#028 Santi Moringa: Living Social Permaculture (Molinos Verdes de Moringa)

Jun 19, 2024

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Social Permaculture brings holistic design to the human ecosystem, creating communities that thrive on empathy, inclusion, and holistic growth.

Santi’s challenge to all of us is to find and support the unsung heroes in our own communities. This grassroots approach can have a meaningful impact on a more loving and connected world.

If Santi’s work inspires you, consider putting effort toward making a difference in your local community. Support those already doing incredible work so you can build a more regenerative future together.

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Your support helps us reach more listeners and spread the message of regenerative living.

Until next time, keep growing and nurturing bonds to cultivate a more resilient culture!

Santi also highlighted the need to embrace diversity beyond appearances. Instead, seek functional diversity in viewpoints and interactions that honor each individual’s unique contributions, leading to more innovative and inclusive solutions.

With this comes a need to understand and embrace our emotions, which leads to personal growth and stronger community bonds. It’s crucial to channel these emotions constructively to create a safe container for that diversity to be expressed. At the same time, always remember that growth is a process, and it’s crucial to be patient with ourselves and others as we navigate the human experience together.

In this episode, I had a chat with a long-time friend, Santiago Moringa, from Molinos Verdes de Moringa. Santi is a leader in social permaculture and has over a decade of experience building community gardens and other socially regenerative projects across Costa Rica and internationally.

In our conversation, Santi shares his journey from discovering permaculture through the lens of agriculture to embracing the broader social aspects that foster community and connection. We delve into his passion for integrating diverse communities into the permaculture movement, including elders and marginalized groups. Santi also opens up about his personal transformation and the pivotal moments that shaped his commitment to the social permaculture movement.


Expand your perspectives on permaculture and how to apply it beyond food forests and water management.

From his early experiences with factory farm methods to his life-changing reflections on the importance of love and empathy in all human interactions, Santi’s stories are heartfelt calls to action for us all.

We also touch on the principles of social permaculture taught by renowned educators like Starhawk and how these principles can be applied to create more resilient and compassionate communities.

I’m grateful for Santi’s emphasis on integrating social elements into permaculture, focusing not just on physical structures but on fostering genuine human connections and community resilience. We really need to expand our perspectives on permaculture and how it can be applied beyond food forests and water management.

Your community interactions represent a wellspring of opportunity.

Santi’s challenge to all of us is to find and support the unsung heroes in our own communities. This grassroots approach can have a meaningful impact on a more loving and connected world.

If Santi’s work inspires you, consider putting effort toward making a difference in your local community. Support those already doing incredible work so you can build a more regenerative future together.

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Your support helps us reach more listeners and spread the message of regenerative living.

Until next time, keep growing and nurturing bonds to cultivate a more resilient culture!

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Music: Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4291-rite-of-passage 

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Episode Transcripts

Jason: Hello and welcome back to the Regeneration Nation Costa Rica. 

I have the pleasure today of sitting here with Santiago Moringa of Molinos Verdes de Moringa. Santiago is a Costa Rican. For more than 12 years, he’s been working with permaculture as a designer, and he’s become a leader in the fields of social permaculture education and technology. As a co-founder of the Red de Huertos Urbanos in Costa Rica, he’s made a huge difference in many people’s lives. 

Santi is also a scriptwriter and the host of a television program called Germinados Ideas De Permacultura, which has allowed him to share his knowledge internationally through projects in Cuba, Mexico, Columbia, Spain, Nicaragua, and the United States, as well as Costa Rica.

For more than 11 years, he’s been an active participant in the Fultierra Community Garden and many other community gardens, with a commitment to the creation and supervision of community and school programs with a very inclusive approach, which watching some of the videos that you sent me recently, I saw that you’ve got a real focus on the elder communities, which is really beautiful to see, their participation in the garden and how much that’s meant to them.

So thank you for sharing those videos and yourself and your time here and joining the podcast, Santi.


Santi: Yeah, thank you for inviting me. I know we’ve been going around about what we can talk about for a while, and I have two options in my head. I either feel very comfortable with something I chose, or it’s completely spontaneous and then I don’t have an option, and I just do my best in that. So because we were in the middle, I’m happy that we finally got to this social permaculture from a perspective that I feel comfortable that I can really speak into and share details with you.

Jason: Yeah, that’s great. You know, it really, it’s such a natural topic too, for us to talk about. I remember when we first met in 2016 at Finca Morpho, when we were at that, community gathering that, NuMundo pulled together. And when I just met you, I saw your passion. It wasn’t even about that you were part of some intentional community or something that you needed NuMundo help for, you just had a passion for sharing permaculture and connection and wanted to be part of whatever was going on. And when you shared what you were doing in the city of San Jose and that urban environment and how passionate and important that was for you, I just really knew that I wanted to keep knowing you for a long time, and I’m grateful that our paths have been able to cross and I’m really grateful you showed up to the event that we did online talking about, Cultural Bridge Building as a remedy for neo-colonialism. And I really appreciated your contributions to that. And I guess any listeners or viewers here can find that conversation on our YouTube channel in the Extra Bits Playlist.

It was a really great conversation, a bilingual conversation about cultural bridge building. And yeah, so social permaculture is a great place to start for us. Before going into your projects, I do want to share with the listeners some of the stuff that you’re working with, with Molinos Verdes de Moringa and the community gardens and so forth, but just what does social permaculture mean to you?

