Uncovering Past Civilizations with Ancient Tomorrow’s JJ Yosh

February 21, 2011

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored today to have JJ Yosh on the show with us today from Los Angeles. JJ is a TV star and an eco-visionary, and all he wants to do is educate and inspire people about the environment. JJ, welcome to Green is Good. JJ YOSH: Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, JJ, you’re a very young man. You have huge experience. If I was to sit here and read your bio, we’d be out of time. It would take the whole 25 minutes. Were you raised by parents that were very environmentally concerned? How did your whole journey start, and how have you made such amazing progress up to now? You’re so young. JJ YOSH: Well, you know, I was actually raised by quite the opposite type of parent, and I think what helped to get me so inspired and passionate about the environment, growing up, I lived in a family that was more about staying in hotels and camping out, and the moments that I got nature, which were very little and far between, I cherished the moments. It wasn’t until I actually got into college that I started to really get into the outdoors and going on hikes and climbing trips, and that’s what really got me started to care about the environment and the outdoors. It was about just going on these outdoor adventures, and when I was out there, I experienced this feeling that I hadn’t really felt before, and instilled this subtle appreciation and I wanted to start protecting and inspiring other people to care about the natural world around us. It was a matter of experiencing that myself, and then that allowed me to start caring about it JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, here you are, and you have now a television show that you’re working on called Ancient Tomorrow. JJ YOSH: That is correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Was this your idea, or was this Hollywood’s idea? Who came up with this wonderful name and concept? Mike and I were talking before we went on air, and what a brilliant idea and what a wonderful name. Who came up with this? Tell us the genesis, and tell us what you’re going to try to accomplish on this wonderful show. JJ YOSH: Well, the original concept was not something that I had created. Now it’s kind of come my entire team division. Ever since I was young, I had this intense fascination with ancient civilizations. It was really just questioning why am I here? I know all of us kind of have this desire to know why are we here, what is the purpose of life, what am I supposed to do from now on until the day I die? And, it’s from these questions I could never silence, and that was just this lifelong fascination towards those topics. Then I was very passionate about the outdoors and the environment. A little over two years ago, when I was planning this expedition to Bolivia, I started to research one of these ancient ruins called Tiahuanaco. There were all these mysteries surrounding the place on how it was built and how old the structure was, and that led me onto this worldwide investigation on how all these ancient sites around the world are connected. Before this expedition, my focus was trying to find environmental solutions to our power plants and chemical plants, trying to clean up our industrial infrastructure, so I was always looking to the future to basically find environmental solutions. When I came upon these ancient ruins, Tiahuanaco, and other ancient ruins, I started to realize that maybe the answers aren’t in the future, but they’re actually in the ancient past. Maybe we weren’t the first civilization to have this global civilization and to use all this high-tech technology. Maybe there was a much older civilization that had utilized all that. So, that’s kind of how it all came about. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a brilliant point, that maybe there are many things we can learn from past civilizations to help us as we evolve as a society and as a species. Share some of what you’ve learned in some of your expeditions already about what ancient civilizations can teach us now about being more eco-friendly today. JJ YOSH: OK. Well, you know, one of the things that was constantly brought up to us was where is all the evidence of these ancient civilizations? We see the massive structures that they might have left behind, but when it comes down to their tools and more how they built these things, we don’t see really that much evidence of how they created these marvels. One of the things that we considered is that maybe their tools were so eco-friendly and organic that we don’t see a lot of those remnants today because they might have degraded into the earth. If you look at a lot of these structures, they’re built into the earth, and they used stones, and they built structures that last. When you look at our modern-day society today, our skyscrapers — if humans were to disappear today, they’ve had two different documentaries that the skyscrapers would last maybe 200 years at the most. We all know that our cars really don’t last that long, and our computers. I have to replace my computer every four to five years, so what we’ve learned from them is that they built things to last, they built things into the earth, and we can really learn to build more high-quality products in our own lives today, so that we don’t have to constantly replace things and use more materials to do that. MIKE BRADY: One of the things that brought to mind when you were talking about a couple of shows that talk about that, you’re probably referring, I’m thinking, to Life After People, right? JJ YOSH: That’s one of the documentaries, and Population Zero is the other one. MIKE BRADY: Yeah, those are both just absolutely brilliant, and it really is funny because, JJ, you were talking about the difference between ancient building techniques and modern. The ruins that you’re talking about have survived for centuries, for millennia, actually, but we’re not going to see anything like that with our modern construction methods. JJ YOSH: Right. