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Another Side of Los Angeles: Urban and Wilderness Survival

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by Worldchanging LA local blogger, Jennifer Murphy:

Los Angeles is the land of smog, sprawl and cosmetic surgery, not known for its ecological or social consciousness. But many people, organizations and ideas are quietly fomenting revolution here. This Earth week, I'll share what these Worldchangers told me about the secretly green side of LA.

If you want to learn how to forage for wild food in Los Angeles and other self-reliant skills, Christopher Nyerges is the guy to meet. He has been conducting wilderness survival walks here since 1974 and has authored many books, including the recently published How to Survive Anywhere: A Guide for Urban, Suburban, Rural, And Wilderness Environments. My son and I have taken many classes with him -- learning to make a fire with flint, harvest a wild salad, and build a shelter in the woods.


What local Worldchanging organization, project or idea should be better known?

One good idea is to practice the lessons in our Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City book, by making your own yard an example of growing food; giving wildlife (birds, butterflies, insects, lizards) a place to live; not using poisons; raising urban livestock (chicken, bees, etc); using solar water heating, solar electricity, etc.; and stop waiting for "the government" to do something.

As for organizations, there is WTI [White Tower, Inc.], a nonprofit research and education organization. For decades they have been teaching self-reliance skills -- how to collect and use rainwater, how to identify and use wild plants for food and medicine, practical recycling, how to lower one's energy bills, etc. They have sponsored spiritual survival classes, and financial planning for low-income people. They practice what they preach at their one-acre facility in Highland Park - a living example of xeriscaping, mulching, and home-food production. The organization is still largely unknown, but they are preaching the word of radical ecology, fighting city hall and the fire dept, telling folks that spirituality IS the lifestyle of wasting not and wanting not.

There's that family in Pasadena too -- can't think of name offhand, and they are great, living the life in the city [My note: Christopher is referring to the Dervaes family, and their Path to Freedom project].

Another good idea is to make the LA River flow naturally again.

What one world changing practice do you most wish to see flourish in Los Angeles?

We MUST make gray water recycling far easier for anyone to do legally. And we also need rain water cisterns in every yard, and composting toilets. The Dept. of Building and Safety and the construction industry are partly to blame, since houses are still being built that contribute to our ecological problems.

If you were king of Los Angeles for a day, what would you do?

I would use my pulpit to talk to everyone about forming a cohesive, cogent plan with ACTION that people could take. I would invite Antonio [Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles], Arnold [Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, [actor Ed] Begley, and other movers and shakers, and we'd televise our conference.

Describe the LA you'd like to see in 2027.

Houses built with solar panels for electricity and water heating. An industry that supports this. Rain water catchments. Active neighborhood watches that do more than reduce crime but also provide practical how-to information about using solar, growing food and collecting rainwater etc. And we need leaders who inspire, who provide hope and practical solutions, so that the citizens will see that this is in all of our best interests to pursue.

You can find out about Christopher's classes here, or catch up with him at the Glendale or Highland Park Farmers markets, where he is the manager.

[image: native medicinal plant Yerba Santa]

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