Monday, November 21, 2016

Visiting the Amazon, Come Prepared

Don't Go to the Jungle without a Flashlight!

If you are planning to visit us or visit anywhere in the Amazon Rainforest or the Guiana Highlands there are some things you should bring so that you are well-prepared and comfortable during your trip. We have many activities that cannot be performed unless you have certain equipment, some items we even recommend like having a spare like a flashlight.
The jungle ready Mosquito Hammock. Photo by Rick Ashworth

The capitol city of the Amazonas political state is nearby (33 kilometers) in Puerto Ayacucho, we travel there one or two times weekly for some basic supplies and frequently go there to the hardware store or to receive packages from Colombia and abroad. Because of scarcity problems in Venezuela we recommend that you do not plan to buy things in Puerto Ayacucho, those arriving via Bogota, Colombia should purchase all their basic supplies and double check their list there.

Different outfitters and bloggers have numerous lists and recommendations that vary greatly to do a good job and be best prepared we recommend that you skim over their lists to compare and find your own comfort level for your trip. Here are two alternative lists Backpacker.com and Go Backpacking!

We do not follow their advice strictly because we are an ecological village and because we are located in a drier (less humid) region because we are on the Guiana Shield at the entrances of both the jungle and highlands regions mountains to the East and North and jungle to the South. If you are coming as a resident for more than 3 months, we recommend that you take your time and think ahead well.

The most important thing is that your pack is lightweight enough to carry your gear for a minimum of 1-2 kilometers without stopping (a backpack should never be heavier than one third of your body weight), your comfort will depend critically on your health and physical condition. Generally visitors will not be required to walk with all of their gear if they are bringing more than they can physically carry except from the road to our lodge (approximately half a kilometer, 500 meters) normally there will be someone with you to help.

Checklist of Things to Bring (and not bring) to the Amazon

The following list was compiled based on our visitors most basic needs with their primary lodging at Fundo Ekobius and taking multiple local (within 50 km) adventures and expeditions that can last from 3-7 days.
  1. Backpack with Rain Cover (Size large or medium 35-80 liters)
  2. Student Backpack, Daypack or Tactical Pack (Size small 12-25 liters)
  3. Koala or Belt Pouch sometimes called Fanny Pack (Size 1-3 liters) Optional but handy!
Anyone carrying more gear than these three items can expect a surcharge or ought provide a tip when transporting these items in buses or taxis. Please provide information in advance of your arrival if you are carrying more than you can physically carry on your own as a backpacker.

Basic Clothing Requirements

  • 1 Lightweight Water-Resistant Jacket
  • 1 Poncho or Lightweight Waterproof Windbreaker
  • 1 Straw or Light Colored Hat (Sun Protection)
  • 1 Bandana  
  • 2 Long Pants (Levis Jeans and/or Khaki Cargo Pants)
  • 1 Lightweight Long Pants 
  • 1 Short Pants
  • 1 Swimming Trunks (Bathing Suit)
  • 1 Long Sleeve Shirt (Light color Khaki or White)
  • 3-5 Regular T-Shirts or Polo Shirts (Light Colors are Best)
  • 1 Pair of Waterproof Flip Flops or Sandals 
  • 3-5 Pairs of Socks (Socks made with Copper are best)
  • 3-5 Underwear (Females will be most comfortable using a sports bra.)
  • 1 Pair of Waterproof Sneakers or Hiking Shoes

Basic Necessities

  • Flashlight (Small Handheld Flashlight)
  • Headlamp (LED Flashlight with Elastic Band to mount on your Forehead)
  • Spare Batteries (Alternatively you can bring rechargeable batteries) 
  • Insect Repellent (8 oz 100% DEET Spray or DuPont & Entomol's Natural Catamint Oil)
  • Sunscreen or Tanning Lotion (SPF 30-100 Depending on your Complexion) 
  • Lip Balm (Chapstick)
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocket Knife (Swiss Army or Leatherman Multipurpose Tool)
  • Nail Clippers
  • Braided Utility or Parachute Cord (6-10 meters) Very Handy!
  • Lighter and/or Waterproof Matches
  • 2 Water Containers (1 Liter Canteen)
  • Box of Ziplock Baggies (12-30 bags)

Gear and Equipment

Sleeping Gear (Pick the option(s) you like best.)

