Last April I completed a project which had taken me almost a year. For those who haven’t read the first article let me give you a recap: on the mostly uninhabited and remote Caribbean coast of Panama, a group of investors acquired a large piece of land, with several beaches on it the biggest stretching over 300 meters. However behind that postcard pretty beach is, or was, a massive swamp. And the first step for draining a swamp is contracting a Dutchman, yours truly.
Because of environmental concerns and logistic constrains the project relied exclusively on muscle power, my team averaged between 12 to 22 men and one woman for diversity purposes (just kidding, she was our cook). With the exception of chainsaws and boats no motorized equipment was used. Even the workers accommodation was entirely built out of wood, with chainsaw, hammer and nails.
Over the course of the project we dug two channels each close to one kilometer in length, and changed the course of a stream. A steady flow of water now debouches into the sea where there was none before we started. One thing I learned from the experience is that we as a society have a tendency to over-complicate (construction) projects. Here we are, no electricity, no cell phones, just a group of strong men with the most basic of tools. I drew out a simple plan with pen and paper, we map it out (ok I did use GPS there) and simply started working. Work hard consistently and eventually you get the job done.
By contrast: organizing the logistics for the use of heavy equipment not to mention permits would most likely have been more expensive and probably taken just as much time. In addition to the canals and housing, several hectares were cleared and planted with coconut trees, and many ornamental plants were planted for future gardens.
One day, you might put your feet on this beach, and take in the same stunning view. One day, but not any time soon. Because pristine views come with strings attached. In contrast to Disney movies, pure nature isn’t very friendly. It is an indifferent force, feeding you as much as it is trying to destroy you. And my job is to neutralize those destructive forces so that perhaps only a few years from now, you get to stay in a beautiful eco-resort in a remote region of Panama.
Is it possible to restore nature, not as a charity, but as a profitable investment? For many years, living in the interior of Panama, watching virgin forests disappear before my eyes, I contemplated this challenging problem. And I believe to have found the solution. Not production forests or vague CO2 schemes, but a real way to restore nature, benefiting the local population as well as your wallet.
The secret lies in making nature a product that can be bought with the same ease as buying a can of soda, for roughly the same price. This might sound horrible to idealistic minded people, but think about it for a minute: if people can buy a piece of rain-forest by phone, from the comforts of their own home, for just a few dollars, how many people would be willing to do so?
How about we take it a step further, and make it resalable too? It would make nature a real and tangible commodity, and give it value. For what is nature right now? Just an abstraction. Valuable in our collective conscience but not in the real world. Mankind has a terrible track record protecting it. Mowgli will change that.
Contact me to find out how you can benefit or leave a comment below.