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Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  588 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
One of the world's most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published May 1st 1998)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
62nd out of 579 books — 771 voters
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best sustainability
42nd out of 207 books — 228 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,320)
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Feb 28, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
This reminds me of Audre Lorde's quote, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." So what tools should we use? And once the house is dismantled, what do we build instead? Using Gaviotas as a case study, it takes a whole lot of trial and error, and taking absolutely no ideas or assumptions for granted.

I think my favorite phrase from this book was along the lines of "This isn't a utopia. It's a topia." This realistic approach to sustainable ideals is so encouraging.

It's intere
Feb 12, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mark by: Brooks
It is funny how today we are talking about the energy crisis and 20 years ago people were already working on it. The problem isn't that there isn't cheap renewable energy but that no one knows about it.

Nothing shows this more than when the Colombian presidential canidate shows up and says "hey when I become president I want your solar panels on our building." Then the author mentions how Jimmy Carter put solar heating panels on the whitehouse and gave incentinves to the development of alternativ
Sep 12, 2007 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in alternative ideas
In 1971, a group of Colombians set out to prove that people could survive and thrive in a barren environment - in this case, the barren eastern savanna of their country. And, amid Columbia's violent political upheavals, they did. One of the most hopeful accounts of living lightly, kindly, and creatively on the earth I've read. Brilliant ideas and persistent research led the community to total energy self-sufficiency. Insightful writing.
Gregory Tkac
Nov 25, 2012 Gregory Tkac rated it it was amazing
Real people doing real work to solve real problems - we should all be as ballsy and inspired with our precious time here. No matter what you think of Weisman's writing style (not a problem at all for me - I liked it and thought it helped keep a lot of information that otherwise might be overwhelming nicely flowing), this is an essential historical account of a few people taking big chances and the rest of us being much better off for it. Should be mandatory reading for all sectors of society. Th ...more
Jan 08, 2013 Joanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
What an amazing story about what people CAN do if they're willing to think differently from the status quo. Here's a situation where a person with a a vision (Paolo Lugari) to develop an alternative to his struggling society (the story starts when Columbia's main problems were related to population explosion) and in the process creates a community for a better world.

What fascinated me in this story is how Lugari and the people that followed him embraced and collaborated with the Guahibo indians
Jun 29, 2015 Thomas rated it it was amazing
In the arid plains of eastern Columbia lies the tiny village of Gaviotas, cut off from the outside by exceedingly unforgiving jungles, which also happen to be occupied by a bewildering variety of violent guerillas (NOT gorillas).

The book portrays a well nigh impossible scene there: natives, settlers, and alternative-development types using renewable energy, creative lo-tech engineering, and a culture of egalitarianism to find sustainable ways to thrive (for 50 plus years now) in the badlands of
Dec 08, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
I gave it a 4 because I think learning about Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World is a very worthwhile read.

Some have commented that the writing was weak. I think it was a difficult book to write since it was about a lot of people, technological changes, and broad spectrum of chronological changes.

I was fascinated with the success of the people in Gaviotas. I am very intrigued about their mission. The political and economic alternative it presents is worth the read.

The following links pr
May 06, 2008 Astin rated it it was amazing
This book flies in the face of pessimists grown frustrated with the status quo.
Gaviotas is a topia, born in the savannas of Columbia where nothing would grow, and nobody cared. Surrounded by an austere environment, this topia survived the ebs and flows of political climate changes, the intense guerilla and narcotraficantes that have engulfed their nation, and has become a beacon that the world would do well to pay attention to!
Technology for alternative energy has been available for decades
Aug 04, 2008 DJ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who looks at our cities and dreams of something better
Shelves: nature
Entrepreneurs all throughout the world today are seeking to retrofit our bulky, inefficient city infrastructures to create sustainable communities. More than 35 years ago, Paolo Lugari and a group of Colombian engineers and dreamers took a different approach and, beginning with a barren savanna, built their own sustainable community from scratch. Over the next few decades, 'Gaviotas' became the largest tropical reforestation project in the world and a hot bed of 'appropriate technology', years b ...more
Jul 18, 2007 Mareana rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People with imagination and who desire to improve the environment
This book was amazing. It tells the story of an Columbian village that created a safe, self-sufficient, and flourishing community in the middle of not only a desert but a gorrilla military torn country. Ever wonder how hydroponic growing was discovered? Or how about the world's first solar powered refridgerator? This book brings you step by step how these amzaing inventions were thought of and built by a village working together for everyone's benefit.