Santi: At the beginning, when I took my first PDC, and I was learning about permaculture, it originally fell more towards the physical stuff that we could touch the gardens, the natural building, the water catchment system, they were really interesting for me because I was coming from, let’s say the mainstream and I was just following the script and so having those tools was interesting, but the more I got into permaculture and actually thanks to Huertas Donde Sea, which I always send a lot of love and appreciation to Ale Arango, which was one of my first, main characters in this story who showed me, it’s not just about the physical stuff that you can build because you just get a recipe book.

You get the manual instructions, and you build it, but social permaculture is at a different level because I’ve seen so many intentional communities that I think lack the intention or have the intention but lack the tools to make it work on the invisible layers.

They have great buildings and great water systems, but then the people themselves are not communicating properly, are not doing the personal work, are not doing the collective work and then it fails. And so, for me, social permaculture is so important because it brings that social part, that human part to the designs and focus actually on that because we could have solar panels all over and electric cars and whatever you want. It’s not going to change how we live as humans if we don’t learn how to live with each other and with other types of lives.

I do think that if we find the love within ourselves through our gifts and connect with the love of others through their gifts, we’ll probably do much better than solar panels, electric cars, and cob houses.

Jason: All of what you’re saying is clear. And I think, a lot of people, we see the ills of the world, we see the imbalances, we see the, injustice and the complacency of the people of our cultures. Even in the day-to-day, we find ourselves having moments where, we make the choice to not live up to our ideals and so forth.

 And so there’s, you know, the responsibility to be good social ambassadors as much as ecological ambassadors, but where does permaculture fit into this social responsibility for you?

Santi: So I think a big problem that I see from… I don’t know if a problem, but I guess it was a different context before but the thing is that they started studying and specializing and just went down a very narrow path. So, you would be a biologist specializing in wildlife or marine life. And then you just know a lot about a very specific topic.

When you go so specific, I think you can lose track of the global panorama of everything that is going on around you. Permaculture does the opposite, in a way, which is to think about all the different aspects of design, including the invisible structures, in a spiral way.

So you, uh, growing spiral. So you start with the compost, and you learn about that. And then you learn about education and you grow a little more. And then about health. And at some point you go back to compost, but now, you know, more. So it’s like the knowledge that keeps growing, but not in a narrow alley, more in a spiral that keeps growing, taking into account many different topics, which allows you to, or at least it has allowed me to be in a music festival, thinking how do we get wheelchairs here? How do we get deaf people to enjoy this festival? How do we get more representation of other than white people in this festival? Because I do think that white people, we, at least here in Costa Rica, there’s a lot of representation, and what about black people, indigenous communities?

What about queer, black, indigenous people that have amazing things to share, but they’re never called, or people don’t think about them for these kinds of events or even smaller events. So, permaculture allows me to do this while also thinking about what materials I am going to use. What people am I going to hire to do decoration and what materials do they use for that?

How can I most sustainably attract more people to the location? If I’m going to serve food, I want to serve the best quality possible—the same quality I would want to eat. And if I’m going to talk to them because there’s a misunderstanding, I want to talk to them with as much love and compassion as I would like someone to talk to me if I messed up.

So all of these are areas of permaculture that, in other jobs, you just focus on producing sustainable cups and or compostable cups. And that’s it. That’s your job. And maybe you do other things, but more because of intuition or because you, I don’t know, you had the opportunity to learn about conflict resolution. But that’s the other thing you work on conflict resolution, but then you might not be thinking about how do I bring deaf people to my workshops?

So, permaculture allows me to have all these fronts that are so important for me because they represent the world. I don’t live in a world where just compostable cups matter or just black people matter, or just solar energy matters. It’s a world that combines everything, and permaculture combines everything.

Jason: So, you know, you said you started in the realms of permaculture a dozen years ago, and I imagine you got into it, like most of us, with a focus on agriculture, food systems, and replanting denatured areas. At what point did you really learn about or find yourself growing a passion for the social aspects of it? Was it right away, or did it come a little later after you started practicing the agricultural aspect?

Santi: So, I actually think I got to permaculture because of the growing food, but it quickly transitioned to this bigger picture. What happened is that a lot of people who have heard me before know this story, and I sometimes get emotional, which is what brought me here. When I was in high school, we had the opportunity to travel to France.

It was a trip that we had been talking about for many years. Some of my French friends would talk about this thing called Foie Gras. I didn’t know what it was, but it seemed to be something really important to try if I went to France, and they would say it was amazing. So, when I finally got to France, I was always like, where, when am I going to try Foie Gras?

Who’s going to give me some? I knew it was expensive food, so I was looking forward to it. After two or three weeks with my exchange family, they finally did a dinner with a lot of different Foie Gras, and I’m like, great, this is like 50 percent of the reasons I came here to try this damn Foie Gras. So let’s do it. And I went to the table. I’m super excited. I start taking the bread and spreading it, and I like to mix everything. So I just put all the types of Foie Gras, all the types of cheese, everything in the same piece of bread. And I go, and I bite it.

And it tasted so bad. But so bad. And I was like, really, I was so disappointed. So I put it down or I finished it—I don’t remember—and then I thought, maybe this is one of those ingredients that you don’t want to mix with others. So let’s just try one regular piece of bread with just one type of Foie Gras.

It also tastes bad. So then I went to the pink one, to the yellow one, the black one, the gray one, the white one, all of them, and they all tasted so bad with cheese, without cheese, just a spoonful of Foie Gras, I know it was even worse. And I was so disappointed because that was like a big reason, at that time in high school, that I was so excited to go, that people had talked so much, and I had created so much expectation, and it sucked.