  • Hammock, Mosquito Net, Hanger Rope and a Tarp (Readily Available in Colombia for well under $50 USD) Note: Hammock kits available in Colombia are very comfortable but weigh approximately 2-2.5 kilos (4-5 pounds). Visitors buying their hammocks in the USA or elsewhere may opt for a fully incorporated solution like the Mosquito Hammock™, there are other solutions too.
  • Alternatively a Small Tent, Ensolite (Sleeping Pad) and Sleeping Bag
  • Sanitized Clean Single Bed or Folding Beds are available for $5 USD per night. We have 3 and are based on availability.  
Bath Gear and Toiletries (Most visitors bathe in the river there is a shower available too)
  • Toilet Paper and Hand Trowel
  • Sulfur Based Soap (Protex or Medicinal Soap)
  • Towel or Lightweight Synthetic Chamois (Available at Walmart)
  • Personal Items - Comb, Hair Brush, Shampoo, Conditioner, Skin Lotion, etc. 
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Mouthwash
  • Personal Medication (Please inform us if you have life-threatening conditions in your disclaimer form)
Food and Kitchen Items (At the Fundo we have all the basics there some outfitters recommend a Svea type stove and lightweight cookware we do not but many experienced backpackers insist on bringing their stove and cooking gear so those two items are purely optional, the cookware is handy if you plan to take mini-expeditions.)
  • Personal snacks (Dehydrated or Freeze Dried Fruits, Nuts, Seeds, Energy Bars, Candy,
  • Personal Eating Utensils (Fork and Spoon)
  • Cereal or Soup Bowl (Plastic or Stainless)
  • Sierra Cup or Stainless Mug
  • Aluminum or Stainless Cook Set 

Alternative and Extra Gear

  • 1 Pair of Water Resistant or Waterproof Boots or Rugged Hiking Shoes
  • Insect Repellent (Alternatives include Citronella based or Permethrin)
Other Items (Emergency use) - We have a fully loaded first-aid kit, a staff medical doctor and paramedic.
  • Medical Supplies (Lifesaving Medicines) $35 USD in Colombia
    Ciproflaxin, Penicillin, Aspirin, Benadryl, Quinine, Neosporin, Water Treatment Drops, etc.
  • 1 or 2 Strong Plastic Trash Bags (Hefty 55 gallon)
Carrying Documents and Money (Avoid Bringing Unnecessary ID Documents and Bank Cards) 
  • Passport Holder (Hidden Neck or Belt Type)
  • Money Belt or Wallet (Keep it Secure in your Beltbag or Hidden)
  • Drivers License (If you Plan to Drive or Rent a Vehicle)
  • Money (Carry at least $350-S500 USD in Small Bills $5, $10, $20 or $50)
  • ATM Card or Prepaid Western Union or Other Card
  • Credit Card and a Backup Card from the same or different account
If you are immigrating to Venezuela or applying when you come here for temporary or permanent residence you should additionally have the following items:
  • Birth Certificate
  • Reference Letters
  • Bank Statement
  • Police Archive
  • Curriculum or Resume
Vaccinations and Health Insurance (If you have a condition that requires you to have travel insurance or health insurance while traveling; or if you want to have travel insurance is your right and option. Most people that come do not have travel insurance, but if you do and depending which country you enter your provide may require certain vaccinations to be made and up-to-date.

Travelers can get from any competent medical doctor in the United States or Europe 'a yellow international vaccination card' indicating their vaccination dates. There is no need for this card currently in Venezuela but it is required to enter Brazil. In Venezuela there are some minor malaria hotspots in populated rural areas, good repellent will defend against this or travelers can take prophylactic medications. Currently and recently there have been no malaria or yellow fever alerts or severe epidemics in Venezuela, there have been epidemics in some isolated areas affecting up to 1% of the population. The good thing about malaria is that it is relatively easy to cure (if the strain is not prophylactic resistant), we recommend that all people bring but not necessarily take prophylactic treatments unless necessary because they are hard on the system.

