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From 'The EcoGrrl Interview' Archive: Alex

Alex Leavens left our world in 2021, but his truth can be found in his writing, his poems, which live on here. Below is an interview I did with him over a decade ago as a year-long project I took on to share the diverse environmental perspectives and stories of those I'd gotten to know all over the world through my writing, my community, my friendships, my colleagues, my clients, and more. Here's my conversation with Alex...

Alex — Feb 6, 2013

Best thing ever — I didn’t know Alex until I started looking for interview subjects! He was interested in participating, he sent me his website, and I just loved reading about what he does and his view of the world. Among other things, Alex teaches wilderness & survival training classes including — oh yeah — axe skills. How cool is that.

What or who inspires you most? Ancient things inspire me the most. I love the wisdom in ancient cultures, literature, and lore. Native teachings about tracking and living with the land also hold lots of wisdom beyond the practical skills they teach.

What do you turn to when you need strength? When I need strength or to refocus myself I go tracking or pick up an axe and go to the wood yard. Chopping and splitting wood is really contemplative and relaxing for me. I’ve loved doing it since I was a kid; it always puts me in a better state of mind.

How can women best support and/or empower other women? I think that women can best support each other by being active about taking on leadership roles. I think having more women in leadership positions at every level of our community from local organizations to state and national government would help balance some of the problems we are seeing right now.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I mainly grow grapes right now. I have a sweet tooth and growing a healthy treat like table grapes is awesome. I freeze most of them. And if you’ve never had frozen grapes you don’t know what you’re missing! I’ve never had a winter garden so that is something I’d really like to try.

What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t? My creative outlets are primitive pottery, teaching survival, literature, and languages. I’ve always wanted to learn Latin but haven’t started.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? I feel mostly in my element in the in the desert. I was trained in Southern Utah and Arizona and I still feel that the lush rivers that cut through the arid landscape are some of the most abundant places in the west.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  1. Rose Haven — I used to be a volunteer grant writer for a women’s shelter in Portland. Homelessness is a very important issue to me. Homelessness is far more brutal for women than it is for men and I was really inspired by the work they do there and all the little things they provide to make the lives of their guests better.

  2. Planned Parenthood

  3. Oregon Food Bank

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next? My most recent green change is related to part of my survival training. I’m adapting myself to the seasons more naturally instead of trying to constantly stay at a comfy 70 all year round. I’m using less heat, wearing less clothing, and acclimatizing the best I can to natural changes in the weather. As a result, I’m using about 40% less heat in my home.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why? I would consider the desert my sanctuary. It’s open and empty but also so full of life and abundance. I like the heat. I also really love Eastern Europe, Poland in particular. I love the vibe and the slower pace. There’s fewer tourists than the rest of Europe and it has some amazing history.

What advice would you give to your younger self? First I would tell my younger self to tell my uncle not to invest in Euro Disney. That said, I would reassure myself that spending time doing the things I truly love and not to worry about being “practical.”

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? I think if our country dropped the industrial, monoculture style of food production and adopted permaculture practices on the personal and industrial scale that would be a huge step toward national sustainability.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? I attended Outdoor School, an environmental education camp, as a sixth grader (and later taught there) and learned about environmental science and environmental issues. The experience really made an impact on me. After that week I was hyper aware of how much water I was using–and still am!

How do you live simply? I live simply by focusing living with a degree of austerity. I don’t live in poverty or discomfort but I focus on the things I love, master them, and make them a part of my profession either directly or indirectly. Because of this I seek out less entertainment and distractions. It’s kind of an inner simplicity and a practice of life that creates less waste and is very fulfilling.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Women who have intellect of love.” ~ from Dante’s Vita Nuova. (This line describes Beatrice, the object of his love in the poem, and it’s this awareness of being, or divinity that he experiences through is love for her.)


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