Introduction to Green Letters
Our therapeutic, ecological and self-sufficiency community, called ‘Atlantis’, previously
resident on an offshore Irish island, had been living in Colombia for six years when I started
writing these reports.
The earlier history, activities and attitudes of the community, which was
founded in London in 1970, can be found in the many books we have written, now available on:
www.deunantbooks.com We welcome correspondence at:
You can download these pdf files. Please share with friends -
GREEN LETTER No. 1 from COLOMBIA
From Jenny James
An Open Letter to the Green Movements of Europe
The region we're living in is called El Pato, which is the only mountainous area of the Province
of Caquetá, S.E. Colombia, and as such is of great importance for the provision of water to
lower-lying settlements and contains some of the water sources which flow to the Amazon basin.
This area is one of “invasión” as they say in Spanish, that is, there is no such thing as a
population indigenous to Caquetá, except for the few remaining Indian groups. Everyone you meet
here is from somewhere else in Colombia and most people haven’t been here very long. And
practically everyone is engaged in some form of illegal activity, mainly wood cutting and opium
poppy-growing. The government pretends to ban these (to please the U.S.), but doesn't. £5 to a
policeman will get a lorry-load of wood through, and the occasional toxic aerial spraying by
air by the government, - a ‘solution’ which kills everything around and damages people - is the
government's absurd way of sorting out the poppy problem.
The fact that there are no real “Caqueteños” - people born here - means two things:
1. It is a very friendly region (everyone is “in it” together) - no police, army or government
law; it is a Zona Roja - Red Zone - where the guerrilla rule (reasonably well) and...
In this most unlikely of environments where trees are crashing to the ground every day and
where there were 300 avalanches to cross on the only road the day we came into the region
(13th July, 1994) because of erosion, the only Green Party in Colombia has just been formed.
2. That practically no-one gives a damn about the wreckage they are causing to the environment,
the forested mountains, the animals living in them, and the water that flows from them.
Practically no-one grows food crops of any kind. What vegetables there are arrive from Bogota,
the capital of Colombia. Everyone thinks we are wonderful for growing a few lettuces and some
spinach and blackberries.
It was conceived the day I came in, unbeknown to me at the time, because 3 children died that
night in their sleep, their hut swept away by one of the avalanches and one Eduardo Rincon,
now Green Party representative on the local council (in San Vicente del Caguán), said
“That's enough. We have to do something”, and formed his party. He was at the time arranging to
have a helicopter flown into the region with food as nothing could get in by road.
The long and the short of it is, that he, I, and several other dedicated people are putting all
our personal monies, time and energy into attempting to do something radical, rapid and visible
in this region with the perhaps utopian determination to make it a model example of what can be
done in a catastrophic situation. Apart from showing people by practical example how to grow
vegetables and live organically and ecologically, my own part I hope to be the following: -
I want to interest Green Groups in Europe in this project so that their involvement with saving
the Amazon forests becomes more personal and direct, and therefore, hopefully, will generate
lots of energy and optimism amongst the people here. I know from being on the European end how
depressingly huge and intangible the whole
issue can seem, however much one wants to help. And I know from working with the people here that they feel totally isolated: they were amazed to hear that there's any such thing as a Green Movement in Europe or that anyone cares. These are in the main completely ordinary campesinos – poor peasants - who have most of them earnt their living by cutting forest, but now, forced to see and live with the results of this activity, have undergone a change of consciousness. I feel passionate about not letting this strong spark die and to this end want to beg for the following:
1. Correspondence from any Green Groups in Europe, specifically letters of caring, support, and
encouragement, for the people here. I will translate everything that arrives.
The smallest amount of European money goes a very long way here. All projects and use of money,
reliability of the Green people involved, etc., can be checked upon by the direct contact method
suggested and would in any case be under constant vigilance by us here.
2. Visits from anyone who is willing to come out and see and touch the problem, and talk to the
people here (I'll act as interpreter where needed). We are in a position to arrange hospitality –
(vegetarian) food and simple rustic, but cosy accommodation.