So then, some years later, I’m in university, and I’m thinking, I wonder what Foie Gras is made of? At this point, I’m a DIYer, so I’m always looking for tutorials on how to do whatever. So I’m like, I know! I can just look for the recipe! And I went to YouTube, and I’m like, How to make Foie Gras. And I thought I was gonna find an old lady in a red and white tiled kitchen, put in ingredients in a pot, and they would take something, put it in, and I would be like, That’s it!

That ingredient is what messes up everything. So, I’m going to reproduce it without the ingredient, and it’s going to be great. And I’m going to actually have a good Foie Gras that I made myself. Chan! 

The first time I looked for a tutorial that started with how to make something, I didn’t find what I was expecting at all.

There was no lady. There were no red and white tiles. There was no kitchen. There was a guy holding something that I would call a pressure washer, but he was, he would shoot corn. I don’t know, corn, ground corn, but they would have a bunch of ducks in an awful place. It looked like a jail, like an underground jail with low light. And the guy looked like evil. And he would take the ducks and just push this like long kind of gun thing into their throats and just push it.

You would see how their bellies would grow, and they would just walk with their necks broken. Because foie gras means fat liver in French, and to get an animal to get sick… They don’t do it in nature. I know I’m not a biologist, but I think, generally animals don’t make themselves sick in nature because they just self-regulate with nature.

They run away from things, and they run after things. They eat grass, whatever. So you need to force a duck to have a fat liver. This was very shocking for me because I know, I knew at that time that there was war and that people would kill other people, but it just seemed so far away. I didn’t understand.

And seeing it in the screen of my computer, with something I had eaten, just brought it so close to me, and I said, I don’t want to be part of this.

I guess I’ve had a privileged life, but I mostly have loving people around me. The worst things they would do would be throw a phone against the wall when they were really angry or throw a door, but no, do not treat life like this. My sister is walking by, I’m at my desk, and I’m crying.

And she tells me, why are you crying? And I tell her, because look, like what they do with ducks, whatever. She goes like, Oh, you didn’t know it’s the same for all the animals. And she just walks away. And I’m like, what?

And I start putting on the computer how meat is produced, how bacon is produced, how tuna is produced. And I started learning about all this violence across all a bunch of food I was eating. And I was so sad because I felt betrayed by the people who actually know how it’s produced. They know how much love I have for animals, and no one told me, and I refused to think they didn’t know.

I’m sure they knew all the ways of maybe more farm-style, grass-fed production, like here in Costa Rica, where we don’t have so much industrial production. But I’m sure they knew part of the story, and they never told me. 

So, I spent the next three or four months watching every single documentary I could find, and the food and meat industries took me to other industries.

I learned a lot about war. At that time, I didn’t even care about what happened in Iraq and the United States colonizing the whole world with their army. And then I learned a lot about that. I learned about other countries that were also making war all over. The supermarkets like Walmart taking down small shops.

It was so much information, but I’m this intense. If I’m going to learn about something and it’s important to me, I’m just going to go all the way. I think I watched at least 70 documentaries through those three months. We used to have movie nights with my friends at high school, where we would just watch random Disney movies.

And I was like, Oh, I have a chance to use my platform. They trust me because they always come to my house to watch things. I’m going to do a movie night about doc, a documentary night. 

And the thing that I was so upset that my family and my friends didn’t tell me about, I’m like, I’m not going to be that person. I’m going to tell people like, People might not care or might not want to know, but I’m, I want them to have a choice to say, I don’t want to receive this information, or I’m going to take it and do something about it. And actually, from all those eight friends from high school, we went to that documentary night. I think 80 percent of them are still vegetarian today. And that was more than 12 years ago. 

So, I think a lot of people don’t want to; they feel like they’re shoving their perspectives into others. But I think a lot of people don’t know this. If you’re not a yes or a no, then you’re probably supporting the oppressor.

If you’re not going actively against the oppressor, you’re supporting the oppressor. And from that time, I could not be on the side of oppression. That’s why permaculture has given me so many tools to just try to help as much as I can with the energy, resources, and privilege I have, to take on so many fronts. 

Of course, I cannot do them all at the same time, but again, it’s a spiral. Every time I learn about something new and the next time I go through that, like a bus stop, I’m going to be better at it. And I do think it’s important to have this holistic perspective, because in life, every minute of our life, we’re not doing the same thing. We’re dealing with different people, different scenarios, different countries, different languages, different skills. So why not try to approach and engage with every single minute of our life in the most loving, compassionate way that is going to have a positive impact on the future?

Hopefully, no one else has to sit in their computer and see how other types of life in the world are being oppressed, killed, damaged, or completely erased. Social permaculture can be really interesting in a classroom and in other settings. But for me, it’s just my everyday life.

And whoever’s listening to this, I don’t want you to get overwhelmed or to feel like I’m just putting a burden on you because now you have to be like me. No, we all have different skills, and I do suck at some of them. So I need you, your other skills, your other levels of intensity or passivity to complement the work that I do because we’re just like a team.

In a team, if you’re talking about soccer, not everyone is in the front, and not everyone’s catching the goals. So, we need everyone. There are different levels, different skills, and different locations, and I’m happy about that. What I’m describing is the mission—the purpose that I have, and I feel it so deep within me; it’s exciting.

So whoever’s listening to this, just keep doing what is exciting for you, and that’s part of being in this team.

Jason: Wow. What a powerful story. Yeah, we have some interesting similarities. Learning about the atrocities of the standard food system is also what brought me into this epic journey I’ve been on through life. I was sick at a young age, and so I started seeking out shiny elder people, like, how do you get shiny and be old?

