Jennifer Lake's Blog

October 31, 2009

Eco-Village Under Glass

Meet Will Raap, owner/partner in the ‘green’ communities of the Tierra Verde developments on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast. What makes Raap’s communities ‘green’ appears to be the special status acquired by the partnership in securing official cooperation from the Costa Rican government with supplemental funding and planned infrastructure, like roads. We would have to ask him point-blank if having friends in the Debt-for-Nature program is good for business. Clearly trading in Green is good for Will Raap.
http://www.gardeners.com/Meet-Will-Raap/7146,default,pg.html

I wasn’t bothered too much at first by Will Raap as I made my way through his biography and company listings, expecting the usual hyperbole of praises garnered on outstanding citizens; graduate of UCDavis and UCBerkeley who moved to Burlington VT and started an online business –Gardener’s Supply in 1983– and parlayed his successes into environmental politics. From there he organized the purchase of Vermont farmlands in an act of community-spirited preservation which launched him to regional and national fame as a speaker and role-model.

But then, a number of troubling situations appeared as I looked closer. Raap is definitively on-board with Global Warming and Carbon offset trading (which is a multi-faceted ‘credit’ system) and his close partnership with 37-yr-old Matthew Hayden of Hayden Communications International aroused my attention to the gamier side of the Green mountain boys. It occurred to me to check if their mouths were where the money is.

Matthew Hayden,  primary partner in Tierra Verde,  is the owner/founder of HCI, described as “a leading full service investor relations firm exclusively for China based, publicly listed companies”. HCI lists its offices in New York and China http://reuters.com/article/PressRelease/idUS25111+27-Mar-2009+PR… but maintains corporate representation throughout California. Its difficult to tell just how deep HCI goes in the financial and information industries or just how diversified Mr. Hayden is in the numerous business entities he directs. Hayden, on his own behalf, claims an affinity for the beach life, personally signing on to Tierra Verde’s many advertized charms. http://www.tierraverdeuvita.com/news (catch the video on the homepage). A sampling of HCI’s activity and clients is listed below. (By the way, one of the creepy uses of “HCI” is to designate Human-Computer Interface, DARPA darling)
http://www.armcometals.com/news/news_press100808.php , Armco Metals, PRC
http://newsblaze.com/story/2009032504030500028.pnw/topstory.html, China Green Agriculture, Inc., PRC
http://www.bphx.com/en/Pages/default.aspx  , Blue Phoenix Solutions, Inc., Israel
http://blog.chinasecurities.com/category/posts-matt-hayden/
http://www.haydenir.com/newsletters/spring2008newsletter.htm, HCI’s own bulletin
http://www.haydenir.com/

Raap’s company, Gardener’s Supply, with a viewable inventory online looks like a veritable import-export clearinghouse for Chinese merchandise. Some environmentalists that I know would object –the Buy Local types. On the “recalled” products page, I found something truly objectionable –a Flame Weeder. Yes, a mini-flame-throwing weed incinerator that attaches to disposable propane canisters –recalled not for being ungreen, but for a faulty attachment coupling that leaks gas and puts the user at risk for flash-over burns. http://www.gardeners.com/Flame-Weeder-Recall/5210,default,pg.html . For a moment, I enjoyed the joke. This product comes from the UK.

On the loftier side, Will Raap steps out big as the chairman of NGO, The Earth Partners. This is the group that involves itself deeply in the affairs of Costa Rica. One of the Partners, Brinkman and Associates, is in progress converting ‘underutilized’ farmland into teak hardwood plantations. Teak, native to South Asia, is a high-value lumber with natural resistance to weathering making it desirable for flooring and outdoor furniture. The family Raap has developed a teak furniture enterprise to add to the other business ventures in hand. Mrs. Raap comes from Costa Rican coffee-plantation gentility, another huge agricultural growth industry that’s gone green with Fair Trade and niche-market sales, similar to other debt-for-nature nations in the neo-colonial Americas.

The Earth Partners (TEP) “was formed to advance the best forest, wetland, grassland and rangeland EcoSystem Restoration projects in the world”, or more bluntly put, eugenics for Mother Earth. Brinkman is proud to announce that monoculturing teak has replaced the local mismanagement of growing corn and beans. Brinkman operates under the business name of BARCA, S.A. and “its plantations are acknowledged to be some of the best in the world”. The Nature Conservancy is “helping to assemble key land parcels for biofuel production projects” involving TEP and POET, the leading US ethanol producer. TEP’s website explains that “possibilities also exist that these lands being restored for biofuel production may generate multiple entrepreneurial revenue streams (e.g. carbon credits, water credits, wetland credits, biodiversity credits, hunting rights leases, flood damage reduction credits..)” and this is how Green plays on. http://www.theearthpartners.com/ and
http://www.reforestteak.com/Our-Partners-and-Associated-Projects_ep_45-1.html

Meanwhile, back at the beach, where the ‘second home’ market is very hot, the 500 acres of Pueblo Verde has something to offer the low-key buyer who prefers a more ‘integrated’ feel than the other sister developments of Tierra Verde. “The area closest to the highway and parallel to the entrance [lot #1]..we are reserving for 2 or 3 families from the area. Our policy at Pueblo Verde is ‘don’t gate, integrate’. In our valley, the imbalance of wealth is making it hard for locals to own land. We want to be good neighbors. The residents on this property will be available for help in the project and offer a form of community security which is ‘built in’, low profile but highly effective.” http://www.puebloverde.org/Pueblo_Verde_Blog.html, (under “Homesites”)

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