3. Financial aid, however small, for specific projects which visitors can see, get involved
with and and check on. For example: £1,000 (English pounds) can save thousands of acres of
virgin forest by purchasing an “entry area” into ownerless forest lands - and banning the entry
of anyone through it. This works - we have purchased a belt with our own money and local people
are loath to fight with us, as they value our presence. Such lands could be in the name of the
Green Party and looked after by them. It is a very real way of stopping the advance of the
chainsaw. Another excellent use of funds is to help set up small local projects to give people
an alternative to slaying trees. Eduardo Rincon, the Green Councillor has a list of ideas and
would talk to anyone who wants to help. Local people have told me how they would like to set up
a cane-sugar processing plant (sugar-cane grows as easily as grass here, yet the local people
go to town to buy ‘panela’ – brown block cane-sugar). These would be self-perpetuating projects,
with some of the proceeds going towards creating more “Green” activities.
All questions, queries, doubts, suggestions, please send to:
Jenny James, El Movimento Verde, Apartado Aéro 895, Neiva, Huila, Colombia, South America.
Visitors can turn up at any time without announcement. Get yourself to Neiva, the capital town
of the Department of Huila. Then a Cotranshuila bus to Rovira, Caquetá. (Rovira is a tiny hamlet,
just a few shacks on the ‘main road’ – a dirt track – don’t blink or fall asleep, else you’ll
miss it!) Then a 3 hour uphill exhausting walk to our forest farm - ask for the “finca de los
gringos” (the name donated all foreigners unfortunately – equivalent to ‘Yankees’) and you will
most definitely need a guide. Then we will look after you and take you to visit all the relevant
people and places. Heavy luggage can be left in Rovira at the Tienda “El Escorpion” of Ricardo.
This is safe (tested and tried). We will collect it later by mule.
Please reproduce this letter and pass it on to other green groups that you know of.
Administration costs of any money sent: guaranteed NIL! We run on passion and fear!
GREEN LETTER No. 2 from COLOMBIA
Second letter from the province of Caquetá to the Green movements of Europe.
1ST February, 1995
I am an Englishwoman living and working with the nascent Green movement in Caqueta, South East
Colombia, South America.
It is breathtakingly depressing. It is one thing to hear of the
destruction of beautiful
and jungles when one is in Europe - that is bad enough. It is quite another to hear the
gnashing and grating of a chainsaw ringing in one's ears daily, gritting one's own teeth
against the inevitable terrible thud that makes me and the earth shudder as another
irreplaceable giant crashes to the ground. Or to walk for days on end in direct overhead sun
with one's whole body crying out for the relief of shade and water as one crosses yet another
The elation, then, of meeting people - an ex-travelling salesman, a Green councillor, ordinary
campesinos (peasants), a retired police officer - full of the urgent desire to re-educate,
reforest, redirect, turn the tide of destruction. And the ensuing crushing depression as one
watches them drown in a sea of bureaucracy and despair, impotent through lack of funds or help.
I put my hope in these passionate, simple, caring people. Yet they are putting their hope in me.
I am European, and for them European means money, intelligence, help.
But I left my country, England, forever in disgust 20 years ago, to seek and find the
“natural world”. Now I have found the ‘natural’ world, and it is bleeding, screaming. I am over
50 years old, and travelling around the hot, flat lands of Southern Caquetá where the great
rivers are half the size they were a few years ago, and where the only wild animals one sees
are stuck on people's walls as trophies, and I am making vegetable gardens for anyone who will
let me. It is entirely pathetic: people stare in wonder and admiration because I clean up
plastic waste, collect organic matter to form compost, grow a few lettuces. All around is enough
land to feed the whole region on vegetables, but instead it feeds cattle to be slaughtered for
the rich, fat city people. I am not even an expert gardener. By profession, I am a linguist and
psychotherapist. And I am cracking up with what I see.
I have an idea. I always hated giving money to charity, thinking what horrible bureaucrat is
going to waste this? Yet financial aid is the most obvious, the most rapid and the most potent
thing that the average concerned European can give. My idea, as I described in Green Letter No. 1
, is that Green groups in Europe should “adopt” small local projects here, keeping in direct
personal contact with the problems and the progress, completely bypassing all government
interference and control, visiting whenever you like, receiving hospitality on our farms and
with local communities who are trying to reverse the terrible tide of false “development” that
is engulfing them. I asked the initiator of one local group to write something for me to
translate. Here it is:
January 28th 1995
I struggled up the hour-long mountain path to La Union one night with two of my kids, barefoot
as the deep mud made shoes useless. The mudslide is caused by years of mule-trains lugging
blocks of newly felled wood down to the road for now-illegal transportation (the police are
glad it's illegal - it means automatic bribes for them to get the stuff through). I slept on
bare boards in the cold mountain air in a bachelor shack and awoke to a magnificent sight: we
were at the flat top of this particular mountain range and watched the brilliant sun rising
over rolling forests below. Our host was a young member of the newly formed Green Party of El
Pato. All around us were giant trees.