 And then they started teaching me things. I said, What? They’ve been lying to me this whole time.? And yeah, I did the same thing, binged on a bunch of documentaries. Just so much about the world, and wow. So, yeah, we, uh, we could keep going into that, but what’s more important is how you and I and others like us have gone through the revelation period, and the self-education period, and the preaching period, which has its limits. Right? 

And then we just become magnets for the people who really want to know. So that’s what you’re doing now. You’re presenting yourself in a holistic way to a very wide population, and you’re not just attracting young rebel youth who are trying to rebel against the system. You are bringing your passion for holistic living and holistic relating to many different socioeconomic groups or people of these different backgrounds.

And one of them is the older population of people that I saw working in your community gardens. And, before we go into that, I’m curious how you got into attracting that particular type of people into that program and just, are there any other kind of particular niches or subsets of the population around San Jose that you’re developing programs for as well?

Santi: So, maybe I’m going to slightly sidetrack and go back a little because I remember the last question, and I’m just going to use that as a transition, which is after watching all these documentaries, I started looking for how to grow my own food, and I found this Huertas Donde Sea workshop in Barrio Escalante, in Rolf’s house.

Rolf is one of the original founders of the Feria Verde. And that’s when I went to the first classroom in quotes, that was not everyone the same kind of age or the same generation. There were people from two years old. like babies, two years old to, others, maybe in their seventies or even maybe even their eighties.

I thought this was so cool because when I was in a high school classroom and wanted to engage with people from primary school and older people from higher levels, I was like, why are we so divided by age if I feel there are so many commonalities with some other groups and classes from different ages?

So being there and listening to all those perspectives was like, I think this makes sense for me. So later on, at that time, I was so intense that when I started teaching workshops, I would do a workshop for people older than 50, maybe, and that would be too much because I was going so fast and throwing so many terms and moving around the stage that I could see how in certain spaces, like the university, some would even fall asleep or not really understand what I was talking about. 

For some time, I didn’t direct my energy to them because I could see, and many times, I’m like, I have a strong need for efficiency. So, if he’s not working somewhere, I’m just going to go elsewhere.

I’m not going to force myself to make it work. So, I started doing more teenagers and university people that were more like what you say, like rebels going against the systems and stuff. But also I thought I would find in them, coherence. Because they were going against the system, but then at that time, I would think, why are you coming with a Coca Cola to my workshop if you go against the system? Or how come you drove your car if you just live two blocks from here, if you will go against the system? I would have all this confusion. And with time, I’ve learned that I also have a lot of things that make no sense.

I drive a diesel truck, which weighs probably four or five tons for a body that weighs 50 kilos. I work on these things. They’re not things that I don’t care about, but for sure, there’s part of me that prioritizes convenience over sustainability, let’s say. In my mind, I prioritize convenience because I’m going to get better results faster.

I don’t know, actually. I’m still debating whether faster is what we need, but anyway. So, in that transition, I moved to work for university people, but then they were sometimes not as engaged as I wanted, or they would have so many filters already on how life should be and how they should behave that I moved to kindergarteners because with kindergarteners, I could just roll on the floor and tell random stories, and they would follow me, which was great.

I felt like kindergarteners were my tribe. I actually define myself as a kid trapped in a patriarchal and capitalist world, but I’m cool. There are things I enjoy, and it’s a challenge, but I like it. And mainly, I like to be a kid and play all the time. So, kindergarteners are my tribe. So I started working with them, and it was great. I had tons of fun with them, and the teachers were very into the activities. The last thing that happened was during COVID. I stopped working with schools. And I think I learned to slow down a little. And by slowing down, now I come back, and I’m working with elders, and I feel we vibe. It’s cool because they don’t have super high expectations of like content that I have to go through.

So, sometimes, I would have an idea of the content I want to go through, but they just want to talk and have a good time. So, we plan stuff, we print some other things, and we might not go through the content, but it’s for them, it’s not, Oh, I’m losing on skills that I could get a job from. 

They’re also very caring. I think they learned that we don’t need to go so fast and that they can enjoy the moment more. They let me feel that they enjoyed what I had to bring instead of the script because I planned the script maybe a week before, but that day, maybe it was raining. Maybe people are low-energy or high-energy.

And I’m really good at feeling that. And sometimes, I would feel trapped in the script because I needed to fulfill the objectives. But now, with these groups, we’re still fulfilling the objectives, not so much in content but in results. Like we created a garden in Tibas, in La Florida de Tibas, and also in Curridabat I was teaching nonviolent communication at the beginning. They were like, why if we’re talking about gardens? But in the end, they were like, I’m so happy I came. I was so angry with my daughter this morning, and I feel I can totally approach the situation in a completely different…

 It just makes me emotional because I think it’s so powerful to have a platform, to have the opportunity to impact people in such a positive way that they’ll go back to their houses and just treat their daughter, or their husband, or their whatever, their neighbor in a loving way. It’s like, wow, it’s so exciting for me to be here.

That’s why I tell people, if you have a skill and something inside you and you think you could bring good things to people, trust that gut feeling and do it. Twelve years ago, I was afraid of not getting an office job. Today, I’m so proud I didn’t, and many times, I’m in uncertainty.

I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but for example, right now, I landed in a great community here in San José en la montaña de Heredia that has been taking so much care of me, and I’ve been able to teach to them, and I feel so free to do the things I like the way I like them, in the time I want to do them. And they’re so receptive and so grateful, and because I feel so held and cared for, I have so much extra energy. 