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Also what you’re saying is our society is based on planned obsolescence, which of course is anti-environmental. JJ YOSH: Correct. Yeah. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, how many episodes have you filmed so far of Ancient Tomorrow? JJ YOSH: We’re actually just now about to go into production, so we’ve filmed promos over the last year and our trailer, but now in about a month we’re going to be going into production and we’re going to be doing 10 episodes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. Where are you going first? What’s the upcoming expedition? Where are you going, and what’s it going to feel like? What are you excited about? JJ YOSH: Yeah. In the first episode, we’re actually staying local domestically in the United States, and we’re going to be visiting Chaco Canyon, the Blythe Geoglyphs, and the Palisades Glacier. The pilot or the first episode really is about how this expedition came about and we go to these different sites investigating this ancient civilization and the tools they might have used to build these structures. Then from there, in episode two, we’ll be taken to Bolivia and Peru in the Andes, where we then start to investigate the same concepts over in the Andes, and that’s where season one is. The rest of the episodes are in the Andes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, talk about yourself now. As a young man living in the southern California region, what do you do on a regular basis when you’re not on one of your adventures? What does your green life look like? What does your daily green life consist of? JJ YOSH: Well, when I first started to live green, and I think that has been over a decade, at first, when you’re starting like a diet or you’re starting a new exercise routine, the same thing with living green. At first, you’re very excited about it. You want to do as much as you possibly can to live green, but then over time it starts settling and if I’m going to keep living this way, I need to do something sustainably for myself. So, I had to find things that I could keep doing, because there were some things that were really impractical. The way I was eating, I was trying to eat way too green. It was costing way too much. So, what I do now to just kind of sustainably live green in my life is I eat a lot of healthy foods. I go to Trader Joe’s. It’s funny because Trader Joe’s, which is a store here in California, a lot of their foods are actually cheaper than your conventional grocery stores, and that’s purchasing organic foods. It’s actually more cost-effective to shop there. As far as household cleaning products, I try to use all green or eco-friendly products because it’s just a matter of I don’t want to breathe those chemicals. My car situation, I do a lot of carpooling mainly because you save money on gas. Why drive a car and spend all this money on gas, when you can save? Mainly I’ve been trying to find ways to live green that are going to actually save me money, and that’s been a motivation in my life, too. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great. When you were going to college, you actually were already part of the green movement there, and you worked on some. Share with our listeners a little bit what you did with regards to the environment while you were going to school. JJ YOSH: When I was in college, and when I first started it was about a decade ago, green wasn’t this really cool, hip thing to be at that point, not for another couple years, and so it was kind of a process because we were trying to make green hip and cool at that point. So many people would come up to me and say, “How can I do something for the environment?” and I remember watching so many people around me change their majors from mathematics to environmental studies or something related to the environment, because they were so inspired by our outdoor activities that they now wanted to take that into their own lives. From that, I created another group at the school called Ecologic, which was this kind of environmental take action group that was attached to Excursion Club, and it also partnered with the other environmental groups at the school called EAB and Surf Rider and Calperg, so that we could work as a university to help with the environmental issues that were there. Those were just some of the things that I worked on. It was mainly just getting people into the outdoors to make them really understand why they need to care about the environment. You really have to experience it, or you’re not going to be able to understand enough to care. MIKE BRADY: Did you find that when you got people into the outdoor environment, such as a similar experience to what you had, JJ, that there was a similar transformation that basically the environment and that connection kind of made the leap for people just like it did with you? JJ YOSH: Yeah. You know, if you spend a lot of time in a concrete city, you’ll start to get sucked into this mental routine, and you’ll start to lose focus. I experience that often. If I don’t have nature around me in any way for a while, I start to forget about nature, and you just get kind of sucked into this reality in front of you. Every time I go on a hike after I’ve been in this routine for a while, I wake up all of a sudden. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, this is why I’m here.” It’s a very transformational feeling. That’s what keeps me going back into the wilderness, which is why I want so many people to experience that, because you forget. You don’t even realize how important that connection is to nature until you reactivate it by going out there again. JOHN SHEGERIAN: If you just joined our show and you have a laptop or an iPad or you’re in front of your computer, we’re on the line with JJ Yosh, who’s an eco-visionary and also an upcoming TV star on his new show, Ancient Tomorrow, which is just about to go into production. You can check out Ancient Tomorrow at www.ancienttomorrow.org, or of course JJ’s site, www.jjyosh.com. JJ, talk a little bit about ancient technology and its potential to advance green energy, like water power or solar power or maybe even new power sources that we haven’t been talking about typically in the media. What’s your thoughts on that? JJ YOSH: My thoughts on energy today and energy in the past and energy in the future, and what this show could possibly do, is this. For a very long time, I’d say for the last century, we have been heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The thing about fossil fuels is there is going to be a point when we use it up. It’s being renewed, but at a very, very slow rate. It took millions of years to create the oil that we use today. So, our society has been moving towards renewable energy, which I think is great. It’s a step forward, but the thing about renewables, the heated debate about renewables, is sometimes to create these renewable energies, it might actually take more energy than the energy it actually produces. So this energy that we’re looking for in our show is not fossil fuels and it’s neither renewable energy. It’s actually a new type of energy, which I’d like to call an unlimited source of energy. We’re basically trying to understand the technology and tap into an energy that’s always there. It works with the natural forces of the earth, and all we’re doing is we’re basically putting a receiver out there and harnessing it. This is an energy that doesn’t need to be renewed because it’s always there, and we don’t have to worry about it not lasting for that much longer because it was there yesterday, it’s here today, and it will be there tomorrow. It’s always going. That’s as much as I can possibly say about the energy that we’re going to be looking for. If you want to learn more about that, you’re going to have to watch Ancient Tomorrow this season. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Three or four years ago, you spent two months in Alaska on the North American sustainable journey. What was that like? Explain what you got out of that and how that prepared you best for your new and upcoming show, Ancient Tomorrow. JJ YOSH: The North American sustainable journey, which I did a couple years ago, was a very challenging trip. The whole premise of it was to travel from the lowest point of North America to the highest point of North America as eco-friendly as we possibly could. We ended up partnering with a lot of companies, from clothing to gear to food, so we could have everything that we brought with us be eco-friendly. Along the way, we were going to interview people that could give us more insight on how sustainability affected them in their own lives in the different parts up to Alaska from Death Valley. It was a very transformational trip, I think more with the people on the trip that I was with, because we realized that the mountain that we were climbing was more the mountain of working with each other and trying to understand how sustainability affected not just our own personal lives, but other lives that we experienced along the way. That was probably the most transformational period I’ve had in my life, those two months, and it led me to feel more grounded and understanding how I was going to need to approach this sustainability issue for other projects in the future and the practicalities that come with it. We were trying to do something that was very extreme in the sense of living green. There was one time on the road where we had these strict standards of eating, and we could only eat organic and local food a lot of times. There was this one stretch of road that there was no organic food along the way, and we had to eat organic Clif Bars for like three days straight. I’m going to tell you, doing that with three other people, your mood starts to fluctuate, and the personal mood swings were more of an issue than anything else. You have to watch out for that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But