Vereda La Union No. 2
Caquetá, Colombia (NB: Not a postal address).
To anyone who wants to help:
The hamlet called “La Union” is one of 22 settlements which comprise the region of El Pato,
better known as part of the headlands from which spring the waters of the “lungs of the World”,
(i.e.: the Amazon basin).
This settlement consists of more or less an 8 kilometre radius and has a well-constructed
community action group (Junta de ACCION COMMUNAL). We want to you to know that the colony is
new and that not more than 10 hectares have of the forest have been opened up, and that the
desire of this whole community is not to cut down any more forest, and in order not to do this,
we want to start a communal project of making cane sugar (panela: blocks of unrefined brown
sugar used everywhere in this part of the world). In addition to this, we want to turn this
settlement into an exemplary model of an organic farm.
We are sufficiently organised to boast a primary school, a communal pharmacy and legal status
(“personeria juridica” - required by the Colombian government before you can legally breathe!),
but are simple people of scant resources to proceed further. Our planned projects would benefit
everyone as we are totally committed to preserve nature, the water, the flora and fauna, as we
are a group of people who have understood that to deforest further is to destroy ourselves and
to protect nature is to protect ourselves.
Fernando Zapata, President of the community action group, “La Union”, North Caquetá, Colombia.
“Er, what do you live from?” I asked. “Cutting wood,” came the sincere reply.
Then he added: “You must understand that we have only very recently become conscious of what we
are doing, and we need help to change to planting crops to earn our living.”
I understood. I hope you do too. Please duplicate and distribute this letter and communicate
with us at the address in Green Letter No. 1.
Contact address in Ireland:
An Droichead Beo, Burtonport,
GREEN LETTER No. 3 from Colombia
Atlantis Farm, Caqueta, Colombia
18th March, 1995
3rd letter to the Green movements of Europe.
Dear Becky, Earthwatch, Friends of the Earth, the Green Party of Ireland, John Barron,
Your letter of 8th March, Becky, about your meeting with the Green Party of Ireland, has just
arrived and has made two women and a bunch of children very happy indeed. Thank you all you
people whose names I don't know for your generous and immediate support for our cry from
Colombia. I have said for months to the “Green” people here: “Look, I have no power to make
anyone in Europe help. All I can do is to give you a voice, put words to what is happening,
send my letter to the winds via my daughter, Becky, and see what happens. All I know is that
there are lots of people in Europe who care and who desperately want to do something, and who
don't know what to do.”
Your report of your first meeting, Becky, gives us so much enthusiasm to keep going. I hope by
now you received my letter No. 2, written in the hot flat-lands of Caquetá, where I journeyed
for several weeks till I was as blank, as flat , as dry and depressed as the hellish countryside
I was looking at. I talked with everyone and anyone - an old man trying to start a Green group
in his little riverside-town; the principal of an agricultural college who wanted to create some
sense of caring in his students; housewives; peasant women; a boat owner; a black Kenyan
missionary priest; a crippled Indian running a centre to teach crafts to landless Indians in
Leguizamo in the province of Putumayo.
I travelled on cargo boats down the sluggish, contaminated, half-empty rivers of Caquetá - a
dozen times I had to get out of the boat and help to push or pull it when it got stuck on
sandbanks. Once we were stuck for two days. These rivers are the “roads” of Caquetá and each
year the water level goes down and down in the dry season, till transport is practically at a
standstill. I wanted to get a boat down the Putumayo River to Amazonas province, but was told
there could be no movement of boats “till the rains come” – in May. This was February. And what
will happen when the rains no longer come?
I travelled the long way back home, through unbearably hot, airless, insect-ridden, treeless
landscapes, back to our little mountain farm where it is cool and green and we are surrounded
by trees. It is an illusion of peace and safety and health. But I needed that illusion! My soul
could take no more. I knew one thing from my travels: it is too late for those flatlands.