And I think maybe that’s why it didn’t work for the interview before, like some months ago, because before, I was feeling drained, and it was difficult for me to learn stuff. But now I feel I’m in such a good environment that this extra energy overflows to do good things.

And I don’t even care about payment. And that’s the thing. I do get paid for some things. Other things I don’t. I think I have gone 60 or 80 percent of my life since 2008 volunteering. Because I’ve never worked five days a week, nine to five or something like that. It’s just I have ADHD, and I’m on the autism spectrum.

I’m not able to sit in a chair for seven hours straight every single day doing the same thing. If there are neurodivergent people listening to this, and you think you were born with a defect or a problem, you’re not. You have a gift, and the problem here is the system that forces us into a chair, a desk, and a screen. It’s like industrial production of mass stuff all over.

I trusted that it would work, and it’s just so difficult for me to go against my gut feeling and my passion, and it has worked. That said, for the people who are just listening, I’m a white man from the middle class who has had a present family and an education. So, if you haven’t had that, or people who haven’t had that, or have had a lot less, please don’t think you have to do the same thing. 

Actually, and the people who are listening who actually have more than that, we are the ones who need to help people who didn’t grow up with such a good environment, context, and opportunities to have something much better. And that’s why I do this because I’m like. I have so much fun, and I feel so much love that it feels unfair that there are people who don’t have something similar, in their own ways.

And I want to work every single day to make that even better than what I got. And not just for people, but also animals and plants, and every kind of life that we have around that we know, and even the one that we don’t know. I don’t know if I actually answered the question. Oh yeah, I do think I answered the question. 

Jason: That’s okay. You’re trying to bring it back to where you originally heard of social permaculture, and you were talking about going to Rolf’s house and hearing about things. I’m curious: Do you remember anything in particular that he was really talking about at that meeting that sparked you?

Santi: I think we tell ourselves the story that it is about what we say. And so that’s why in the activism stage, I’m not going to call it a stage because I still think I’m an activist. But when we’re showing our perspective to others, we think that it’s about what we say that might change people, and I do think it changes some. In Ayurveda, there are three stages of consciousness: Tamasic, Rajasic, and Sattvic.

I think that’s how you translate it. And tamasic people, tamasic state, it’s like stagnant. And if you have a cas juice or like tamarindo juice and it’s stagnant because it’s been sitting there for two days, you have to mix it up. And so, trying to shove perspectives into people mixes up that juice, that tamarind juice.

So, it might make them reflect. It might make them uncomfortable, but as long as you’re not violent, I do think that discomfort can get them to move to whatever might work for them—not necessarily what you wanted, but something that works for them. 

So, we tell ourselves the story that is about what we say and I think it’s much more about what we are and what we do. Because Rolf, I didn’t have a lot of conversation with him, but his presence and his energy and for people that loved Rolf, he’s not with us anymore. At least, not as you see us on the screens. He was so loving, and I think that’s a big part of why he was the founder of the Feria Verde because he had something similar to me, his own flame that said, I want people to live better, and I’m going to do my best with my skills to do that. And so it’s not about what he said, and it’s not about what anyone in that workshop said.

Ale Arango is also a person that, listening to him is not such a thing. It’s just like being in his presence. And, for people that know Ale, I’m sure they could identify. With me, it’s about being with him. The people who have been talking with Ale virtually are going to completely understand that virtual Ale is completely different from being in front of Ale.

So yeah, I think that that would be my answer. It’s not about what Rolf said. It’s about who he was.

Jason: Yeah, I love that. I love that. And I even feel that in talking with you, it’s not so much about the words, it’s about what it ignites. And I really can feel and envision people listening to this interview, feeling your passion coming through the audio and maybe the video if they’re checking out the video, but what good is any of this conversation if it’s not going to ignite and stimulate change, progressive action, and love in the lives of the people hearing it. Otherwise, we’re just like, why bother?


One of the things I really try to do with this work is to share what people are doing, not just for the sake of sharing it but to stimulate new ideas and people’s actions, to stimulate inspiration that leads to improvements in people’s projects or fresh directions in people’s lives.

I’m sure having this conversation with you is really sparking some people right now.

Santi: Yeah. And that actually reminds me I’ve been a content creator since 2010. And at some point I told myself the story that I needed to create content as the algorithm wants, which is every day at the same time, every week for I don’t know how many years. And again, that wasn’t a nine to five, but I would still not tolerate it.

Going back to permaculture principles and caring for people, I go on the internet, and when I look for a tutorial on how to make compost, there are thousands of people explaining how to make compost, and I wonder why if maybe a hundred tutorials could be enough. So, I decide to create content when I do know I have something important and hopefully completely different to say, that I’m going to bring something new to the table.

And then here I am talking to the content creators. Yeah, if you want to stay relevant to the algorithm, you’re going to have to follow the rules. I don’t follow rules; the rules I follow are my values, and my values are not going to fill the internet with gigs and gigs of videos just because I have to.

My values will bring me to the conversation when I think I can bring something different that is valuable and needed at that time. So, sometimes, I post a video every three months. Of course, the algorithm hates me, but I don’t care because the people who want to listen are going to find me wherever they are, on Instagram and Facebook or in real life.

And I’m okay with that. I do think I reached enough people, and I think that reaching a bunch of people with a strong message is also good. And if you have that platform, ask yourself, could I be serving and representing more groups through my platform? Because I heard someone say, the right of expression that people are like, I have a right of expression. And it’s like, yeah, you have, but not everyone has the same mic or the same stage.