Optional Items - Some people like to be more adventuresome than others and wander off on their own, this is OK but we recommend that you be prepared and carry a survival kit. Some of the items we recommend or permit for this are as follows:
  • Machete
  • Small Axe or Hatchet 
  • Portable Water Purification Filter
  • Laptop Computer or Tablet
  • Digital Camera (Digital Memory Cards)
  • Satellite (Iridium) Cellular Phone or iPhone Adapter
  • Walkie Talkies
  • GPS Device (Inside most Advanced Cell Phones)
  • Binoculars or Telescope (Lots of Stars at Night)
  • Detox Clay and Purgative Health Treatments
  • Personal Locator Beacon
  • Truck Inner Tube or Small Inflatable Raft
  • MP3 Player with Headphones
  • Personal Timepiece (Watch)
Biological Female Recommendations
  • Sanitary Napkins or Tampons
  • Extra Toilet Paper 
Save Money (Buy some of your gear, foodstuff, snacks and supplies in Colombia 30-50% less than the USA, Europe and most of the modern world.) By late January we are planning a reception office in Colombia for the convenience of our visitors and for our international exchange program.

Things that you do not need to bring because we provide them or are too dangerous to carry. Do not bring contraband or illegal items such as marijuana unless you are really well-experienced and confident, if you do choose to carry or bring contraband items you should carry a fund to pay your way out of your unforeseen incidents most officials are lenient and understanding with tourists.

These recommendations are provided a guideline and for your safety. Some recommendations are based on my personal experience and others have been modified or updated for practical purposes.

*Our documentation and checklist requirements vary depending on whether or not the members arriving are long term or short term visitors, anyone who will potentially stay permanently or for a period of more than 90 days should bring marked items.

Other items you may want to bring may include gifts for the native indigenous peoples living nearby and with us. Many come to explore and know indigenous peoples and their cultures, some people come for the high-energy water, solitude and to detox or spiritual cleansing so they often bring items relative for these activities. Visitors have also brought things like scientific research equipment, butterfly nets, fishing equipment, skin diving equipment, art equipment, books, and other items. Feel free to write us or call if you have questions.

Good Gifts for to Bring (with insight)
  • Indian Beads for Jewelry and Crafts
  • Wood Carving Chisels
  • Garden seeds (Radish, Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Leaf Lettuce, Squash, Melons, etc) 
  • Machetes
  • Cooking Pots
  • Flashlights
  • Repellent
There is no hunting of animals except for subsistence when you are on outdoor hikes. Visitors are not permitted to carry firearms or crossbows. However visitors may bring archery equipment and slingshots.

Tourists who are coming here for adventure exploration and scientific expeditions should also understand, respect and realize that the laws of territories within tribal indigenous regions differ from the national laws, they must be permitted by individual indigenous tribes to be allowed to cross or access over 60% of the Amazon territories, the state and nations that possess and control these territories are extremely limited in their powers in these territories. There are several hundred different tribes of autonomous indigenous peoples living there now in several thousand villages.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ecosocial Sustainability in the Amazon

New words have been created, but only the same are spoken. -the Shaman

Ekōbius: An Experimental Eco-Social Engineering Project (Ecosocial Engineering) 


Relative to ekōbius and the idea of an international ecovillage community, one would sense that developing a highly specialized physical 'intentional community' in a globalized world maybe a great challenge considering its geographic location at the end of a road where civilization essentially ends in the N. Amazon however its uniqueness may be what makes it a success. "Its extreme location is its essential attraction and reason," says founder, David Wright, American expat from Kentucky.

As it appears, the eco-pioneers have become recognized as an autonomous and independent charter community by the Venezuelan government for their special ecological purpose to serve as a demonstration model in a highly sensitive environmental region (protected watershed) that gives them a structure by which the member residents are especially obligated from the beginning (now) to form and maintain the development of a new type of engineered society that is ecologically sustainable, localized, networked to its supporters, and of a great service to the global citizens that depend on the common environment and that of their neighbors.

This special "status" or "authority" is rarely given as freely as it has been to ekōbius by concession, but because of the liberal social revolutionary policy of the current government and their "international" composition and membership with relation to the founder, David Wright's connection with Globcal International an opportunity was created for them to be treated specially under diplomatic protocol with professional courtesies normally entitled to diplomats. In general however, Venezuela today is known as a place of special individual and personal freedoms that has given birth to the development and acceptance of many innovative social alternatives due to the 21st century socialism philosophy introduced by deceased President Hugo Chavez between 1999 and 2013, this project is just one of many new ideas being tried today there.

