1st Expedition to El Hual-Hual
It was a beautiful, sunny but cold and windy day in early October of 2021. Only a few clouds rumbling across the sky from south-west to north-east direction. We are in the coastal region of Chile, South America, in the middle of the “Bosque Maulino Costero”, a unique and threatened ecosystem. Our mission is clear: Identify, georeference and generate audiovisual material of one of the most endangered species of trees on the planet. We are talking about Gomortega keule or known just as “Queule” by the local language.
The region is in the middle of one of the biggest lumber industry operations within the Chilean country. Most of the native forests have been replaced with pine & eucalyptus monoculture; for wood and paper pulp. When you arrive at the area you will certainly notice the landscape monotony with these massive mono-species plantations.
We had arrived at the nearest small town a few days ago and the day of the expedition had finally arrived. Everything was already set up by Nico in order to be very efficient about the cadastre needed for success.
To contextualize, we’ve been working alongside “Costa Sur'' NGO for more than a year now regarding the preservation of this species. Some funds for these operations come from private philanthropists while other revenues come from the government and other related NGOs, but in the end, it is mostly thanks to volunteers and good hearted people who are putting in all the effort needed to keep these unique specimens from being cut down. Especially landowners, who set aside their farming potential to preserve these endangered ecosystems for free.
A few months ago, before this first expedition, one thing became crystal clear: Costa Sur’s financial status was becoming weaker, threatening the future of conservation actions. Therefore, Ignacio got in touch with Nico, who was working with Costa Sur, and they both brainstormed a first approach towards this ambitious and necessary project: To revalue endangered species and biodiversity through tokenization of the specimens.
With the motivation and support of an awesome team, an innovative approach, a clear and ambitious mission, and the first Species identified and ready to be tokenized, the project has moved forward, slowly, but steadily. Finally the day arrived; to venture into the first identifiable Queule Grove. Three of us went, Nico, tree conservation expert; Amelia, photographer and designer; and Ignacio, the idealist optimist with a clear vision in mind: To enjoy the landscape that will be the first of many to help foster biodiversity.
The first Queule stands right in the middle of a parking area, protected by a nice wooden cage/pot whilst giving shade to the local dogs playing underneath. Some houses surround it, from the local farmers who had already been advised to take care of the Queules. Everything went smoothly and beautifully. Our mission was to take pictures and videos of the specimen and to make a detailed description of its characteristics and exact georeferenced location.
We then moved forward into the forest where some of the most beautiful Queules in existence coexist with the surrounding ecosystem. It was then when we heard the trucks and chainsaws grinding nearby…. “¿Whats that?” I asked Nico, “¿Isn’t it illegal to cut down trees nearby?”
“Yes it is, but the landowner of the neighboring lot next to this protected forest is not as smart, nor educated as our host here… he is cutting down native forest to make firewood”
“He is been cutting down trees his whole life in order to bring food to his family… if we could provide him with some basic economic stability it would be easier to prevent the damage to the ecosystem, but the funds… well, you know, that is why we are doing this…”
The Chainsaw screeching accompanied us during the entire expedition, reminding us every second of its crucial importance. The awful sounds only stopped for one hour at lunch time, when we could enjoy the magic of the forest without the sound of death coming towards us. It was a calm and intimate hour with the forest. Our goal became even more clear, to be able to keep that sacred silence in every endangered forest on earth, not for just for one hour at lunchtime, but for all of eternity.
We walked around for almost 4 hours and could find, identify and cadastre 26 Queules. You could physically see the history behind them, since most of them had been chopped down or burnt centuries ago and you could see and imagine the size of their trunks before they were taken down. You could see the massive bases, up to 4 meters wide, that are now reborn in a double or even triple trunk Specimen, since the branches come out from different sides of the base trunk, it looked to be separate independant trees, but if you looked closely enough you would tell that they were all the same living organism with one massive base-trunk and probably a millenary roots system. It is estimated that the oldest living queule within the Hualhual forest is around 1000 years old, being the oldest Queule specimen ever found..
The beauty and value of this project resides in nature, in the expeditions needed to accomplish it, in the community support needed to make it a reality and in the fact that the technology needed to make it a trustful store of value is already here: Blockchain.
This project is not just a simple business idea, it is a life-long commitment with mother nature, and has the power to change the concept of value that we use so irresponsibly in our everyday lives. We put the value of our living time into digging up stones, in fossil Fuels, in unhealthy food, in ego boosting and in paper money. Now we have the opportunity to rethink the way we transfer value to each other and to agree on another consensus: Let’s revalue the scarcity of life in the universe, let's take care of it and store our wealth in its main Ecosystem Guardians: the real life ENTS, Endangered Trees.
After that long trip to the southern hemisphere, a beautiful hike through the untouched forest and what seemed like a small stop at the moon, let’s come back down to earth and check out the first ENTS Family: Gomortega Keule is actually the first tokenized Endangered Species and, if the world agrees with us, it has the power to save it.