This book will change the way you approach a
Jan 23, 2009 George rated it it was amazing
A fine environmental success story: artists, engineers and philosophers, 16 hours from the nearest city on barren and leached grasslands in Eastern Columbia, regenerate an ancient native rain forest, invent wind turbines, solar collectors that work in the rain, water pumps that hook up to children's see-saws, grow food in water and give new meanings to sustainable development and appropriate technology.
It's written in a personal, light and deceptively easy style by Alan Weisman who included this
Feb 15, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
I haven't read a non-fiction book this inspiring in a few years. It's almost like reading historical fiction ... the innovations of this community in Columbia seem unreal, and the social structure that of fairy tales. I checked this out of the library but just went ahead and bought a copy to keep at hand for times when inspiration is needed. Sometimes books that relate to "sustainable living" seem so contrived to me, I guess the timing was right for this one.
Nov 14, 2007 Annie rated it really liked it
Inspiring read. In drug-infested, violence-torn Columbia, a group of optimistic and persistent inventors begin to develop technologies (often from the most surprising materials and processes!) to contribute to sustainability (water heating, water purification, energy, agricutlure, and more...)in the most unlikely places... Their research has sparked a revolution in environmental thinking and planning.
Samantha Brooks
Apr 06, 2016 Samantha Brooks rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite environmental books that I've read. It reinvigorated my hope and passion for protecting the environment in the face of daunting challenges.
Nov 24, 2014 Jazmin rated it it was amazing
Life changing... This book helped me to develop my plan for what I want to do with my life and the legacy I'd like to leave.
Brooke Nadzam
Apr 21, 2016 Brooke Nadzam rated it liked it
Read this for a second time. It has some inspirational parts, but also some parts that make you sad...making it quite the real story! What I got out of it this time was that there were tons of "morals to the story". My idea this year for a beginning of the year test is to write otu the morals I saw and then have them see how those morals apply to what they read. Should be an interesting application of thier knowledge in a way they can use to future experiments.

2016 Reading: again, it's a inspiri
Jun 27, 2007 Kimberly is currently reading it
I straight up borrowed this book from Wiley because he said he thought I'd like it. Gaviotas is an intentional community in Columbia whose purpose started out as a partial solution to the population problems in Columbia and partial land/science experiment. One of it's main purpose's in 25+ years that it has been around is to collaborate with scientists, engineers, agronomists, and all kinds in the industrial world to create cheap, environmentally sustainable technology for "third world" countrie ...more
Dec 22, 2010 Ross rated it liked it
Shelves: sustainability
Gaviotas, the sustainable intentional community in Columbia, gets five stars. But Gaviotas, the book gets only three, because the poor writing style and neigh-inexistent narrative arc make it hard for the reader to build up any momentum.

Readability aside, I agree with other reviewers here that the substance of the story is remarkable. The way that Pablo Lugari, the town's founder, succeeded in building and sustaining this community in harmony with nature is an inspiration. Because the site began
Carl Williams
Aug 24, 2014 Carl Williams rated it liked it
Though written in a circular and sometimes confusing style and with a plethora of characters that are only sometimes introduced this is a powerful and important story of the way a group of Colombians built and alternative sustainable community on the savannah surrounded by political unrest and indiscriminate violence. An important story.
Nov 10, 2015 Mimi rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book. I can't believe I had never heard of Gaviotas, the place, before. Now I want this author to go back and revisit, give us an update, as the book was written in 1995. I have just found out there is a 2008 edition which I'm sending for.
Aug 08, 2014 Shira rated it liked it
This is the book mentioned by webfarmer in ref. to Red Trueque and the Tomas in Argentina & the movie The Take (about the takeovers by factory workers of abandoned factories -poor translation...)
Sep 03, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An inspiring, inviting profile of the Colombian topia, Gaviotas. The story of how these engineers, scientists, and local llaneros built a sustainable paradise in the Colombian savanna was breath-taking to read. It gives me hope for the future to know there are people out there who can make dreams like this a reality, and that Gaviotas is still going over all this time!
Jul 15, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it
Excellent easy read book that explores the magic of a lesser known place in Colombia that strives to create a self-sustaining society in Los llanos.
Dec 25, 2010 Faye rated it really liked it
I am glad I overlooked the poor writing style and loose ends and read the entire book because the story is fascinating and instructive. Paolo Laguri decides that starting a settlement in the desolate savannah of Columbia is the answer to the problem of overpopulated cities. I don't agree with the original motivation as I think population control is needed but the community he started and built was truly inspiring. Engineers working on solutions, working with nature and not against it. Rebuilding ...more
Inspiring story of possibilities
Kevin Fanning
Sep 28, 2008 Kevin Fanning rated it really liked it
I started reading "The World Without Us" and realized that it's by the same author as this book, which I read years ago. Gaviotas really blew me away at the time, and was a keystone in helping to restore some of my long-term faith in humanity. It's a really amazing story. The kind of book that you have to pass along to someone else. It was given to me by an old friend, and when I was done I sent my copy to Leslie Harpold. She was really excited to read it. I wonder whatever happened to it.
Jul 19, 2014 Christine rated it it was amazing
Inspiring. We have no excuses.....
Mary Jo
Aug 30, 2008 Mary Jo rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mary Jo by: Peace Museum, Chicago
All things are possible and the path toward a balanced life starts with one step, then another, then another.... Honestly, with all the conversations, debates, et al. about what "we" can and can't do, read this. It's clarity. It's possibility. It's courage. And it's a true-life story that lives the Margaret Mead quote about what it takes to change the world: us. As individuals as well as groups of folks who happen to care and who desire change.
Sep 01, 2016 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. So inspiring. I can only hope the work of Gaviotas will one day receive the attention it deserves and inspire change all over the world.
Aug 30, 2013 Amrutha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. It was great to know that, there is a community in Colombia, that gives back more to nature than it takes away from it, a community that freely shares knowledge with everyone, a community whose citizens truly experience peace and a community whose central ideas ought to be adopted in other parts of the world.

As I was reading it, I wished I was resident of Gaviotas. Someday, I hope I can visit this community.
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Book Review 1 1 Nov 03, 2015 01:27PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Gaviotas by Alan Weisman 1 10 Feb 15, 2015 03:02PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, and in many anthologies, in
More about Alan Weisman...

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