Touching on all things permaculture and eco-communities, Kash Khan catches up with Stephen Brooks, co-founder, and co-producer of Envision Festival. Growing up in suburban Florida, Stephen had no exposure to eco-design growing up. In later years, he studied abroad in Spain to discover uniquely designed communities that kept everyone together. This deep sense of family led him to think more deeply about how physical design fosters community.
Ths budding curiosity cemented during a trip to Costa Rica after witnessing indigenous children get sprayed on by a Chiquita Banana crop-duster. In a soul engulfing exchange, Stephen shares an early memory that propelled his mission moving forward.
“There was this indigenous man… He stopped right at my Rent-A-Car and he stared me right in the soul… We just looked at each other which felt, it might have been 10, 15, 20 seconds… It felt like 10, or 15, or 20 million years,” Stephen begins as he draws attention to the differences in their life experience.
In a jolt of awareness, Stephen was propelled out of a slumber that most of us might experience in a modern world’s design. How is that on one side of the town a group of people is working so hard to produce goods while right down the road a select few are driving fancy cars and eating out at swanky restaurants?
At the ripe age of 21, Stephen asked himself, “Is this really the best we could be doing?” Ultimately his questions led to an internal answer. As we are always reminded, the change we wish to see in the world always starts within.
Not too long after, Stephen began to create transformational experiences to share important knowledge with visiting students while also showing the beauty of Costa Rica. This momentous time was just the beginning of what would come.
Understanding and Applying Permaculture Philosophy
Considering himself an ethnobotanist while opening other’s eyes to returning to harmonic cultivation, Stephen’s work transpires over 25 years.
In addition to co-founding Envision Festival, he also founded the Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies. Punta Mona taught the first permaculture courses in Costa Rica and continues to spread across the country.
Permanent culture was coined in the 1970s by Bill Mullison in Australia. Stephen mentions it occurred during the shift from self-grown food to companies installing septic systems and food stores. Essentially, as external modes of food sources made their way into town, alternative measures were created to maintain food and community independence.
“Permaculture isn’t an agricultural system, which many people think,” Stephen advises. “It’s an ecological design philosophy which constantly has that lens of “How can I do whatever I’m trying to do and use less of the planet’s resources?’”
When we look at permaculture from a philosophical perspective, it is clear that it’s principles go beyond food production. It is a way of life, a way of seeing.
During the conversation, Stephen also shares some background pertaining to the word, Eroi (energy returned on energy invested).
“Permaculture really is the empowerment and the confidence and the toolkit to realize wait a minute, we have a say. We can do things differently. We become resilient,” Stephen proclaims.
This philosophical approach isn’t just happening in Costa Rica. As the conversation continues, Stephen shares motives operating to spread this work throughout the globe.
Transitioning from Then to Now
“I was having all this clarity about what the world needed…,” Stephen begins. “There are so many of us seeing that same movie.”
This is a truth that rings through to many who either feel like they aren’t enough to make a difference or who feel overwhelmed with the idea of an eco-lifestyle. It sends a nod relaying the work has begun and it shall continue.
“I have more faith than ever that this is happening,” Stephen proclaims. He continues in an exploration of ecological neighborhoods that merge modes of education, community design, and agriculture. Watch the full interview and discussion below as Kash and Stephen talk about how to break free from the norm utilizing permaculture philosophy, intentional living, and more.
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