A Chat with Costa Part I - The Aperture of Life

02 Jun 2016 A Chat with Costa Part I - The Aperture of Life

He is arguably the most popular and enthusiastic of all hosts of ABC's Gardening Australia program. You will see him around in a number of aliases, having a good time. Regardless, the one thing that always comes with a Costa Georgiadis appearance is a contagious positivity and your sudden willingness to go home and get your compost in order. He cares and he keeps it real and you can't get any better than that.

So one Friday afternoon I'm in Sydney and knowing Costa is around I send him an SMS to see if he has time for an interview. Although he always seems to be in another part of the country, he is so generous with his time . After some back and forth, we agree to meet up at Aboutlife for a coffee and a very easy and flowing 2 hour conversation ensued. The hardest thing for me was to type, I had to keep reminding myself that it was an interview and not just a catchup with a mate I'd known for years. Trees, food, nature, I was in my element.  

The Interview Part I

Paul - Costa can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Costa - "I grew up in Sydney, in North Bondi to be exact, with a rich Greek heritage. Went to my local public school and l’m still friends with lots of the people I went to primary school with, which often reminds me of how special local friends are.  

After attending high school I studied landscape architecture after completing an Arts Degree because I didn’t know what to do at the time.

Part of my childhood involved my parents shipping me off to Greece for 8 weeks and then years later I went back and lived in Europe for a large part of the 90’s traveling all through Europe.

Basically, I just love life. I love the environment, growing things, horticulture, gardens, people and their stories, backgrounds and passions; I love everything about people’s lives, big and small.  I have a passion for travel, whether that’s a trip from Sydney down to Cringila or Coniston, to Broome or Alice, Catherine or where ever. I just love it all."

Paul – I think this will be a long one, but what are you most passionate about? Is there a particular cause that you really support?

Costa - "Haha, I think I am most passionate about the aperture of life and shifting points of view. I get really excited looking down the macro lens at how little things work, from that tiny little insect to the big connections between everything, its all related, that tiny insect and the entire planet, everything needs everything. I want to know about how each thing operates.  How it all ties in and how we have no power over it.

Somehow I like to see the good in things, even when things aren’t appearing good or comfortable, there is a thread that is positive.

I love to share the awe of the world around us in all the scales that it exists. Just the fact that we are alive is pretty awesome. Everyday we wake up is a good day because it’s limited. And we are not invincible but we are incredible. I mean, how cool is the fact that we are all zooming around in this big soup and circumstances bring us together? I like to see how things, the environment, being outside, gardening, brings out the best in people generally."

"By finding how these things operate we realise that we don’t have any control over it, and so we are able to find the positives in life.

I love sharing how incredible the Earth is. This is a day-to-day challenge for me but I love motivating others. Whether I’m talking to kindergartners, architects, compost enthusiasts, medical students, university graduates, a botanic gardens conference or someone in the street, that to me is the great Greek salad.                   

As long as there is a big fat slab of feta on top to crumble through all the possibilities, then I am happy.

One of the great things of my privileged position, is that I get these opportunities. I get the opportunity to shift a point of view, and it doesn’t have to be a thesis. It can be tiny but suddenly create change, and make people pause and think. The artistic side of it is to sleeve change into the day to day routine, change like what you feel, when your not changing, the change you have when you don’t know your changing."

l love this answer. So much so, that Costa and I discuss for a while the process of making little changes and how they can stick to form habits over time and how, rather than getting all wound up in world conquering massive change (change that can sometimes result in nothing at all but burnout or dissolution) it is sometimes better to focus on what you can do at an individual level. We find ourselves agreeing -surprise, surprise -that small simple change is key!

Paul - Was there a defining moment that triggered your passion or was it a gradual progression?

"That’s a good question." (Costa thinks, long and hard on this one.)

 “In a way I realised that gardening and the environment was my passion the day I saw the outline for the landscape architecture course. It started ticking boxes for me that I didn’t even realise needed ticking. I transferred into that course and never looked back, studying the course felt like an old pair of Dunlop Volleys I hadn’t worn for years…it just fit. I think it answered all the questions that I had. It gave me a foundation and the study never constricted me, I saw no boundaries.

The other moment that triggered my passion was when I was 14 years old. I was translating for my  friends that also spoke Greek and I just realised how lucky I was to be able to be on the other side of the world communicating with this other culture. It made all the jibes about going to wog school when I was young just go away.

But I think my passion grows in the ongoing moments of each week, when I meet people, or find the connections between pollinators, microbes, soil life and plant life or the impact of geology on landforms. All these things fuel me.

I learn from trained experts and self made experts. There is so much to learn, and I don’t think I know that much, because I have that much more to learn. I learn how it all fits together so it’s a personal and a wonderful opportunity to take many peoples light bulb moments, put them together and create a 1000-watt light bulb of change and passion. It really is a beautiful thing."

Paul with Costa

"I see myself as an old school switchboard, where I connect them all. Its better than copper to the node, because we can connect to the heart, we have to understand the story with heart, because when people feel it, they will act on it. They don’t have to chain themselves to a bulldozer, but rather they might choose to not support a business that is doing the wrong thing. I really believe we underestimate how powerful we are, with our own influence, particularly through our spending. We can change things, environmentally, politically, socially and personally."

Costa Georgiadis

It's World Environment Day this week so why not celebrate by creating your own little piece of change? Get your compost happening, grow some herbs, put in a bird bath, walk to work once a week. Or choose better, by supporting ethical and sustainable businesses. Say "No" to over packaged, over produced food. Fair Food Forager is attempting to list all the best and most ethical food businesses all over Australia, so jump online and check it out. Many small choices can have an enormous impact.

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