People of Las Casas de la Selva

Fare forward traveler.

We are so sad to share the news of the passing of Sally Eva Silverstone, also known as Sierra, who was the director of Las Casas de la Selva from 1997 to 2007.
On 24th September 2020, she passed away in Bali, where she has lived for the last decade working with the Biosphere Foundation.

I met Sierra in 1999, having arrived at Synergia Ranch full of the excitement of a three-year voyage on the RV Heraclitus. I was ready for anything. For four years we were co-chefs on the annual 2 weeks African Drum & Dance Bantu Festival. I remember the day Sierra asked me if I wanted to go to Las Casas de la Selva to help her run Earthwatch Teams. I knew very little about the project, but suddenly I was planning a whole new life adventure. Christmas in Puerto Rico. I jumped in whole-heartedly and arrived in a rainforest, culture, and country I knew nothing about. Soon I was working with Sierra on regular trips from Santa Fe to PR at least four times a year.
Sierra and Mark had made a successful proposal to The Earthwatch Institute to survey the hardwood plantations of the project. Sierra had been involved in the early 80s when the tree planting started, and 40,000 valuable hardwood trees were planted at that time. We spent many happy hours in the forest leading teams of citizen scientists from all over the world, measuring hundreds of trees over several years, and I always admired Sierra’s forthright way of dealt with everyone, and we had a few nutters who signed onto Earthwatch Teams along the way! I learned so much about the forest at that time.

Sierra always encouraged me in everything at Las Casas, and in 2003, we headed up our first harvesting of Blue Mahoe, with a small crew. In 2004 Sierra gave me the reins to take on the wood production side of the project, and we carried out another successful harvest, milling, and drying. I give thanks today that Sierra had confidence in me and gave me the freedom to manifest. That manifestation continues today, and I know that Sierra, wherever she is now, is beaming and nodding her head at the project’s blossoming.
Fareforward traveler.

Elegy to Sierra

What is the measure of a life well-lived,
How to say what gave her pleasure
Or to the watching world gave meaning?
Was it trees and plants that grew
Remembering the gardener that was you
Or laughter tinkling in the air,
Echoes of you who once was there?
Or drums and bells the living made
To honor you once you were gone,
The chants and songs the community sang
To carry you on your way, to tend the flames,
To transform our body into diamond dust,
Then launch your swan upon the Silver Sea
Such tenderness and love,
I couldn`t wish more for me!

Richards Druitt

Here is an album of images to share together as we remember dear Sierra.

E. E. King volunteers at Las Casas de la Selva, June 2016

Writer, biologist and artist, Evie King came to volunteer and worked on many diverse projects around the homestead, painted some cheerful frogs and lizards onto the bare walls of el teatro, and also helped out with managing a teen Earthwatch team. Evie first came here in 2005 to partake in some of our earlier Earthwatch research expeditions. Thank you Evie, we really appreciated having you here! And thanks for all the chocolate! (more about Evie below)

E.E. King is a performer, writer, biologist and painter. Ray Bradbury calls her stories “marvelously inventive, wildly funny and deeply thought provoking. I cannot recommend them highly enough.” Her books are;” Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife,” “Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends,” “The Adventures of Emily Finfeather – The Feathernail and Other Gifts” and “Another Happy Ending.” She has won numerous awards and been published widely. She is the recipient of two International Tides painting fellowships, and two international biology Earthwatch grants. She was an adviser for the J. Paul Getty’s and the Science Center’s, Arts &; Science program. She was the Science and Arts coordinator in Bosnia with Global Children’s Organization (a summer camp for war orphans and refugees) in 2000. She was the founding Arts & Sciences Director for Esperanza Community Housing Corporation . She has worked with children in Bosnia, crocodiles in Mexico, frogs in Puerto Rico, egrets in Bali, mushrooms in Montana, archaeologists in Spain and planted butterfly gardens in South Central Los Angeles.

John Allen, Founder of Las Casas de la Selva, May 2016 visit.

Johnny came to visit for the month of May. Here is a link to more images of his time here. Pic credits: 3t Vakil, Irving Rappaport, Andres Rua.

