From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

ANAI: 40 Years of Ecological Development in Costa Rica

 I wonder how many people remember the New Alchemy Institute which, from 1969 to 1991, experimented with wind power, solar power, intensive regenerative agriculture, aquaculture, and many other ideas now becoming big business and a way out of climate chaos.  I first visited with them around 1974 and am still in contact with some of the old New Alchies today, and continue to believe their vision of the world is the way to an ecologically restorative future. 

One of the founders is Bill McLarney who 40 years ago started a Costa Rican version of New Alchemy, ANAI (, to integrate nature conservation and sustainable development in the Talamanca region.  I’ve supported his work there with a small annual donation for most of that time and, in return, get a short annual report.  This year’s brought more than a smile to my face and demands to be shared:

"With the indispensable assistance of Bioeducators, we have finally completed a long deferred project to produce laminated sheets with photos of almost all of the 50 species of freshwater fish we have identified from the La Amistad Caribe watersheds, with scientific names plus common names in Spanish, English, Bribri, Naso and Ngobe.  Getting the indigenous names right was a challenge which required sending our indigenous Bioeducators on errands to remote villages to visit 'old timers' who were thoroughly familiar with the names of the fish in their native languages, and putting them together with younger people fluent in the recently created written forms of the four languages.  Thus a byproduct of our biologically focused work was to fortify the indigenous cultures….

"For many years, ANAI’s signature program was organic agroforestry.  Over the years, and in keeping with our philosophy of maximizing local responsibility and involvement, this responsibility has been passed to APPTA (Talamanca Small Producers’ Association) ( which has become the world’s largest organic farmers’ cooperative.  ANAI’s most recent contribution to APPTA’s success has been in securing funding to obtain and install three industrial driers, which tremendously increases their capacity to purchase, process and market local organic farm products….

"As what was once merely ANAI’s vision of how things should be matures, we are ever more forcefully reminded of the links between terrestrial, aquatic and marine biodiversity, and the crucial role organic agroforestry plantations on small farms can play in reducing fragmentation and protecting landscape integrity.  Toward this end, we are planning to initiate a process of mapping all existing forested corridors, and gaps, in our service area extending from the Rio Estrella watershed in Costa Rica to Almirante Bay in Panama, and from the cost to the Continental Divide...

"All of the activities reported here - strengthening old and creating new organic agroforestry farms, fomenting the community Water Observatories movement, advocation for the needs of migratory fish - play into this vision.”

ANAI can always use donations at
The New Alchemy land in Hatchville, MA on Cape Cod is still continuing the vision in different ways, with some of the original New Alchies, as you can see at
John Todd, another of the founders and a pioneering ecological designer, is still working (one of his latest projects is on greening the Sinai Peninsula) through


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