‘The Collective: Interviews’ turns this week to a topic I only recently learned about, but one that is increasingly important, especially given the massively damaging climate events this past week: permaculture.
A few months back, I had the pleasure of meeting Erin, a massage therapist and photographer extraordinaire, at a chiropractic center in Malibu. We became instant friends (as I imagine everyone does upon meeting Erin—she’s one of those vibrantly beautiful people you instantly want to spend more time with). Over the course of our first meeting, she told me about her husband, Sergio, and how they are living a sustainable life in the hills of Topanga Canyon (just out of the reach of the hustle and bustle of urban Los Angeles). I wanted to learn more, so she introduced me to Sergio, who tells his story here (and for more, visit his website):
In 1989, I came to California from Cordoba, Argentina. I had what you might call a “normal” childhood. Video games, skateboarding and way too much TV. The catalyst to align my life in a more sustainable way came around 2006 from watching Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ I remember that night vividly. Soon after finishing a yoga class I found out they were showing this film and decided to stay. Boy, did it awaken my awareness. I left expecting the sky to fall before I even made it home.
Not too long after that I started gardening and studying permaculture, natural building, energy conservation and any related subject. Through all that, my wife Erin and I moved to an Intentional Community in Topanga Canyon and are now living, by choice, off grid in an RV. We are currently looking for land or another community to move to.
Living sustainably in the current state of affairs is near impossible. The best thing we can do is be aware of where our “possessions,” food and water, for example, come from. This in turn helps us make an educated guess as to what systems to support. We like the Transition movement’s idea of a better, more resilient world being possible.
Sergio’s answers to my questions confirm for me that there’s a path less traveled in this world and that it’s one that indeed makes all the difference.
Describe yourself in one word: Serendipitous.
What makes you happy?
The simple and often unnoticed things in life. I love directing my awareness to the changing seasons. Specially how plants react, such as their rooting, flowering and seeding cycles. The different scents and moods of each season.
What frustrates you?
Waste and inefficient design. The agricultural industry comes to mind. Monocultures are neither efficient nor natural. Greed also tops the list. If only we could be like the cells that form our body. Imagine what could be accomplished if humans behaved in such a collaborative way.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Throughout my life I have avoided having a profession. Not sure if it was not wanting to commit or not wanting to make the wrong choice. Through that, I’ve come to be interested in a bit of everything. Now I’m on the path of what I think of as a holistic profession. That means being and building a more localized form of living and helping people reconnect with their ability to do things for themselves.
Who is your role model?
Any person who leads with their heart irrespective of how others say they should be. It gives me such positive energy when I see it in a person’s eyes. No fear, no hate, no judgement—makes me think of how great people can be.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as a child, what would it be?
Time is one thing that cannot be replaced: use it wisely. It is still good advice today and I should heed it more often.
Describe your typical day:
At this time, my days are anything but typical. I am in a transitional place with my life and work. I guess the pattern would, at this moment, be planning for a more efficient energy source for the RV we live in and scoping the land for a possible vegetable garden and fruit orchard site.
Finishing a long hard project and looking back with content. A long hug from someone you’ve not seen for a while. I’m not afraid to admit, I love sunsets when the clouds make the sky look like it’s on fire.
What’s your favorite piece of travel advice?
Travel alone as often as possible. You will truly get to know yourself and the world this way. It happened to me on my first trip to Europe. I went backpacking with several friends and was separating from them for a day or two when I lost the itinerary. I ended up spending the next two and a half months without them, but not alone, and had some of the best times of my life.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
Bueng-Pai Organic Farm in Pai, Thailand. Erin and I just stumbled upon it during our honeymoon. The owner had bought this land in the middle of rice fields and created a lush and very tranquil setting. They harvested most of the food they served from on site and had created the most gorgeous fish ponds surrounded by truly inspiring bamboo and reed huts.
When was the last time you…
Talking on the phone with my wife, Erin. She is a true goof ball and can bring it out of you at will. I feel I am the luckiest man alive—a cliche, I know.
I often joke about how my tear ducts are dry. It truly is a rare occasion when I do cry. So you can imagine my surprise when I let out crocodile tears before leaving for Florida to visit Erin’s family for the holidays and I came home to find our new puppy Charlie was not home to greet me at the door—Erin had dropped him off at a friend’s house earlier that day. Knowing I would not see his little face for almost a month tapped into something deep inside.
First thing that came to mind is about a month ago. I participated in a week long natural building intensive at Emerald Earth, an intentional community in Northern California. We built with cob, straw bale, and learned about natural finishing techniques. Being a potter, the cob was my favorite.
I’ve become hopelessly dependent on my “smart” phone to get me from point A to point B. I was going to meet a friend at his partner’s house to pick up some beekeeping gear and my phone battery died. The horror! I actually stopped a stranger walking down the street and asked if I could look up directions on his iPhone. In my defense, it was a very hilly area in Los Angeles and quite tricky.
Any time I’m engulfed by nature. It brings a unique clarity of mind.
Made a fool of yourself:
Depends on your definition. I take the whimsical approach to that word. That being my view, I do it as often as possible.