Cattle have taken over, money has taken over; coca (to make cocaine) rules. But it is definitely
not too late for this last little range of mountain forest where we live, even though I arrived
home to a smoke-laden atmosphere: it is burning time on the farms of Caquetá. I took a firm
hold on myself: “Right, Jenny, you definitely do not need to see any more. The end of the world
is real, right on your doorstep. You'd better grow as many carrots as possible.”
Translated, this means I am only one small woman, with a facility for running rather successful
little organic farms; and this I shall do. Because if I go “out there” anymore, I'll go barmy.
I have gathered a list of contacts throughout Caquetá, little nascent, unhappy Green groups or
individuals struggling in these last days to STOP the horror that is happening. I write to them
and try to imbue them with a sense of hope I often don't feel. Now your news comes, Becky, news
that tells me that people over there do care, and I'll translate this news and send it flying to
the people and places where it will matter most. And I will keep on growing those carrots to
show people earth actually produces food - something they seem to have forgotten round here;
and that it's possible to leave some trees growing on cow pasture and not to strip the whole
mountainside. And the children will continue to march off when the fires are nearby to complain
with tears and indignation about the burning to uncomprehending farm-workers who stare and
smile because they don't know how to handle this strange interruption of their usual routine.
And I repeat again our offer to house, feed, help and inform any “Green” people who feel the
incentive to come and assess the situation in this little corner of Colombia, with a view to
doing something concrete to help those who care.
Love and gratitude to you, unknown friends,
(and Anne and 8 kids aged 9 - 17)
Contents GL 4:
Local Green Party banned by FARC ... but Green Campaigning gets under way.
Beginning of our Green Theatre -
The farm project blooms and spreads...
Green Letter No. 4 from COLOMBIA
Dear Green People in Europe,
2nd August, 1995
We have just received our latest load of 'Green' post from Europe - because of our rural
situation, this only occurs once a month or less. Also, for the first time in months, someone
arrived from our supporting commune in Tolima with a little bit of money so we can afford
postage to send out a big THANK YOU.
THANK YOU Becky and Magdalena in Ireland for your heart-warming enthusiasm and endless energy,
your exciting letters and your co-ordination of all contacts.
THANK YOU Nestor Ocampo for taking the Colombian message to Germany and Ireland.
THANK YOU 'BUND' (a German environmental group) for enabling Nestor to go to Europe.
THANK YOU Steve Thompson of Sheffield for your brilliant work in obtaining us free seeds - and
thank you Unwins Seeds for your generous offer!
And thank you all the people who have written offering help or wanting to visit - I will write
individually to you all.
News from Colombia -
to be used discreetly please - contains the stresses of any
campaign in troubled waters.
The guerrilla force which rules the countryside in many parts of Colombia has banned, if you
please, the Green Party. This is not as catastrophic as it sounds as they have not banned
'green work', in fact are supporting it, doing their own best to educate the country people
regarding preservation, and have prohibited further forest cutting in certain key areas.
It seems the ban results from political jealousies and intrigues, and is nothing to do with
ecological ideas, which they loudly applaud. They have given us a complete green light, excuse
pun, to go ahead with our projects! but are severely questioning the political motivations of
our figurehead, Eduardo Rincon, our elected Green Councillor. This puts us in a schizophrenic
position which I will worry about privately and not bother you with! This is Colombia, ergo all
things are possible, both excellent and atrocious.
On the practical front, I have received a touching letter from the president of our 'model'
community several hours' journey from here, Fernando Zapata of the La Union settlement, who
says that his little hamlet have set up a community 'huerta' - vegetable garden. I gave him
seeds for this, and have more waiting. Eduardo Rincon reports that in spite of the above bumps,
his work on the San Vicente council (the capital town of this department) is going well; he has
also managed to obtain a Government grant to get a study of the flora and fauna of this area
done by experts - a ghastly waste of money in his opinion and ours, but unfortunately it's the
official way to get things done. All you actually need is £5 for a long busride along this
valley to see the problem: hills deforested nearly to the top. I've also recently heard news
that the Colombian Government have banned any further logging and that therefore all the
tortured mules in this area (used for dragging enormous blocks of wood of the forests) are up
for sale at very cheap prices. This needs confirmation, I'll get excited when I believe it, but
I must say I haven't heard the heart-sinking sound of lorries down on the valley road trundling
night and day with their tragic cargo for some time. (We're three hours up the mountain, but
certain air conditions send these depressing sounds to us) Living so far away, it's quite
possible you in Europe may get this type of news before us - do let us know!
