When we began to develop the by now quite famous Casita Verde and Greenheart Ibiza initiative back in 1993, I wasn’t aware just how far we would travel over the following twenty four years, but I am happy to say that I very much enjoyed both the journey and the amazing results that weare evolving along the way.
Most Permaculturists make an elaborate and quite detailed plan before they begin their actual project, but this wasn’t exactly how the Casita Verde phenomena eventually happened at all. In this case, it’s been more of a gradual and organic growth of both ideas and acquired wisdom, spread over a long period of time and with many influences from the hundreds of volunteers who have passed by to lend a hand with the process.
Having said that, the initial and very simple project seemed to take quite a significant leap forwards around the end of 1999, when I began to make a serious attempt to build a complex and rather expensive commercial ecology centre, designed to be open all year and to be situated next to one of the main roads of Ibiza, where people could arrive using public transport.
The basic idea was to make an ecological showcase accessible to everyone on the island, including visitors and residents, plus of course all the schools who would be invited to send their pupils there, to present them with some kind of ‘Chip-changing’ experience, which would in effect convert inquisitive and conscious individuals into consequent and eco-responsible citizens.
The ‘Ibiza Ecolandia’ project as I called it, wasn’t a big success when we finally opened the doors of the pilot project in July 2001, due to many reasons, both economical and political. However, by then, the seed was firmly planted in my heart and I simply returned to my little rented house at Casita Verde, where we continued to develop the whole concept in a far more organic and affordable manner, using whatever we had available at the time.
Following the plans I’d previously made for the larger centre, but on a very much smaller scale, we began to build a working model of the kind of ecologic centre which would be more easy for everyone to understand and which would help to encourage others to make a similar gesture on their own plot of land, wherever that was.
Thanks to the enormous generosity from the owners of the farm belonging to the Casita Verde site, plus a substantial amount of financial help from my good friends Emanuel Kuntzelman and Laura Rose from the Madrid-based Foundation for the Future, myself and our never ending army of volunteers were able to transform a virtually abandoned piece of countryside into something like a green paradise.
These days, and after many years in operation, the Casita Verde is recognised as one of the most appreciated places on the island and is visited by literally thousands of people every year. Even the local authorities have allowed us to develop the project without any interference, due to its great educational value and positive message which is received by people from all over the planet.
Ibiza Ecologic, the official Non Government Organisation founded in 1996, and which is responsible for the correct operation of the centre, now has nearly 14,000 members and continues to grow each week, since in order to eat at Casita Verde on Sundays, we insist that our visitors become legal members of this NGO before we are able to serve them any food.
These days, the centre offers two events per week for visitors: one on Sundays between 2pm and sunset, plus another one every Thursday evening, from 7.30pm until midnight, when we habitually make a kind of networking and fund-raising gathering combined with a dinner party and a possibility to dance with our selection of world music. Here people usually come along to meet others interested in similar subjects and to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, whilst having the opportunity to taste our delicious local food products and healthy drinks, mainly made from our own cultivations, as well as those from our friends and neighbours.
During our famous Sunday open day event, celebrated each week since April 2002, our visitors are invited to participate in a free tour of the whole site, something like a kind of didactic Permaculture course, but presented in a the form of a three and a half hour information injection. We also clean one different beach or natural area each Wednesday evening, as well as share the responsibility of running a ‘local products market’ each Saturday between 11am and 4pm in a small village called ‘Forada’, (some 15 minutes drive from our main centre).
Since the beginning of our presence here on the island, we have participàted in around 34 local, national and international tv productions, appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, plus a number of coffee table books, so over the years we have been given a great deal of publicity on many different levels.
In 2013, my friends from the Foundation for the Future, which is actually supported by four non-profit businesses in Chicago, decided to launch ‘Greenheart International’, in an effort to work together under one united umbrella and make a worldwide movement, by connecting many more people to our precious planet Earth.
Four years later, here on the island of Ibiza, our local Greenheart family decided to try bringing together our local population, using the 'carob tree' as the symbol for the introduction of a new model of social leadership called the 'Ibiza Fènix project', designed for smart and ecological thinking, building a showcase for responsible and sustainable tourism.
Just like the Fènix project, the beautiful carob tree, so common on the island of Ibiza, joins cosmic energy with Earth energy, it's always green and it's always working (it's either in fruit or in flower all the time). If a branch falls down, it usually gets up again, it can also survive extreme drought conditions, due to its extensive root system, is self-fertalising and it produces a delicious fruit, which can sustain a person’s life. Even the wood from this tree is great for keeping your house warm in the winter months!
We are bringing together 'Game Changers', Non Government Organizations and members of the local government, to form many branches of activities, in a non-pyramidal structure. Hopefully, using this system, within the next few years, we can encourage the majority of island residents to actively participate in the positive evolution of the place where they live, co-creating a world where we’d all like to live and to thrive.
While living closely with the nature, as we do at Casita Verde, I've worked with nearly 1000 volunteers over the last twenty years, building up the centre and doing our eco stuff around the island. During this time, I've learned that most people function better on a level playing field, instead of being part of a pyramidal system, so that's how we usually like to play whenever possible.
Also, one of the first things I say to our volunteer students at Casita Verde as they arrive there, is that 'all the energy and all the wisdom of the universe is yours, if only you can learn how to tune into it!'
I would like to believe that the Fènix model, when successful on the island of Ibiza, can obviously be exported to other tourist destinations which have suffered as a result of using a non sustainable life support system. What's also obvious to me, is that we can only succeed with this metamorphosis by 'tuning into our collective energy' and transforming everything which causes the degradation of natural resources, the loss of biodiversity and the unnecessary destruction of our natural environment into a positive and regenerative movement, in a very similar way to the ethos of Permaculture.
It really is the time to change, so this is a real call to action!
The magic of synergy is all around, the question is, are YOU ready to tune into it? ��Chris Dews, Founder and director of Casita Verde model ecology centre and main coordinator for Greenheart Ibiza.
You can read more about Ibiza Fenix here.