 So, when someone really powerful says what they think, it is not the same as when someone no one knows says what they think. So, if you have the power on the platform, either try to bring other voices or, as much as you can, try to visualize those voices through yours, which is not ideal but at least better than not doing it.

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. And that was, with this podcast, I’m with you. I had an ambition when I started that I was going to try to provide weekly podcasts. 

I quickly realized that’s just not reasonable. I have so much else going on in my life. I’m helping people get their businesses started helping people in my community, and I record many of them on-location.

I’m just doing so many different things that providing weekly podcasts isn’t my focus. However. I’m really excited about every single episode that I produce I really make sure that I’m bringing in quality guests and talking about things that not everybody’s talking about. Like you said, we don’t need another podcast talking about compost piles.

Although I’ve had that interview also, you know, and it is important for people to, like, if I woke somebody up with that interview and they made a cool compost pile, great. But, this is a unique topic, you know, and it’s one that, for me, my first introduction to social permaculture was through Starhawk. She wrote a book called The Fifth Sacred Thing, which influenced me many years ago, and I still have images of it in my head all the time. I love that book. So, Starhawk is a strong advocate for social permaculture. She’s one of the leaders in the movement. And last year or two ago, I think I took an online course with her to learn more about what social permaculture is all about.

And since that is the topic of our conversation here, I just wanted to maybe bring in, or she, you know, there’s, There’s the, the initial permaculture principles that Bill Mollison and David Holmgren brought, and they are popularly known, but the social permaculture principles are ones that are a little bit different because as you were saying, permaculture, in general, is known as a design principle and we use permaculture to often design land in a holistic way, or I work with entrepreneurs and I help them design businesses that are holistic, looking at the holistic context of their lives and the people they’re influencing and designing what they’re going to do.

Social permaculture, as I was talking with, our friend, I’m sure you know, Travis. We were talking and we’re going to do a series of webcasts on this at some point with different people. But it occurred to me that with social permaculture, It’s hard to assume that we’re going to design anything because to design something to execute, in the realm of people, it’s cool to execute plants or animals or something you can move with a shovel but to like design and execute the change of people that’s the long game, and you can’t be too presumptuous about the efforts, the results you’re going to get. 

So,I was looking at Starhawk’s social permaculture principles, and they’re still attending to some of those original principles, but they’ve shifted a little, and they’re a little bit more presumptuous in the design mode.

And they’re more like you were saying, How do I want to live? How do I want to integrate and relate with the world around me? So I just figured, for the listeners that aren’t familiar with this topic, I’ll just take a little moment and read the notes that I took in her course to orient people with social permaculture as it’s been taught by people who have been teaching it for many years.

So, here are my notes—and this isn’t straight from any writing that she had; these are just the notes I took. She has six principles.

One of them is Abundance Springs From Relationship. Permaculture is based on designing with relationships in mind. that’s the key. That’s the beginning of obviously social interactions and social permaculture, but understanding that abundance springs from relationships is really impressive. 

The next one is to Recognize And Work With Patterns, right? The original principles described Design From Patterns to Details, and that’s what I do in my work with entrepreneurs. We look at the patterns of their ideal clients, the patterns of their products, or the patterns of their services and what they affect. We look at all of that.

And then we break it back down into the details of, okay, to get that to those people and make that effect in those ways, let’s break it backward into the functions of systems, the elements, but she’s not really looking at necessarily designing that; she just says recognize and work with patterns.

Just keep that open as a perception. People, communities, and societies each have their relevant patterns that make what they do best function well. And so that’s different at all these different levels. These patterns they’re all unique, and yet they’re always worth paying attention to, especially when you see a problem in the world, in your culture, in your society, in your neighborhood, you see that problem.

What are the patterns that are revolving around that? And what can we learn from those patterns that we see? 

Santi: Yeah, in this one in patterns, I think something that I’ve learned a lot and especially thanks to my last relationship, it’s that, how to receive people. I’m sure there’s like a short that some people might have seen where there’s this really violent character that is always yelling and throwing stuff.

And there’s this other character that constantly hugs them until one day the violent, character, I think he had like fire, and the fire goes out and he’s just let’s go let in and gives into the hug. 

And so with that introduction and patterns, I started these workshops with, the community in Curridabat first workshop. Well, the first thing for me is I told them, like, look, I’m a kid. I came here to have fun. And I hope you also have fun. I’m not a regular teacher. I’m not going to be spending three hours talking about one super thing theory. I’m going to be funny and tell you stories. So anyway, there’s this guy, and he was kind of hostile.

He would constantly interrupt, ask questions, and slightly debate with other workshop participants. 

I don’t know how I was able to look that way throughout the whole workshop. There’s something an ex-girlfriend from 2013 taught me, which is to go beyond words.

That’s something that stuck with me forever: Go beyond the words. At that time, I was able to go beyond his words and see that he was angry about stuff and cared about the same stuff I cared about. So, I would take his replies and just redirect them, taking part of what he was saying, agreeing with him, and showing him something else.

And I did that at least five times during that first two hour workshop. In the end, a lot of people came to me and were like, Oh, you know, yeah, these guys kind of like that all the time. It’s a little annoying, but you did pretty well with him. I think it might have happened a second time that he came with that similar energy.

I did the same. I never fought him, I never went against him, I never thought he was annoying, I was excited about his passion. And, as in the short I described, I would hug him every time he felt hostile. 

Starting the third workshop, every single workshop he came, he was so loving and calm. I don’t know if something else happened, but at least during the workshops, he would speak slowly.