On the farm here, we have lived for months without money, and very well, as our intensive
organic vegetable garden and our manure factory - that is, a huge enclosure full of sexy
guineapigs who oblige by mating night and day - supply us with excellent food. We have also
raised a magnificent brood of children, from a variety of parents, who have been brought up
exclusively in a pre-20th century rural environment, many of whom are now approaching an age of
choice - early teens - and all of whom, after trips into urban-landia, have chosen unequivocally
to remain in the mountains and use their art, their music, their acting talents and their hard
work to promote green work, which in our case mainly means providing a living, working,
visit-able example of non-noxious country life. All of these children performed stunningly in a
Green wordless dance-, mime- and music play I invented for them which was shown to a huge
audience at the local school.
We are starting to 'over-produce' deliberately, so that we can take fresh vegetables - unheard
of in the countryside! - for sale, barter and giving away to neighbours, local settlements and
villages. This is excellent propaganda, and people are touchingly impressed and show an
unexpected openness to being taught how to use such 'exotic' items as water-cress and kale.
We pay for all personal favours, such as the loan of mules, gifts of sugar-cane seed, or
collecting our post, with celery, lettuce, lemons; and more depressingly, with gifts of local
ethnic perpetual foods such as the guatila, which are unknown in this newly-colonised area,
whereas in Tolima, where we have another farm, the many, many varieties of easily-grown 'Indian'
crops are still well-known, if often despised as 'pig-food' by better-off campesinos.
How strange to be showing Colombians how to cook tasty excellent perpetual (self-propagating)
Having coped (after just one year on this farm) with our own food-needs, we are now branching
out to tree-seeding, that is, nurseries for baby trees which we will offer free to anyone willing
to replant. This is only symbolic because of the scale we are operating on - but we can only be
as big as we are. The message travels even when the seeds don't, and there is absolutely no
hostility regarding what we are saying, though of course often there is a quiet, patronising
incomprehension, as in, “But there are so many trees everywhere - look! We're tired of seeing
My gardens are calling - we have to plant every day double what we eat to keep going - so I
will close with an invitation to anyone, anywhere to visit without announcement; to write; or
to communicate with our Irish group, c/o my daughter Rebecca Garcia, An Droichead Beo
(The Living Bridge), Burtonport, Co. Donegal, Eire or c/o our Colombian representative
Magdalena Lasprilla living on our sailing boat The Atlantis Adventure, c/o Baltimore P.O,
County Cork, S. Ireland.
P.S. In answer to all correspondents who ask what they can do if financial help is beyond them,
here are some of our needs:
We need information from anyone who knows about seed production. We find ourselves totally
ignorant as to how to reproduce European vegetables. At the moment, we are assuming that these
crops need a winter – and we can't provide one! - or that there is some involved scientific
process that we wouldn't be able to handle. Is this correct please, all you educated ones in
Blessings to you all, and thankyou,
Stationery is a problem - an emotional one knowing that even this paper was once a tree - and a
technical one as we live without money. The above address in Burtonport, and another in London
obtainable from Becky, act as collection points for material gifts, and anyone travelling to us,
please always contact Becky first if you are able to bring stuff here. We need: typing, writing
and drawing paper, airmail paper, end envelopes, any 'green' visual materials for schools;
manual typewriter ribbons, correcting fluid and solvent for same; carbon paper; pencils, biros,
colouring materials; small gardening utensils; seeds, including herbs and flowers;
simple first-aid gear; basic toilet goods; simple cotton clothes, all ages; wools for knitting;
creative learning toys; sensible shoes all sizes; homeopathic treatment for farm animals
(cows, horses, rabbits); natural fibre materials for making and mending, e.g. old sheets and
pillow-slips; Vaseline and Lanolin for home remedies; copies of 'Donde No Hay Doctor'
(Where There Is No Doctor); pins, needles, threads and all basic sewing gear; any tools,
however old-fashioned and even if they need mending; early reading materials, English and
Spanish. In fact - you name it, we can use it! (except electrical gear or anything that runs on
Finally, if anyone does want to make a donation, however small, this will be added to a fund to
save the next bit of forested mountain. It can be sent to Mary Kelly, who has been with us 15
years, via Lloyds Bank to the Banco Anglo-Colombiano, Bogotá, Colombia. You will need to mention
her Cedula No. (Identification Card): 256982; and Irish Passport No. M631462. We are completely
happy for anyone to follow up on the final destination of their donation.
