They sat in the courtyard, forming a circle around the ash-covered area that served as their fire pit. It just seemed more natural for them to sit out here, rather than in some dusty room, Chess supposed. He observed that faces were uniformly tense. Ileana was murmuring something in a soft, solemn voice to Luis, who seemed to be the one the rest of the scientists looked to for leadership.
Finally, Luis looked around at the rest of the group. “Okay,” he announced, “we knew this day was coming. The villages that we have helped in the past: we know the destruction they have endured, and the deaths they have suffered because these people are looking for us. I think it’s time.”
“So we just give ourselves up?” one of the other scientists demanded. “We don’t even know who these people are. Are they from the government? I’m not going to have my knowledge taken from me by force, and sold to the highest bidder. I say we should run. The deaths are not our fault.”
“No, it’s not your fault,” Ileana agreed grimly, and Chess knew that she was thinking it was actually her own fault -- and probably his fault, he realized. He thought back to the day when he had come up with his grand scheme: having Ileana encourage Tez to pursue his own ambitions. The whole thing just seemed so long ago, he marveled. Back then, Chess’s goal had been to thwart Razor by upsetting the balance of power in his little kingdom. But they had never thought past Tez going out on his own. Truly, the guy seemed way more dangerous than Razor ever had.
“If we keep doing what we’re doing, they will keep destroying the villages we help,” Marcello said in an angry voice. Turning toward him, Chess noticed that Sariel was leaning very close to the scientist, and that he was gripping both of her small hands tightly in his own. “It’s a form of blackmail,” Marcello added, “but how many people have to die so that we can remain free? I don’t know what they intend to do, but if they turn us over to the government, at least our ideas might still get utilized…”
“That’s not what we want,” one of the women sighed. “These are our ideas and we should be able to do what we want with them. We should be able to share them freely.” She shook her head. “Can these villages afford to pay patent royalties just so they can have clean drinking water?”
The other woman scientist nodded her agreement. “It’s a question of our freedom,” she said.
“And intellectual property,” Noah added. He looked at Irwin. “How much time is left?”
Irwin frowned. “Sled and Fogg took our truck and went off to set up a decoy transmission. If the gang follows that fake signal, it will delay them for a few hours, and then they’ll probably camp overnight, since it’s way too dangerous to drive on these obstacle-course roads after dark. So, I think, tomorrow morning, if you’re lucky.” He looked around at them sternly. “You can’t lead them here.”
“There is a way…” Ileana ventured. “I admit, it’s not what you would want to happen… but it might appease this gang that’s after you.” She glanced toward Luis for reassurance. “You could write up detailed notes explaining your inventions… and then run. You’ll be giving them, and whoever they sell to, some of your greatest ideas, yes, but you will still be able to spread your vision for a new world, and keep your freedom. You don’t have to be here: any one of us can hand over your notes.”
“Why would they just accept some pieces of paper?” one of the scientists asked skeptically.
“Why would they just pick up some refugees who claim to be wizards?” Ileana retorted impatiently. “Everyone seems to be hunting you for your knowledge. So, give them that.”
The scientists all seemed to look toward Luis just then, but their leader stayed silent for a few moments, staring at the ground. And then he raised his head and sighed audibly. “You may be right. If we give them something, they might be content. If this works at all, it’s probably the only way.”
Chess sat back, silently, as the rest of the group debated the idea. There seemed to be nothing that he could add to this strategy. He watched the water engineer, Marcello, whispering fervently to Sariel. Sariel was shaking her head. And then Chess looked around for Gryff, but he was absent.
Finally, the desperate wizards agreed to Ileana’s idea, and then scattered to gather their notes and belongings. By the time they all left the courtyard, the sun was disappearing behind the blue mountains.
Sariel raised an eyebrow and asked, “Now, Lilly: what are you really planning?”
Continued next page...
Gaviotas is a village in Colombia, South America. For four decades, Gaviotans have struggled to build an oasis of imagination and sustainability in the remote, barren savannas of eastern Colombia, an area ravaged by political instability. They have planted millions of trees, thus regenerating an indigenous rainforest. They farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals, and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor. The United Nations named the village a model of sustainable development.
Friends of Gaviotas.org
So how can we go about changing the world? We have long since discovered that the earth is unlikely to be saved by a group of pure idealists. Our world is filled with well-meaning volunteers who cheerfully donate their time, money and energy in attempts to help others. But without the proper knowledge, volunteers can waste their resources or worse. For instance, after a massive storm in the Pacific Ocean in 2005, a global NGO was strongly criticized for providing the refugees with shelters that were not structurally sound. However, it seems that we are beginning to learn this lesson. Numerous NGOs recruit scientists, and especially engineers to study problems of the developing world and design elegant solutions for them.
The village of Gaviotas was an experiment that brought together some idealists, certainly. But the founders were also creative scientists of different specialties who were eager to work together to come up with solutions. They designed water pumps and windmills. They figured out how to fertilize and sterilize the soil to accommodate nonnative vegetables and trees, all on a stringently low budget. They built their village on dual columns of knowledge and enthusiasm. (In fact, one of the research scientists who founded the lab that became my all-time favorite job once volunteered as a doctor at Gaviotas -- but I had no idea that any of this existed at the time that I worked with her.) The community is still going, but it has not expanded to other areas of the world like the founders dreamed that it would.
“They had so many ideas they could barely sleep. The only despair was not having enough hours to attempt them all.”
- Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman
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