Missouri entrepreneur Sophek “Sean” Tounn believes to survive any number of potential calamities, we must relearn ancient skills now – the ones developed before modern technology weakened us, the skills that draw upon human muscle and ingenuity.
Tounn says we need to think beyond alternative energy and pursue simple lives. His mission is so vital that he is traveling the country at his expense to film those who could help spread his message in a documentary, “Beyond Off Grid: A liberating look at true freedom & self-sufficiency by returning to the old paths.”
The goal is to educate people about our super-dependency on the grid system, and how dangerous that can be, Tounn said.
The film is slated to be released at the end of this year or early 2014 and includes about a dozen experts in a wide range of self-sufficiency topics such as permaculture gardening, natural homebuilding, wild edibles and aquaponics.
“By exposing the weaknesses of the modern financial, transportation, and food production systems, and bringing to light the solutions that are available by learning the older ways of doing things, this film seeks to inspire folks to a greater degree of self-sufficiency while trusting in God,” Tounn said.
Already living a beyond-off-grid lifestyle with his wife, their four homeschooled children, two dogs and a cat in a south-central Missouri cabin, Tounn stopped in to interview my husband, Darren, this month. Tounn learned of Darren after reading Mother Earth News blogger Ed Essex’s article in January about Darren’s hand pump machine.
Darren’s contribution to the documentary included his mistake of relying on solar and wind power systems for water. We would learn that during storms – when we were most likely to truly need these alternative energy systems – they were useless. For more than a week, ice coated the solar panels and wind turbines, rendering them inoperable. Another time, strong winds blew the solar rack out of place. Without these systems operating, our well pump – our sole water source – could not function.
Others who contributed their experience and knowledge to “Beyond Off Grid” include best-selling author Michael Bunker, whose book “Surviving Off Off-Grid” motivated Tounn to begin living without electricity and then teaching others it is feasible to meet our basic needs without technology.
Tounn said he also wants to educate people that living off grid is not some sort of “freaky thing,” but an economical, gratifying lifestyle. Instead of spending $20,000 on a solar system to maintain “frills” such as air-conditioning, people need to train their bodies to withstand heat.
“It’s really a matter of life and death,” Tounn said, citing a heat wave in Europe a few years ago that killed 15,000 people. The temperature had reached only 104 degrees.
Tounn says people need to dispel the 72-degree-myth that erroneously warns that humans must remain in a 72-degree environment. Instead, we must allow our bodies to adjust to whatever the outside temperature is, and not artificially heat or cool our homes to extremes, says Tounn, who is originally from Cambodia and has lived in a range of climates from snowy Boston to steamy Dallas, Texas, and points in between.
The film crew includes director/executive producer Tounn, producer Mike Berzins, photographer Siouxsie Romack and husband Scott Romack, who fills a host of roles behind the scenes. Besides their common interest in self-sufficiency, healthy eating and sustainable farming, the Romacks are longtime proponents of minimalist living.
We were in awe the day the crew arrived to our little piece of the Ozarks. In no time, the Romacks unloaded a v
anload of cameras, sun reflectors, lights, meters and other intriguing gadgets while Berzins talked with Darren about that liquid becoming more valuable than gold – water – and how to get it without electricity.
Meanwhile, I tried to stay out of the way and headed to the garden area with my hoe. I was disappointed our cool, wet springtime delayed our normally lush vegetation, so was quite surprised to see Siouxsie on her knees filming a cluster of last year’s beets I’d let go to seed for harvest. A professional photographer for 17 years, Siouxsie developed a love of photography as a youngster from her shutterbug mother.
In June the crew will be in North Carolina to interview Rick Austin, author of “Secret Garden of Survival: How to grow a camouflaged food-forest,” and in Montana talking with another off-grid advocate. Before the year-long project wraps up, they also will film segments in Seattle, Wash., and Alabama. In September, the challenge of piecing it all together begins.
The project is Tounn’s first documentary on the subject of self-reliance, but he is a seasoned videographer. He has many years of experience producing marketing videos for the bed and breakfast industry. Tounn’s work can be seen on the group’s website, www.beyondoffgrid.com, along with a trailer for the documentary and sneak peeks at some of the film’s many interesting interviews.
“The modern way of living, with all of its conveniences and comforts, is not resilient to calamity, and not conducive to spiritual blessings,” Tounn said. “True freedom is found by seeking the old paths.”
To learn more about this inspirational project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.