you learn about yourself during it, like you said. You take on a whole new reflection on who you are and what you want to be. I guess you really learn about yourself in those kind of moments. JJ YOSH: Yeah. You definitely do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’ve led a very interesting, and to most people, a very cool life. You’re young and you’ve got a lot in front of you too, JJ. Who is your hero? We all need heroes. We all need people that we want to follow. Who are you looking up to as someone you want to follow in his or her footsteps in what your dream is and what your mission is here to accomplish with your great new upcoming show, Ancient Tomorrow, and all that you’re doing? JJ YOSH: I look up to the adventurer Bear Grylls just because of all the really cool adventures he goes on, and it’s very inspiring to see him pushing ahead, climbing all these different mountains and all the survival things he goes into. I also really appreciate the steps that Leonardo DiCaprio’s made in terms of using his fame in a way that can help the environment. Those are the two people that I’d say that I look up to, one environmentalist and one adventurer. They keep me going. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, if I were to tell you that Mike and I are going to get in our car and drive down to the Los Angeles area today, we’re going to go pick you up from your house, and we’re going to drive to LAX, and money is not the issue, we can go anywhere in the world for an adventure together but you’re choosing the place, where are we going, the three of us? JJ YOSH: I would say Patagonia. There’s a lot of mystery in that area, and the range of mountains are just so beautiful and a whole company, Patagonia, created a brand after that mountain range. That’s where I would take you guys because I know that that area has such a special power to it in terms of the environmental energy. I think it would really transform our lives and really wake us up to help the world. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. Mike and I are going to put that on our bucket list. Mike, what do you think of that? MIKE BRADY: I think it’s great, and I’ll tell you what. JJ, I just really wish there was room for John and me to be part of your cast because I’m looking at the cast lineup for your new show, Ancient Tomorrow. I really can’t wait until that comes on because you know I’m going to be watching it. So is John. But, boy, it would be so cool to be a part of your cast. If you’d like to find out more, you can go to www.ancienttomorrow.org. This looks like an eco-adventure reality series. The cast looks fantastic, and I’m sure the plot lines are going to be amazing. JJ YOSH: Yeah. The thing about this adventure is it’s a real-life adventure that has actually already started. It’s not like when the camera is on, we’re on. We’re on all the time, so that’s kind of the thing about it. Last night, I met with the other scientists. We’re already doing it. Now we’re just turning the camera on and we’re recording ourselves. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re getting down to the end of our show, unfortunately, JJ, but on this show we talk a lot about sustainability and the three major themes of sustainability, people, planet, and profits. As an adventurer, and as someone who really is a leader that a lot of people are going to be watching and continue to watch and you’re going to be followed, what does sustainability mean to you specifically? JJ YOSH: I like to relate everything to the mountains I climb. When I’m climbing a mountain, sometimes I can be very ambitious and I want to climb this really difficult pitch. The thing is that I burn myself out the first day climbing that mountain. I’m not going to be able to finish that climb the rest of the days. I remember the quote that Bear Grylls said. If you want to climb Everest, you need to take one baby step at a time. That’s really how I’ve been pushing my own life. You just have to do one small step at a time, that being living green or that being any goal you have in your life to make a change. If you do it gradually and you kind of enjoy the gradual process of it, then you’re going to be able to sustain that way of being for a much longer period of time. I think that whenever we do things very intensely and crazy right away, we can’t keep ourselves going for that long of a period of time. We only have so much energy, and we need to be able to use that energy wisely. That’s how I perceive sustainability. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. On those profound and memorable thoughts, JJ, Mike and I are going to say thank you so much for coming on our show today. Also, we wish you all good luck and safety in your travels and your adventures. What we’d like to do now is invite you back after you’re done taping all of your eco-adventures and filming Ancient Tomorrow. We’d like to have you on before the show airs to further discuss what people are about to see and share what your thoughts are after you’ve filmed it all. We just want to say thank you again for your time today. Again, we had JJ Yosh on today. You can look him up at his great website, www.jjyosh.com or www.ancienttomorrow.org. He’s a TV star, an eco-visionary, and he’s making it happen. JJ, you are truly living proof that green is good.