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Meet the botanical explorer obsessed with finding plants that make life better for us all

4 min read

Good Stuff
Meet the botanical explorer obsessed with finding plants that make life better for us all
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While on vacation, Stephen Brooks witnessed a group of children being sprayed by a crop-dusting airplane, and it changed the course of his life forever.

Seeing kids being sprayed with agrochemicals concerned Stephen enough to do something about it

Stephen Brooks went to Costa Rica on a family vacation. Driving through the lush rainforest he was awakened to the vast, expansive views of the monocultured banana plantations that dominated the landscape. Startled by an incoming plane looking like it was going to crash, he came to the realisation that this was a crop duster, spraying toxic agrochemicals on the bananas. The crop duster did not stop spraying as it flew directly over a playground of local children playing soccer. Concerned by what he observed, the expressive Stephen called his parents and said, “I have to do something about this!"

On a mission to redesign where our food comes from Staff at the Punta Mona Centre are an eclectic group of permaculturists, biologists, and environmentalists dedicated to the study, philosophy and practice of Permaculture as a lifestyle. Through educational experiences, cultural immersions, family-like community, connecting with their food, their resources, and Mother Nature, they strive to be an example of a simpler and more mindful way of living. Source: Facebook/RobGreenfield

Who is Stephen Brooks and what is Punta Mona?

Stephen Brooks grew up in North Miami, Florida, and in the spring of 1995 he witnessed a playground full of indigenous children get sprayed by a Chiquita Banana crop duster. The experience rocked his world and from that moment on, he has dedicated his every waking moment to seeking sustainable alternatives.

Stephen immediately started an educational tour company bringing students from the States and Europe on impactful tours throughout Costa Rica. His goal was to not only show the beauty of the land and it people but to show the reality. The reality of the rainforest destruction, the reality of decimation of the indigenous cultures and the havoc that the US multi-national agro businesses were creating in these beautiful and peaceful lands.

Most importantly Stephen wanted to demonstrate solutions of another way treating the land, its inhabitants and each other. From this dream, The Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education was born, and now almost 18 years later is one of the worlds best example of tropical agriculture and has an extensive collection of useful plants from around the world on 85 off the grid beachfront acres. Tens of thousands of people from around the world have had their lives deeply influenced at Punta Mona and inspires them to see how the world could be. 

Source: PermacultureGlobal.org Main Image: Facebook/StephenBrooks

There is a lot to offer in the jungle, the experiences are vast and Mother Nature is our greatest teacher. You, too, could live and work at Punta Mona Center to explore your ingenuous self, use your skills and gain ones you never knew you had!
Volunteer opportunities in Punta Mona There is a lot to offer in the jungle, the experiences are vast and Mother Nature is our greatest teacher. You, too, could live and work at Punta Mona Center to explore your ingenuous self, use your skills and gain ones you never knew you had! Source: PuntaMona.org

“If you don’t like the way things are…. Then start a village!” – Stephen’s TED Talk

All of Punta Mona’s buildings have been built from fallen trees, the electricity comes from solar panels and most of the food served in the open air kitchen comes from the land. 

In 2003, Stephen decided he did not want to continue to support the petroleum industry and wanted to show that there were options to air travel and Stephen organised 24 people on 2 buses and a truck and drove from California to Costa Rica on recycled vegetable oil, making many international television news programs and front page newspaper articles.

Stephen did the journey again in 2004 and it was on that trip the Kopali Organics was founded. Kopali Organic is an organic, fair trade snack company supporting small indigenous farm cooperatives around the world. In 2006, Stephen founded La Ecovilla and Tacotal, two neighboring ultra-ecological planned communities located on a crystal clear river with deep pools outside of San Jose, Costa Rica.

That same year Stephen hosted Edible Adventure for the Travel Channel and in the following years hosted several television shows. He just gave his second TED talk that was entitled "If you don’t like the way things are…. Then start a village!"

Stephen is full of ideas and is constantly dreaming up new ways that he can help improve the world.

Source: PermacultureGlobal.org

The Punta Mona Center for Sustainability and Education creates experiences through which teachers and students can personally connect with the natural wonders of the Earth. In addition, students are introduced to solutions created to preserve, sustainably develop and foster the regeneration of the tropical rainforests.
Education through connection The Punta Mona Center for Sustainability and Education creates experiences through which teachers and students can personally connect with the natural wonders of the Earth. In addition, students are introduced to solutions created to preserve, sustainably develop and foster the regeneration of the tropical rainforests. Source: PuntaMona.org

Punta Mona’s Mission:

Punta Mona’s mission is to provide, through the principles and practice of Permaculture and organic lifestyle, an alternative to the destructive land use practices, loss of cultural heritage and community, depletion of our natural resources, decimation of biodiversity and rampant wastefulness taking place throughout Costa Rica and the world.

It is an 85-acre, off-the-grid, beachfront, family owned, environmental education center, botanical collection, 
established organic permaculture farm and an eco-lodge, 
dedicated to regenerative ways of living.

At Punta Mona they grow most of their own food organically, which includes hundreds of species of tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants as well as bamboo and extensive native hardwood reforestation, use eco-technologies, create a sense of community and are dedicated to educating learners of all ages and from all walks of life. 

They say they believe Punta Mona is a unique place and one that has much to teach about the things we take for granted, the power of community, imagination, equality and the beauty of living a simple, intentional life.

Source: PuntaMona.org

Make an Impact

Follow the 12 Principles of Permaculture for yourself

One way permaculture differs from other methods of gardening is that it is not just a set of practical techniques; it is a way of thinking and of adapting to a particular ecology. Whether you are starting a new garden, or introducing permaculture practices to an existing garden, these principles will help you to understand the design process.