He wouldn’t interrupt, and he would sit on the first set of chairs, and the things he would bring would be so nice. 


Santi: One day, I forgot to coordinate the snack time because, normally, we would tell someone to bring something to eat. I forgot to do it, and that day was the first day that without me asking, someone brought something and it was him, and he brought a variation of his famous recipe, which is Picadillo de Plátano Verde, but he was making it and he told me, I was doing this and I normally make it with meat, but I thought oh no Santi doesn’t need meat I’m gonna have to do a variation how can I do it? He found a way to do a different recipe and he brought his famous Picadillo de Plátano, a vegetarian version.

And the fact that he was there sharing that, so nicely with the people from the workshop, such calm energy, it’s what I would connect to this, that you’re talking. Just look at the patterns and how can we find that loving part of us that identified with that, maybe hostile part of the other, and see like, Oh, I remember how I felt at that time, and even though I seemed violent, I just needed a hug. 

And I think that’s a super important pattern that I’ve learned in my last relationship. And sometimes, you’re the one who needs a hug, and sometimes someone else needs a hug. But the point is that there’s always someone nice, from my perspective, there’s always someone nice behind that person that might look different, that might look hostile or violent.

Jason: And I want to meet that person because that person is going to be part of the team. Yeah. That’s another one of her principles. She says, Feed What You Want To Grow.

Santi: huh. Yeah. Yeah.

Jason: It’s more potent than killing what you don’t want.

Going through a fourth principle here is Value Diversity, which we both embrace quite a bit. But one of the interesting points she made here, first that multiple intelligences and perspectives bring solutions that no one alone could do. For me, that’s brought out a real passion for creating mastermind programs, group programs, and cohorts. When I have an event, we have a follow-up cohort. for me, it’s really rich to find group conversations where the group mind that forms is greater than the sum of the parts and the solutions that come from that. And that’s in the consensus process, too, is really based around that.

Is having these solutions that no one person could bring up alone and how Interdependence Breeds Resilience. But one of the points she makes here is the diversity of functional interactions and not just diversity for diversity’s sake. And that’s something that we, I think a lot of modern culture, have gotten pressured into this diversity mindset, but they don’t really.

 They don’t really embody it as a nourishing importance; they’re doing diversity for diversity’s sake. And I think that’s actually something I see in a lot of the anti-racism movement in the woke culture, people who are just, they don’t know what to do, so they’re just, they’re just diversity flag, just diversity, everything and chant down anything that’s not overtly diverse. 

And I think that while diversity is clearly important, the function of diversity is where the heart of it is. And that’s something that if we overlook that for the, the superficial look of it, then we kind of still missing the point. That was a big takeaway I had with her.

Santi: And yeah, it makes total sense. For in, in a meal, would you put a mango with beans and mayonnaise and ice cream and pasta just because someone told you your meal should be diverse? No. You want, some cereals, some carbs, you want some protein. You might want to add some lemon so that vitamin C helps you absorb the iron. Each part of your plate should have a function, or else you’re gonna have belly pain. 

The other thing is that if you just force yourself to bring diversity, you might fall into tokenizing. For people who don’t know this term, tokenizing is when you use diversity to show that you are inclusive.

And that’s where you see a university website, and there’s the one black person in the university on the first page. And that’s tokenizing, super violent, and not inclusive – it’s just pretending to be. So, really connect with the struggles of other communities.

Be part of them, just as a listener. To be able to bring that diversity with them and through them and not what you think it should be. What do you think it should look or sound like? Because me as a white guy, I don’t know what’s the most important thing that indigenous people can say and I don’t want to guess it.

So I’ll better find and listen for long enough that I can connect with the reasons and be like, I like, let’s communicate this. I have a platform. Let’s bring you. I want people to know this.

Jason: Uh, going through the list here, another one that’s super powerful to just really embrace, especially in our times of feeling helpless or weak, but Creativity Is An Unlimited Resource. And that is just, yeah, it’s unlimited. It’s the fountain of possibilities for us to always remember, and anytime we feel stuck or we feel helpless about the world and the situation of the world there are always ways to live creatively to be a part of the solution in any given moment. And that helps us break through those limiting moments, those limiting perceptions. The sixth one here is to Develop A Culture Of Respect, Kindness, and Trust 

In developing any group that relies on cohesion, it’s important for individuals to identify their core values and for the group to talk about collective core values. Respect, kindness, and Trust. It’s so simple. And yet, when we get in our struggle self, our survival mode sometimes becomes secondary, and we’re afraid.and it’s just something to having these principles written out, something to present something to repeat.

Something to put on a poster is valuable and important because even the Buddha had to say this stuff. Christ had to say this stuff for thousands of years. We have to continue to remind each other that, okay, I know it hurts, but let’s develop a culture of respect, kindness, and trust and keep doing it again and again, again.

Santi: I don’t know why when we are kids, we’re so good at being patient in processes. Like when we’re riding a bike, I think we’re good. I’m not sure if everyone, I think there’s more patience that we don’t have that rush of it’s been a month and I don’t know how to ride a bike, but then we’re in a relationship, and we expect the relationship to flow amazingly in the first week or the first month.

The same goes for projects. We start a project and expect that all the tools and our skills will make it perfect from the get-go. No, I think if we understand that things are processes and that maybe the goal of a process is not the one you had thought of, but it’s going to bring different things, a different thing that might be even better, we can help ourselves enjoy that process.

And the other thing you were talking about is when we are unbalanced, I always make it an intention for myself when I’m feeling very bad, either depressed, low energy, or very angry. I make a pause, and I like to abstract from myself and see myself as an outsider. And I think, Oh, that’s how people feel when they talk when they’re mean to me.