John Polk Allen is a systems ecologist and engineer, metallurgist, adventurer and writer. He is best known as the inventor and Director of Research of Biosphere 2, the world’s largest laboratory of global ecology, and was the founder of Synergia Ranch. Allen is a proponent of the science of biospherics. Allen has also conceived and co-founded nine other projects around the world, pioneering in sustainable co-evolutionary development. He studied anthropology and history at Northwestern, Stanford, and Oklahoma Universities, and served in the U.S. Army’s Engineering Corps as a machinist. He graduated from Colorado School of Mines and received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School.

In the early 1960s, Allen headed a special metals team at Allegheny-Ludlum Steel Corporation which developed over thirty alloys to product status. Allen worked on regional development projects with David Lillienthal’s Development Resources Corporation in the U.S., Iran, and Côte d’Ivoire where he became an expert in complex regional development. In the mid-1960s Allen and a group of associates attempted a solder flux company that failed. He has led expeditions studying ecology, particularly the ecology of early civilizations: Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Turkey, India, and the Altiplano.

Allen began the first manned Biosphere Test Module experiment in September 1988, residing in the almost fully recyclable closed ecological system environment for three days and setting a world record at that time, proving that closed ecological systems would work with humans inside. As the vice-president of Biospheric Development for the project, as well as Executive Chairman, Allen was responsible for the science and engineering that created the materially closed life system, as well as the development of spin-off technologies.

Allen currently serves as Chairman of Global Ecotechnics, an international project development and management company with a Biospheric Design Division engaged in designing and preparing to build the second generation of advanced materially closed biospheric systems and ecologically enriched biomic systems; in the EcoFrontiers Division he owns and operates innovative sustainable ecological projects of which he was the co-founder and chief designer in France, Australia (5000 acre savannah regeneration project), Puerto Rico (1000 acre sustainable rainforest project) and England.

He is Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the Linnean Society, and the Explorers Club.

Johnny’s invention, Biosphere 2, the world’s largest laboratory of global ecology. Biosphere 2 set a number of world records in closed life system work including degree of sealing tightness, 100% waste recycle and water recycle, and duration of human residence within a closed system (eight people for two years, early 90s).

Under the pen name Johnny Dolphin, Allen has chronicled his personal history alongside the social history of his many destinations in novels, poetry, short stories, and plays.

Lucilla Fuller Marvel, AICP, PPL, and Buckminster Fuller Institute Board Secretary, has more than 30 years of experience in urban and social planning, housing and community development in Puerto Rico. Since establishing Taller de Planificacia’s Social (Social Planning Workshop), a consulting firm, in 1973, she has worked with community organizations, private entities, and city and state governments in the preparation of needs analysis, social sector studies, housing plans, and strategic plans. Ms. Marvel co-founded the non- profit Puerto Rico Housing Network in 1996. She is also a member of the Board for the Center for the New Economy, a recently created independent think tank in Puerto Rico and the Chana and Samuel Levis Foundation.

L-R: Corey, Denise, George, Miho, Magha, Flash, 3t, Johnny, Irving and Andres. May 2016

Pic credits: 3t Vakil, Irving Rappaport, Andres Rua.
Link to Google image album

San Francisco Day School with Globalworks, May 2016!

This May another 60 students from San Francisco Day school came to Puerto Rico along with their staff, and on a Globalworks organized trip, they stayed all over the island, spending valuable time at Las Casas de la Selva, (20 at a time) during some torrential rainy weather, helping us with the mixing and pouring of a a new cement floor. Thanks to Globalworks staff, Ari W, Luis Bertolo, and PR Globalworks Director, Scott Page. The work was led by Andrés Rúa, and Norman Greenhawk. Thanks to Ricardo Valles, Alex Figueroa and Joel Bernier, for help with all the work. Yara Solis gave three full-on Salsa Dance classes, and Magha Garcia provided some of the finest Puerto Rican food on the island! Thanks to 3t Vakil and Irving Rappaport for images.

Thank you everyone, for all the great energy, even through some of the worst weather we have had this year!

Earthwatch Expedition – December into January 2016

Back row L-R: Inset, Israel Guzman, Herb Wexler, Janet Richards, Kamal Daghistani, Ziyou Yang, Diane Bentz, Julio Rodriguez. Front: Magha Garcia, Marigail Bentz, Chari Kauffman, Danny Nip, Patricia Salomon, Riona Kobayashi, 3t Vakil, Andres Rua.

Israel Guzman, President of SOPI, led the team into the forest for the first Winter Bird Surveys at Las Casas de la Selva. Marta Edgar previously carried out two years of surveys in the summer months with Earthwatch volunteers.