Open Letter to the Vilcabamba Community
Brian O’Leary, June 21, 2009, www.brianoleary.info
Meredith and I have lived in Vilcabamba for nearly five years now, and we feel grateful for the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place and to meet so many kindred new friends. We also cannot help but notice some big changes happening here with the accelerating influx of gringos seeking to escape the stresses of the developed world. While this happening is creating a lot of disturbance in the serenity of our community, it also provides us with new opportunities to grow into something magnificent, as an example to the world of what humans can do to preserve and to create a sustainable physical and cultural environment. Most of us, I believe, are dedicated to these goals, and have already contributed enormously to making that happen, doing what we love to do and benefiting the rest of us in doing it.
One of the principal entry points for this change are those who are at the forefront of real estate and development. Because we here at Montesue“os also are meeting many of the newcomers through our conferences and B&B service, we are often pressed to make real estate references. But in doing so, I have also been repeatedly cast into a negative light by some players in the real estate business. Preference will be given to those experienced agents that will truly honor the highest ecological and ethical principles in their marketing and services. We also have never received nor are receiving funds for any referrals. This decision, plus having no property ourselves to transact, makes us neutral in real estate business issues at this time, except for clear cases of misrepresentation. However, we remain active in preserving the sanctity of our precious surroudings.
Meredith’s and my main concern is to ensure the long-term development of this region in environmentally friendly and healthy ways. While we are impressed with the vast majority of newcomers to the area, we must also address some critical questions regarding the future of our environment here: What is the carrying capacity of our valley? How many people coming here are enough and at what rate? What are the impacts of rapid development on labor, the quality of life, noise levels, traffic, air, water, soil and food pollution, water supply, waste management? What can we learn from case studies in which the locals were displaced by elites (e.g., Aspen, Colorado)? How do the locals feel and how can we, as immigrants, contribute, in a lasting way, to the local economy rather than draw from it? How accurately is property being represented and what are the long-term consequences of development-for-profit? These questions require the input of scientific studies of the environmental and cultural impact of various development scenarios and the formation of a group of concerned citizens with varied interests, and would seem to imply long-term project that should concern us all—and where everybody wins, including the Earth. Some shorter-term goals would be to agree to environmentally-friendly deed restrictions and to cooperate through multiple listings.
In short, many of us have seen real estate developers come to and go from Vilcabamba, and we have often become personally and professionally affected by their activities. A lack of agreement about development issues creates a sense of psychological uncertainty about our future and even at times a questioning about being here.This pressure can be relieved by:(1) a meeting among the principal stakeholders in the near future to conduct a friendly, mediated and coherent understanding of what everybody’s intentions are, how people can best cooperate, and what the next steps should be for the best of everyone (this meeting should take place soon and should include everyone who is financially affected by real estate development. Meredith and I needn’t be there); and (2) to solicit professional impact studies and form a varied community group that would address how development issues could affect the environment and quality of life in the commun-ity at large. We feel that any attendance at meetings should be open to whoever would like to come.
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