Because I was just mean to this person, I felt so much empathy, and then I was like, wow, I feel awful. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like this. And I guess if I were a nice person and I found myself feeling like this, I would try to make the best of it to help me feel better, or at least okay.

And so that helps me. Then, when I find someone struggling and very feisty and mean, I just remember, Oh. The time they crashed my car. Oh, the time I didn’t sleep well for five days. Ah, I have no idea what’s going on with this person, but I’m going to do what I would have wanted someone to do at that time when I was feeling awful.

Jason: Yeah. Yeah. That toxicity, that acidity inside of us, when we get in that survival mode in that pain body, it really, it, it takes over sometimes, and it changes who we are, who we present ourselves to be anyhow. And, it’s really great to have those moments where we catch ourselves and we’re like, Ooh, wait a minute.

That’s actually not what I want. 

Santi: And I wouldn’t want to be misinterpreted, as it’s bad to be angry. Because emotions, I think, are totally valid, and it is important and that anger is going to probably take us somewhere important. I think that what I would change is what we do with that anger. That’s what I would sit on with and think about it and how I can take it all, like throwing things through the walls How could that be moved to, I don’t know, throwing seats to the ground?

Jason: Yeah, brother. Santi, I know you’ve got another call to get to thank you so much for joining us and sharing this. I think this is. When I rebranded to Regeneration Nation Costa Rica, and I really wanted to get my focus off of just land projects and open up to the regenerative qualities of life and what we can do to be more regenerative in our cultures, in our nations, in our lives, this was something that has always been on my mind. I’m really grateful that we’ve had this chance to have this conversation. I want to share with the listeners a couple of books that I’ve read on the topic of social permaculture that, if anyone is interested, would like to look at it further. One of them is People & Permaculture: Caring and Designing for Ourselves, Each Other and the Planet by Looby Macnamara. Another one is Change Here Now, which really is moving by Adam Brock, Permaculture Solutions for Personal and Community Transformation. 

So I’m curious: Have you come across any writings or teachings on social permaculture that you’d turn anyone on to specifically?

Santi: Well, the one that first comes to mind is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which I think talks much more than just how to communicate stuff. There are other things that can be used, like attachment. There’s a book called Attached that I enjoyed. I’m looking through my list.

Oh, please. If you think you’re not neurodivergent, I think the world can be better if you learn about neurodivergence, ADHD, autism, OCD, colorblindness, and so many other things that we experience that sometimes we’re misunderstood and blamed. And so that would be something that’s pretty open to many; you can do a lot of research on different things.

Jason: Let me see if I find anything else. Who’s the author of that book Attached?

Santi: Oh, let’s see. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

Jason: Yeah, I’ll include the links to all of these resources in the show notes of the episode. They’ll be in the descriptions of the YouTube video and on the website and all that for anyone listening.

Santi: Yeah, and I was thinking about something else. Actually, I do love the work Rob Greenfield does. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook. He has a YouTube channel, and I met him in person in everyday life. I know he’s pretty coherent, but I have also seen his weaknesses and how, even with them, he has his goal so clear.

He keeps walking. We met about five years ago, and I can see that he keeps walking towards that goal. He is very inclusive and integrative and accountable for what he can do, what he’s going to do, and what he has done.

I guess another channel I like sometimes is Jubilee on YouTube. And Jubilee does this thing called middle ground. It brings people from supposedly two different sides of the conversation, and through the conversation, many times, you’re like, Oh, wow, I didn’t think they would have so much in common.

And that’s when that thing that you’re different from the other starts blurring out, and you understand that we actually want everyone to be good, nice, loving, compassionate people, and we just look from different perspectives. The closer we get to blurring that into, we just want to be loved, I think the fewer fights we’re going to have and the more constructive conversations we’ll get into.

So, for now, I’ll stick with the ones I mentioned. If I remember something else that would be important, I guess we can add it to the show notes.

Jason: Sounds good. And before we go, we didn’t, we didn’t talk much about the community garden except to refer to it, but you shared with me several videos that you have on YouTube, and I’ll include all of those in the show notes. Anyone who’s interested in the community garden work that you’re doing, you did a really brilliant interview with a young woman about and describing how you see permaculture, and there were some really unique takes on that that I’d like to also share with people.

And yeah, there will be several links for anyone who wants to follow your work. But what are the most direct ways that you would like to drive people to what you’re doing and to get in touch with you?

Santi: I think I’m going to answer this question a little differently. The best way for people to connect to my work is to find someone in their community who needs support and support them. 

I mean, I’m happy to meet people as I walk through life. I’m going to challenge you not to take the easy way and just send me an email or follow me on Instagram.

I’m going to challenge you to find that main character in your community who no one knows is doing great work and join that person. For me, that’s going to be way bigger than a follower.

Jason: All right, Santiago. it is a pleasure to be in community with you, my friend. Thank you for taking this time. And, before we sign off. I don’t know. It sounds like that was a great last word to anyone, but do you have anything else you’d like to say?

Santi: Yeah, if anything I mentioned during this podcast or the video felt uncomfortable for you, I’m sorry. And whatever it doesn’t feel was for you, just let it go. I don’t have the absolute truth. Just take this as a story. As you were, if you were reading a book, that is just fantasy. I live in fantasy and I want you to live your fantasy, hopefully in the most loving way, but don’t take anything I said as the objective of your life. Just find your own flame and do what you think you need to do.

Jason: With that? We’ll sign off. 

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