convert the taxis to hybrids
they had electric buses in SJ for a while
Laura Chinchilla drove a Reva during her election campaign.
Katy tried to find a 4WD hybrid and ended up getting a diesel
In Kathmandu they had electric minibus tuktuks. They converted their existing fleet in 90s. Even though it’s a very poor country people would pay 30% more to travel in an electric vehicle – less polluting, quiet. The person who set up that project thinks that Monteverde would be quite feasible to go completely electric and sent the info on how to do the project. I sent it to Electric Cars in Heredia who thought it would be feasible but someone would need to take it on.
Previous attempts to start a shuttle bus have been scuppered by the taxistas
in 1993 there were only 2 taxis, now there are 100 in Santa Elena

We shared an unplanned potluck of local food which somewhat miraculously consisted of a main dish, staples, salad, drink and deserts. We couldn’t have pulled that off if we’d planned!

We did a show-and-tell on where the food came from.
Sarah brought banana bread with bananas from the garden, local eggs and with local zealotry, she hand ground rice to make costa rican flour.
This could be topped with a rhubarb sauce made by Marion with rhubarb from the Trostle’s garden
Harriet grew the vegetables for her vegetable bake and topped it with cheese she made from Benito’s milk
Richard brought a salad picked from his garden
Rowan brought Harriet’s orange sweet potatoes and Larry’s beets sauted with yogurt sauce
Benito, of course, did dairy and preserves but outdid himself with a frozen yogurt bar – berry, mango and something related to tamarillo(?). Plus a jug of mango kiefer which will keep without a fridge
Finished off with fresh fruit c/o Jean G.

The local food show-and-tell went down so well that we’d like to try it with The Potluck sometime.

After dinner the conversation continued:

working with local farmers they reckon we have 6-8 years of quality life left
we could generate electricity from wind, geothermal
the wind plant at the Creativa had its batteries stolen
Most people were interested in looking at food, some at transport and a few of the other topics, but we decided to start with food.

Food projects
Visit Ernan Brenes’ farm and Dev and Harriet’s garden
EB wants to record what he knows about plant usage

Who is producing what locally?
Orlando’s hidroponica
Hugo Grey’s garden
El Bosque’s garden
How to build a greenhouse – on the web
School garden, community garden, could be part of the curriculum
‘How to compost’ leaflet
Harriet pointed out that growing your own food in Monteverde is a lot of work and more effort/knowledge that people expect or are willing to do. She suggested creating mini gardens in crates to get people started
Could have ‘make your own crate’ workshop’. Use vegetable crates lined with plastic. Can be buried to protect against gophers
Jean – International Slow Food day demo at the feria. Indigenous foods, recipes, cooking demos, tasting
Take it to churches, schools, neighbourhoods
Share propagans with neighbours. What to use when.
Seed bank
Food trees, Marie Cecile’s Pura Fruta Pura Vida, plant fruit trees on public land
Where to start?
Several people will join Jean for the next Slow Food day activity and to see where to take that
Sarah, Harriet, Beni, Willy, Richard, Rowan and Jonathan to be in a gardening network to share knowledge, materials and for mutual support [expect invitations soon – please ask one of these people if you’d like to be included]

Gardening network will then be the basis for organising garden visits, and future gardening activities

Also note:

we couldn’t hear each other over the rain at first
we acknowledged that we already do a lot