By Greg Gordon, CRsurf.com
With the 6th annual Envision Festival less than one month away, thousands of travelers are making plans to arrive in Uvita to stay for the four night event. Envision provides a platform for different cultures to co-exist in sustainable community, and inspire one another through art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performance, education, sustainability and our fundamental connection with nature. This dream was created by in part by the owner of the Punta Mona Ecology Retreat, Mr. Stephen Brooks. To find out more about how the event got started, its vision, and its purpose, I sat down with Stephen and asked him to share his insight.
Q - When was your first trip to Costa Rica?
Stephen – My first trip was in March of 1995, and I came on vacation. I grew up in Miami, Florida, and my dad was a dentist who made frequent trips to the Bahamas, so as a child I was super connected to nature through the water. We ended up on Caribbean side, and I had one of the most life-changing experiences there. I saw a Chiquita crop duster spraying indigenous kids with pesticides as it flew over the banana plantations. Right then I saw my direct connection with what I ate to what was happening in other parts of the world to produce that food. It was as simple as eating bananas. And that was the beginning of my quest to find a better way of designing our lives, designing our food systems to be more sustainable.
Q - What do you love about the country?
Stephen – The beaches, the rainforests, the country is beautiful. But what brought me to live here was what I hated and wanted to change. I couldn’t believe what was happening with the banana plantations. So I created a community that was founded on the principles of permaculture, and that grew to be Punta Mona. And we are working on a new community in San Mateo. It will have 44 lots, along gardens, orchids, eco-assisted living, a green boarding school, plus digital nomad hubs designed for co-living and co-working.
Q - Tell me about how you came up with the idea for the Envision Festival.
Stephen - I’ve been going to Burning Man since 2001. Every year I brought another friend to go. Then I thought that maybe I can bring Burning Man to Costa Rica. I had been friends with Brendan Jeffer (Danyasa Yoga Studio and Resort) for 20 years, who is another founder of Envision. In 2010 we got married and had a festival wedding in raw land. Then Josh Wendel got involved and a crew from Colorado, and we hosted it behind Danyasa in Dominical.
How has Envision grown since the first year it was hosted?
Stephen - It has grown from 600 the first year to over 6000 at last year’s event. We are trying to walk lightly as well as create something profound. We wanted to keep the same pillars as the original festival, the eco-friendliness of the event intact. We are creating an experience that will jolt people into another way of thinking. Guests will taste organic food, live among like-minded people that enjoy nature, dance, and art. And our hope is that they would want more, returning home to change how they live their lives to be in more harmony with nature. As people become more educated, we can’t keep eating toxic pesticides.
What are the highlights of this year's event?
Stephen - Xavier Rudd! I had not listened to a lot of his music before the announcement and so I checked him out on Spotify. He is amazing! Also Derrick Brose, a Native American activist, is a captivating speaker. Another excellent speaker will be Nina Simons, the founder of the Bioneers Project. There will also be an herbal clinic with a workshop in natural medicine by Sevensong. Plus Diego Delfino, a CR blogger, and Paradox Pollock will be entrancing to watch.
What steps does Envision take to protect the environment?
Stephen - We have stayed true to what we are, banning single use plastic and using bamboo for our building structures. The location of the event, at Rancho Merced, at first was just a cattle pasture. Since our first year we have planted trees native to the area, including dozens of beach almond trees, which is a favorite food for the endangered macaw. We partner with Community Carbon Trees and Costa Verdes to assist in the reforestation of Playa Hermosa. In the past we have also built a community center for Uvita kids. My wife and I design the education content and we put on workshops for Regenerative Lifestyle, Integrating Health, Practical Design, and Community & Social Awareness, while exploring a variety of sustainable practices.
What is the beach cleanup program about and how do guests get involved?
Stephen - Every year we do a major beach cleanup with volunteers that are staying or camping in Dominical and Playa Hermosa and attending the festival. Participants can check our Facebook event page and our Instagram account @EnvisionFestival for updates.
What are your hopes for the Envision Festival in the future?
Stephen - We want to start to do smaller events throughout the year with a maximum of 500 guests. In Punta Mona we just had 200 people at our Permaculture Design Retreat and there was such a connection. Envision could also get involved in other festivals around the world. We would add to their offering by hosting a permaculture plaza and an herbal education series.
It’s not too late to get your tickets to this year’s Envision Festival. Just go to www.EnvisionFestival.com and click “Buy Tickets”. It will be a life changing experience. We hope to see you there!