As an officially recognized "experimental ecovillage" (chartered ecotown) makes their entire endeavor a once in a lifetime chance for everyone who becomes involved with the Ekōbius International Cooperative. Their commitment to formation as an "intentional community" is key in their establishment, however it is not discriminatory because their base ideals, practices, methods and essential beliefs can be learned and adopted by anyone from anywhere in the world.

Most intentional communities require that members follow a certain religious faith, political ideology, or that they subscribe strictly to certain doctrines or lifestyle choices like veganism or nudism. In a way ekōbius also has its focus but it is the only organization that has a clear focus on naturalism, ecology, indigenous knowledge and environmental enhancement that does not discriminate based on religion, politics, sex, race or national origin. The absence of consumerism, politics, religion, and a military infrastructure actually gives them strength and keeps the focus on the natural order of the planet and the human spirit.

As a cooperative community everything is or will be based on members consensus but also based on their stated charter purpose (reasons for existing) which will organically form the community as an intentional one through a natural process. The implications of this development eliminates the concerns and fears of those who have heard some of the hippie horror stories about the spontaneously created communes and alternative living experiments that formed in the 60's and 70's based on isolated spontaneous social cohesiveness (free love, peace, drugs, draft dodging) that were unrelated to definite intention, rather than on a purposeful basis such as the community ekōbius is forming now.

The extreme natural environment, its isolation, combined with the stated moral convictions will only attract specific people who they will allow to freely join and come (indiscriminately) just like as if you wanted to buy a house in New York, the only difference is that we have a theme and a community commitment oriented toward environmental protection, conservation, ecological enhancement, sustainability, harmony with nature, and socioeconomic cooperative production of natural products using simple techniques and appropriate technology.

It is clear to me having visited that only those who are truly committed to a rustic rural lifestyle will be able to stay, live and work there indefinitely, it is also clear that there will be people that join as seasonal or temporary residents who utilize the community as a form of escape from society as a sort of security perhaps in the future.

In general I do not expect that those who join us will be people looking to conquer and exploit or consume the environment but rather those who revere, cherish, and respect mother earth. I am confident the basis for our development will attract exactly the right people we need to create a new world based in nature.

For more information please visit our website ekobius.org and our Facebook pages. You can also search "Fundo Ekobius" or "Ekobius International Cooperative."

Written by:
Lic. Dra. Sonia Ceballos, Venezuela Central University (UCV) translated by David J. Wright

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Offsetting your Carbon Footprint: the New Eco-Social Responsibility

New Zealand carbon-credit investment that enhances the ecosystem. 
Beginning within the next few years all people (that's everyone with an ID) will become responsible for offsetting their carbon footprint based on their use of natural resources, creation of greenhouse gases, their environmental impact, and their general consumption through active and transparent taxation on fuel, electricity, food, housing, travel and more. As easily there are personal actions that individuals can take as volunteers, by planting trees, using energy efficient transportation, and managing their own rural ecosystems responsibly on the behalf of the public and common good to offset or reduce your carbon footprint.

There are also credits people (high impact individuals) can buy to offset their carbon footprint activity, those credits are represented based on the removal of atmospheric carbon by trees, plants, and other natural processes. The current denominator for calculating how many offset credit certificates to need to compensate for your consumption is by ton of carbon produced through an activity (a plane flight for example), it is offset by the number of trees present on a particular acre that is subsidized to provide carbon sequestration.

There are other ways to create credits and develop projects for the environment including projects like the native tree nursery example in the photo from New Zealand.

Do I have to pay Carbon Tax?


The system (which is quite fair if you are eco-conscious and understand the reality) is based on how much you use, its based on your impact on the planet, its also a system that is being applied internationally and universally. The taxes that you are already transparently paying (in the cost of goods) to manufacturers and retailers is divided up and credited through tax collectors and on to those who provide ecosystem services. With autos it the charges are levied through fines, plates and/or annual registration fees all for the greater good with air travel it is paid by the airlines and built in to the cost of the ticket. 

