Berta Garriga Garriga is an herbalist, an environmental educator and a young mother focused on creating community around sustainability, not only in the rural area where she lives but also beyond.
In this interview, Berta talks about environmental education through nature but also about its very important role in cities or more urban areas. She shares some of the learnings on a deep Degrowth experiment carried-out on a tipi with a group of volunteers and provides her own insights on self-sufficiency and low-tech. She also reflects out loud on the word ‘witch’ and its controversies from a feminist perspective.
I met Berta on a video call, in an interview for me to get involved in one of the projects she was co-holding as part of GENS; an experimentation group on sustainability and naturism. The first time I saw her in person was after taking a train to Vilafranca del Penedès, a town in Catalonia. We met behind the library of the village and there she was, breastfeeding Niu, her first kid. On the short ride to Can Gallego, the house where she lives and where the project I would take part in is placed, I could already get a glimpse on how much was on her plate. Berta has the capacity to say a lot in a short amount of time -this video is a proof of it- and she did not need to break the ice for updating me on every volunteer’s vision, on what ‘community’ might mean, some of her dreams or ideas on the project and so on. Her second baby, Arç -who appears in this interview-, was going to be born in 5 months. But Berta’s curiosity and activism are part of an ongoing way of living and therefore unstoppable. With a strong and clear sense of responsibility, she was definitely not afraid to receive her second child in the middle of a new project, with five international volunteers staying in a tipi in her backyard, experimenting radical Degrowth and carbon-free living, with all the emotional and physical challenges such an experience implies. Herding goats, running cooking workshops, hosting talks, meetings and agricultural working sessions were still gonna be things she would participate in.
How does Berta live? What does her week look like?
A house without heating and the smallest amount of water possible, with care in every daily action such as doing the dishes with a tiny spritz of water. Berta chooses to consume as locally as possible, from the garden, local consumption cooperatives or village shops.
Every monday, Berta starts her week going to ‘tornalloms’, a working day where neighbors from the area gather together to work someone’s land. It rotates each time and, this way, everybody can afford the most amazing projects and improvements in their houses or lands, sharing knowledge and solutions, which is a beautiful community response to rural challenges.
Seeing how Berta moves in the world is quite impressive. In a moment she can be hosting a live streamed interview, having a meeting on the tipi project, preparing a workshop on edible plants or making the shopping list for bulk goods, taking care of the kids or addressing emotional issues with ease. She simply gets along with what is needed everyday and meanwhile creates the world she believes in.
How did it all start?
As Berta explains in this interview, the concept of ‘flying roots’, which is the name of her personal project and in a way illustrates her whole persona, is about “coming back to family, ancestors, nature… to the roots”.
The relationship with her grandfather had a huge impact on Berta’s path. When she was a child, they often spent time together at his beautiful wild farm and Berta knew a side of him which was “all the opposite of the serious man image” he showed to the rest of the world.
When he passed away, Berta was 16 and realized that that house could not be sold, as she felt a really strong emotional connection to the place. That is how she started living there on her own at that early age, being ‘masovera’; working on the maintenance of the site as she could in exchange for staying there.
Somehow ‘flying roots’ is also about inviting the adventurous side of Berta to that old property and its valley. She felt bringing her ‘flying energy’ there was something she could do through cooking, also as a way to ground herself. She spent some years self-learning about wild plants’ powers and nutritional possibilities, all sorts of cooking alternatives around that, but also completing an online degree in Social Sciences and working outside the house, with no other way to leave it and coming back to it other than hitch-hiking or a mix of poor bus connections and kilometric walks.
How sustainable is it to do so much?
She does not hide the difficult side of the chosen path and never tries to transmit to her circles or on her social media channels the image of a bucolic ecological countryside life.
“The impact you are having on the earth and on yourself”, she insists, are strongly connected. There is “a balance between the consciousness and not self blaming yourself, being committed to your cause and not leaving self-care aside”, she states.
“There are moments I’m perfect when it comes to zero waste and eating wild and others that I’m being crap at it”. Berta does not shy away and openly talks about the ups and downs of her lifestyle, also giving some advice on walking towards change and its challenges: “Caring about the earth is caring for yourself”.
Finally, she reflects on the idea of ‘dependence’, ‘interdependence’ and ‘tribe’ as a fundamental part of her balance as an activist. In her own words and experience “going back to the earth” and to the “little tribe” she shares “the same values with” are essential actions to take “when everything feels apocalyptical”.