If anyone would like to see any particular aspect of life here dealt with in these letters,
please let us know.
Jenny James, compañeros and children
Address: Caquetá Rainforest Campaign , AA 895, NEIVA,
HUILA, Colombia, South America
Contents GL 5:
How the FARC act as local policemen in domestic country life.
Mentality of the ‘colonos’
A visit from the local FARC commander to admire our gardens
GREEN LETTER from COLOMBIA, No. 5
Caquetá Rainforest Campaign
Postal Address: AA 895, NEIVA
HUILA, Colombia, South America
Hello Good Greenfolk of Ireland, England and the rest of Europe,
Once again, a heartfelt 'thankyou' for all the energetic responses to our project out here,
especially to: Georgina of Scotland; Steve and Cynthia of Sheffield; B&Q seeds and Unwins seeds
and to the Henry Doubleday Research Association. Readers may be interested to know that approx.
95% of our letters of encouragement and help come from women, most of whom are engaged in
projects of their own. Also from some wonderful men!
Has anyone noticed that if they put energy into an original, effective project that, sure enough,
along come the detractors? We have heard that, according to the leader of an Irish
environmental group, we are really “collecting money for the Colombian guerrilla fighters.”
I'd like to answer this one, as it has relevant and interesting bearing on our local campaign.
Firstly, the FARC guerrillas in Colombia are well-financed - my somewhat puritanical left-wing
mentality was jolted to see long painted finger-nails on the female guerrilleras and extremely
non-campesino aspects to the male guerrilleros. More importantly, I'd like to tell some
anecdotes about their civilian role in country life here, as this may prove extremely important
to the 'Green' issue later.
Colombia is two countries, the town and the countryside. The gulf is enormous. Most parts of the
countryside are run by guerrilla forces, except in very rich regions, which the Army or
extremely violent para-military groups patrol. The FARC (communist guerrilla force) is the
largest, oldest and best-organised. They are in the main extremely disciplined, coherent and
highly-principled. What is little known about them abroad or in the towns, is the following:
in the absence of any government, police or other authority, help or recourse for the peasants
in the country areas, they act as an extremely effective and completely respected civil
authority, somewhere between your local bobby and the council marriage-guidance advisors.
I am struggling up the steep three-hour incline from the nearest village to our farm. My very
pregnant neighbour is coming down. Later on the path, her husband, shepherded by my Colombian
son-in-law and another male neighbour. Later still, I ascertain that the neighbour has, as usual,
been beating up his wife. The wife appealed to the guerrilla force - this is customary - and
the husband is 'called up' by them to appear with her before them. If he refuses, he will be
tied and brought down anyway. He is publicly shamed and sentenced to a short period working on
Why all this in a 'Green' letter? Well, can you imagine the results if the FARC should embrace
wholeheartedly the 'Green' issue?
Example two: Saturday night in Rovira, the local 'village' (a few roadside shacks and bars):
Colombian sport No. 1 is in progress - the local men get drunk on the cheap beer, wearing their
machetes and sometimes even loaded guns; then they pick fights, and every weekend, someone ends
up seriously slashed or with life-endangering shot-wounds. The guerrilla imposes various
penalties, hold meetings - compulsory attendance of 100% of the population - issue warnings.
The sport continues. So now they have: banned the carrying of weapons in bars; banned the the
selling of more than two bottles of beer per person; imposed an 11.00 p.m. curfew
( normally Colombian starting-time). I was amazed at local reaction: it was applauded, even by
an alcoholic neighbour who said, 'Thank goodness, because once I start, I can't stop.'
The drink-sellers are not pleased of course, but that's only a couple of people.
I realise that in pacifist, non-Colombian, urban left or right-wing circles, these sentiments
may cause waves of shock-horror. However, I am reporting on Colombian reality, which includes
these facts: these mountains are being aggressively deforested by rough-and-ready, good-natured
but desensitised brawling 'colonos' (settlers); and two, The FARC guerrilla force are an
educated, polite, firm restraining influence upon them, whilst at the same time having their
economic and cultural interests deeply at heart. Our own position on the FARC is that they are
gentler and more respectful than any Army road-stop you will meet, but we can't go along with
the very natural Third World communist desire for development-at-all-costs, because we know too
well what that cost is.
