Saturday, September 8, 2007

Being Green: Just a Human Being

My last blog post read so well that I've been unable to come up with a better post to replace it. I've traveled a lot since July, and I've met real life everyday Chilean heroes. Eliab is one of them and this post is dedicated to his example as one of the most truly "green" humans that I've ever meet. Eliab lives in Mehuin with his wife on a cliff overlooking the ocean. He dedicates his life to protecting the ocean in an active manner: he is one of the leaders of the "Mehuin Ocean Defense Committee."

This local committee of small-scale artisan fishermen uses a network of radios, coastal dwelling Mapuche indians and binoculars to keep watch over the ocean all day and night, every day of the year. Their mission is to block a boatload of scientists hired by the Chilean forestry industry. These "junk scientists" need to survey the coastline to install a giant pipeline that will dump industrial forestry waste into the ocean just offshore of Mehuin.

The local Mapuche fishermen see this pipeline as a direct threat to their ocean-based livelihood, and so the native blood that boils famously hot now takes matters into its own hands: to defend the ocean. Eliab and his neighbors are in an epic struggle that people love to call "David vs. Goliath." They are a tiny and poor fishing community standing up to a billion-dollar industry and the government of Chile, and so far no one has been able to subjugate these modern day savages.

But how green is this environmental extremist of Mehuin? Eliab does not own a car. He walks or rides his bicycle everywhere he goes. He ascends 200 stone stairs to get to his home at the end of the day. His "office" is the fishing pier at the other end of the beach. When he needs to go to town for banking or hospital or other modern needs, he takes the bus for $1, a bus that moves 30 other people at the same time.

Eliab gets most of his food from the ocean in front of his house: he dives for wild oysters, dark green seaweed, scallops, abalone and fish. He rounds out his diet with locally grown potatoes, onions and Mapuche black tea. This man's "carbon footprint" is miniscule, if you insist on such fancy global warming terminology. Is he happy? I think so. Is he living the American Dream? Absolutely not. Nor does he have any debt, and he's orchestrated this entire environmental opposition without even a computer or email. Pure faith and a strong heart are all that has given him and his neighbors success. I want to learn more from Eliab. America: you can learn from him, too.