Today polls show that less than 25% of the general population trust government and part of the problem is that people think that the government is running the carbon credit system, this is not true. The system is being put in place by the United Nations, entrepreneurs, corporations, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to protect and nurture the ecosystem. Many governments are fighting details of these new politics and unwilling to allow the planned change, but as signatories of treaties like Kyoto Protocol and other conventions they are compelled to adapt.

The beauty of the carbon footprint taxation system and the balance it generates, is that for now it is voluntary and universally transparent because its built into the price of goods, products, utility bills, and other services. We already have great achievement and development in this new perspective of a resource based world and is balancing itself.

As with any voluntary program the corporations and the people who support it are entitled through government to special benefits, privileges and entitlements. Its also one of those things that if you do not know about it, or pay into it then you will never know its there and never know the benefits!

Even more beautiful is that the governments (as the public trustee) will give you refunds, discounts and credits to be socially responsible by offsetting your carbon footprint (being a good citizen). There are also open (public) markets where you can trade or buy offset credits in biodiversity, forestry, water, carbon sequestration, and more at a discount; so there is also an income opportunity for the astute entrepreneurs. Check out ecosystemmarketplace.com

Benefits of the Carbon Credit System


If you own interests and credits in Ecosystem services then you can deduct these credits as entitlements in their appropriate category when you pay income tax. If you do not own offsets then you cannot apply for the credits or make deductions except when you make major purchases like cars.

Don't let anyone fool you either, you do not receive credits by making donations to non-profit environmental groups. Donations are deducted as charitable contributions, offsets for ecosystem services are categorically different and separate. Offsets are like legal tender and they can be traded just like a bond or share of stock.

Helping others with Carbon Credits


Globcal International's project will take this one step further by cutting out the government and private industry to deliver a high-value credit directly to indigenous and remote rural communities that specialize in ecosystem service delivery. If land owners in California and Colorado can sell credits, its only fair that native peoples be capable of selling theirs.

This alone will provide sustainable incomes and employment for around 70% of all the indigenous people living in poverty today.

One of the problems we discovered is that the state in many cases are taking advantage of the carbon financing scheme to generate capital based on natural resources within their countries and not passing those funds out to the indigenous people or applying those resources to the lands in question. They actually keep the public ignorant and go so far as to view the indigenous owners of these lands as part of the biodiversity (animals).

Globcal discovered however that the indigenous people on many (not all) of these lands (which account for 60% of the planets remaining natural ecosystem services) are legally eligible under international law to collect these credits themselves, that is if they were knowledgeable of the opportunity.

Our project is being developed to train and educate these indigenous communities about their options, opportunities and the rewards for becoming knowledgeable and proactive as ecosystem service providers, stewards, guardians, engineers and developers. Our effort will develop a higher value offset that is fair-trade certified and direct between the purchaser and the provider. We have competition but are sure that the indigenous people will adopt our direct method because it puts them in control democratically over their own resource bases.

Currently depending on whether in Europe, the US, or Australia you can claim a return of up to 7% or more of your total annual income through offsetting your carbon footprint through Globcal's ecosystem bonds include carbon credit offsets as well as investment in appreciated biodiversity, ecotourism, water, and ecosystem enhancement. Through our system with enhancement offset values increase and appreciate!

By David Wright, Commissioner at Globcal International

About Ekobius: Beginning this October 2014, Ekobius will become the subject trustee in an experimental pilot project involving 5000 acres (initially) with Globcal on Indiegogo to manage and enhance ecosystem services in a sector of Venezuela's Amazon with the Piaroa tribe. Once implemented the program will be extended to the other 16 indigenous groups present in the forested region of 160 million acres. 

The average consumption by trees in the region of atmospheric carbon sequestration is 3.8 tons per acre per year which is valued at about $75 per year for the acre-man "akerman" to collect in addition to the by-products derived through agroecology and additional ecosystem services in a collective production community.

Unlike many crowdfunding projects this one will involve equitable shares in the project because it will issue cooperative bonds that will directly be invested in the ecosystem and training of its inhabitants to become sustainable ecologically and socioeconomically.

The training and preparation for this project will take place in Belize where the ambassadors, teachers, students and other participants will gather to experience first-hand well-developed and functional best practice models in place under competent government administration. Follow the details through Globcal International on Facebook for the most recent updates.