Our Bright Future #8: Stephen Brooks on Building Thriving, Sustainable Communities for a New Earth, Aligned with Nature

Many of us are focused right now on building community, and more specifically, on how local community resilience will be key to our survival and thriving as centralized systems come apart, and the world shifts to one that is more local, rooted in bonds of affection, and aligned with nature.

How do we rebuild our society at the local level? What designs for ecologically sound and sustainable communities do we have to learn from? What will help us make the transition, and what can we learn from the community-building trailblazers who have come before us?

We begin this conversation in the Our Bright Future series with Stephen Brooks the remarkable founder of La Ecovilla and the Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design & Botanical Studies, both located in Costa Rica.

OS53: Amy Schrift – The Power of Nature to Transform a Life

How many people talk about spending more time in nature? Yearn for time outside, in the ocean, forest, mountains? When we lived in NYC, talk of getting into nature was practically a mantra on the street. The thing is, while most people feel a call to nature, few end up spending much time there. Not so for Amy Schrift. After a heavy dinner out in the city, Amy felt a call to feed her body more naturally. That week, she discovered a living foods diet, and began eating only raw fruits and vegetables–a lifestyle she maintained for 8 years. Step by step, she reshaped her life in NYC to live as naturally as possible. She spent as much time as she could in the parks; learned where to forage fruit in upper Manhattan; shut the lights off at sunset; even slept on the floor of her high-rise studio apartment to ground herself. As she experienced it, something far beyond her was calling—she was being drawn forward by a deep force within and without, toward a more vibrant, awake, and powerful life than she had ever known. Through her, a new vision for her life emerged into being. Within two years, she was led to a parcel of wild, undomesticated land in Costa Rica. On the land, Amy lived for many years alone–or as she says “all one”–with nature. She slept under the stars without cover; planted and ate from the land; worked the fields naked in the sun; and co-created a farm and home together with her land, water, and air. Thirteen years later, the effect that this way of living has had on Amy is palpable immediately upon coming into her space. She brings a presence, awareness and clarity that are extremely rare today in our busy times. She is clearly at home and has become one with nature, its pace and rhythms. Imagine who you could be and how you might live if you heeded the call inside of you. There could be an entirely new person and a wild, open, expansive life awaiting you on the other side of that call. If you have ever felt a call to nature, and wondered how it might change you or your life, you will be riveted by this interview. Enjoy!

OS49: Marvin Rockwell – Spreading Peace & Creating Paradise in Costa Rica

There are 1410 miles between Fairhope, AL and Monteverde, Costa Rica. We know this because while interviewing this week’s guest, Marvin Rockwell at his home in Monteverde, describing his epic journey there from Alabama in 1948, we pulled it up on Google maps. Of course, the internet wasn’t at the disposal of Marvin and the small community of Quakers heading south from Alabama in 1948 on their way to Costa Rica. Nor were fully completed roads. Marvin and three other men had just completed a year and a day sentence for evading the American draft, recently implemented to staff up the Korean War. Deeply against killing another, the group sought more peaceful pastures, and was drawn to Costa Rica given its warm, welcoming climate and recent decision to ban their military…entirely. In this episode, Marvin shares his remarkable story. He also talks about how Costa Rica has changed over the years, and how it hasn’t (it still has no military and a strong commitment to peace, for example). We learn about how he and others started the Quaker community in Monteverde, how they learned to farm and make a living there, how they tried (and failed) to construct an airstrip, the various adventures he has had since and the one key element that has allowed him to do so many different things over the years following his own, unique path. Marvin Rockwell quite literally blazed his own path in the world and his story will inspire you to do the same. Enjoy!

OS36: Ben Hewitt – Unschooling, Fostering Curiosity & Learning To Let Go

Author, dad and farmer Ben Hewitt has emerged as one of the leaders in the alternative education movement. For over a decade he and his wife Penny have explored the nuances of “unschooling” their kids (a word they admittedly dislike). Basically, the idea is to give kids room to explore, follow their excitement and then – as parents – step in and facilitate, add enthusiasm and get out of the way. The result are two boys who are independent, confident and highly expressed. This road has led them through all manner of peaks and valleys, which we explore in this conversation. What happened when Ben’s eldest son wasn’t reading by the (supposed) “correct” time? What did Ben and Penny do when they discovered their youngest son trapping animals on their farm? How did they respond when their eldest suddenly desired a traditional school/educational experience? And, what are their views of the standard educational system in the west now with over 10 years of experience behind them? We discuss this and much, much more with Ben Hewitt in this Ownstream Podcast interview. Mostly, we delve into the remarkable nature of learning and creativity and how joyful and expansive it can be if we simply allow kids to follow their own excitement, and then, do the hardest thing: let go. Enjoy!

OS33: Gina Savage & Mike Perkins – Farming, Food, Service & True Love

Mike Perkins and Gina Savage had, independent of the other, always dreamed of owning their own Oregon farm. Gina toiled away at a corporate job while Mike ran various businesses, while periodically traveling and living out of his camper. When they met, and fell in love, both felt buoyed to go for it and act on their excitement. Just three years later, the couple owns a thriving, organic farm in southern Oregon called the “Surf Ranch” where they grow vegetables, raise cattle and build community with other, local farmers. They also just happen to have one of the more amazing Airbnb rentals in the USA, and are praised by virtually everyone who stays with them (including us!). How have they elevated to the level of “super hosts”? What is their secret to inspiring epic, rave reviews? And, what is life truly like for two people who gave it all up for nature and their shared love of growing food? For many, cashing in the chips for the farm lifestyle is a fantasy, perhaps even a dream. For Gina and Mike, it’s a dream come true and they aren’t afraid to admit they are loving every second of it. Enjoy!

OS2: Stacey Murphy – From Urban Farmer to Digital Nomad

Stacey Murphy was on her way to her day job some years ago in New York City, when her body simply would not allow her to go any further. She called in sick and wandered over to a farmers market. Here, observing the interplay between farmer, food and soil, she felt the exciting stir towards entrepreneurship. 6 months later, she quit her job and embarked on her journey as an urban farmer in Brooklyn. She now lives as a digital nomad, teaching people from around the world to grow their own food. Learn about her journey and more in this episode of the Ownstream Podcast.