We will be happy to engage in detail with anyone who wants to correspond on these issues, and
of course, as always, we repeat our open invitation to visit and see for yourself; this would
cost only the fare to Colombia, as we will take care of food and accommodation
(as long as you are happy to be vegetarian and non-smoking for the duration).
On other issues: my daughter Rebecca who runs our support-house in Ireland, is thinking of
getting Eduardo Rincon, our Green councillor for this region, over to Europe. If any groups
would be interested in having him as their guest, please contact Becky at:
An Droichead Beo, Burtonport, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Eduardo is a lively, charismatic man of 40, but he doesn't have a word of English; however,
Spanish interpreters should be easy to come by.
Steve Thompson and Cynthia Dickinson, of Sheffield and Wakefield - contact address:
111 Highcliffe Road, Sheffield S11 7LQ, England - have very kindly set up a bank account for
the CAQUETA RAINFOREST CAMPAIGN; the idea is to cheat the banks of their absurd money-transfer
fees by collecting money first in England, for bringing or sending over here. Every penny of
this money will be used directly to purchase the forested peaks of mountain ranges in this
area - the most sensitive and ecologically important parts (and, tragically, often the only
bits left as the chain-saw men march relentlessly peak-wards). At risk of depressing you all,
this is how it works: all untouched forestlands belong to no-one. But anyone can move in, cut
down several hectares of trees, apply to a Government organisation and get title to whatever
land they have 'worked'. The teeth-gnashing irony of this situation is, then, that the only way
to save the forest is to buy out the 'colonos', more specifically the ones who are starting to
de-forest very high up.
Ultimately, of course, a change in consciousness is required, but while we're working on that,
we’d better save the trees, or there'll be nothing left to be 'conscious' about. In our favour
is the fact that roughly 0% of Colombians want to live in or near the forest! They come in only
to make 'quick' money, and are completely delighted to get out - i.e. back to the towns - if we
make this financially possible for them. There is also, as indicated in my earlier 'Green
Letters', a rapidly increasing body of people who are aware that the chop-and-burn mentality
doesn't work, but who don't - yet - feel in a position to change their lifestyle. Hence the
importance of our example. It is a fact of Third-World life that Europeans, whatever our
disgusting record in the colonies has been, are looked up to and our opinions respected.
Our lifestyle and ideas, which in large parts of Western society would be looked upon as
crankish, utopian, 'drop-out' or weird, is here viewed with wonderment and interest.
We don't have to argue about whether or not you can let trees grow in cow pasture fields;
we just do it; or whether the solid, steep, orange-clay land can grow masses of beautiful
vegetables with the right digging and compost: they can see for themselves.
Which reminds me, I've some gardening to do. Goodbye, and a million thanks to all our
Till next letter,
Rovira, Caquetá, Colombia (not a postal address)
21st September 1995
PS to Green Letter No. 5
One day after writing Green letter No. 5, something rather important happened.
Yesterday, I was visited by the FARC Commander for this region. He told me that the day
previously he had called a meeting in our local village Rovira, in which they discussed with
the local people the fact that forest cutting has to stop; to which end, rather than waiting
eternally for Government help to change to other forms of farming, they were going to begin a
programme of communal vegetable gardens with “technical help” from the gringos (that's us).
He walked admiringly around my gardens (suddenly all I could see were the mistakes - yellowing
transplants where we'd used too-fresh compost etc…), took some examples - fine giant 'spring'
onions and coriander, a disgusting herb which is universally popular in Colombia, and a large
selection of seeds. Today at his behest I am to write a booklet in Spanish explaining the
cultivation, care and use of each type of vegetable, many of which are unknown here - for
example, the humble radish. Once experimental gardens have been started, I am to go down to
give 'technical advice'. I wish I could convey to you how this sounds to me; for although I
have spent many years gardening, I have never read a gardening book in my life - it would bore
me to tears - and the idea of writing a vegetable manual is about as attractive to me as going
to clean the toilets in the bus station at Neiva. However, sometimes we are called upon to
perform these menial services in the greater cause of preserving the world's oxygen supply.
If there are any real gardeners out there and not just imposters like me, would they please fly
to my side and help!
All the best, JJ
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