We Stand In Solidarity
First of all, I want to say that we at Spruce Permaculture stand with those working against racism, discrimination and police violence, especially People of Colour leading the movement for equity, justice and a new standard of community care.
Permaculture and Social Justice?
You might be surprised by the thought that a social movement like Black Lives Matter has anything to do with permaculture. Permaculture is about growing food, regenerative work with the land and designing sustainable spaces, right?
Sure, but that’s not the whole picture.
One of the central ethics of permaculture is “Earth Care” which speaks to our need to protect and regenerate ecology. This asks us to grow food, build homes and live meaningful lives in harmony with nature’s patterns.
The other two ethics of “People Care” and “Fair Share” don’t always get as much attention.
“People Care” speaks to our ethical imperative to protect and grow the communities that support us. In the same way that we rely on watersheds, healthy soils and clean air; we also rely on the networks of people that educate, heal, protect, love and fulfil us. “People Care” means equity of opportunity, access to the resources necessary for a thriving life, radical inclusion and restoring historical imbalances.
“Fair Share” is a beautiful ethic that is most often overlooked. “Fair Share” asks us to recognize our abundance by sharing it with those in need. It is only by giving -not hoarding- that we recognize how much we have. This ethic is about returning surplus to the soil, water, plants and animals who partner in our agro-ecological systems. It is also about sharing food, time, money, attention, understanding and energy with those people and organizations that form our social systems.
I believe that permaculture is fundamentally a philosophy of social justice, social change, equity, generosity and inclusivity. There are a few permaculture principles that really speak this to me:
- “Integrate Rather Than Segregate” asks us to find a place for all people in our community of care.
- “Use and Value Diversity” asks us to see the strength and resilience in diversity of opinion, experience and perspective.
- “Use Edges and Value the Marginal” asks us to see how the intersection between different communities creates a rich source of inspiration and understanding. It asks us to amplify marginalized voices so that they can fully make their offerings to our community.
To me, the ethics and principles of permaculture are a direct call-to-action to stand with Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+ and other marginalized peoples. Apolitical permaculture is complicit in historical and present violence against these communities. Permaculture that ends at the garden gate isn’t permaculture at all.
Violent police behaviour is a symptom of broad systematic prejudice against Black, Indigenous and Queer communities. George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25th was horrifying and tragic. It was only the latest in an ongoing series of violent crimes -most unprosecuted- by police against the communities of colour they supposedly serve. This doesn’t just happen in the US, it is endemic among Canadian police forces and the Edmonton Police Service, as in this incidence of police brutality against Elliot McLeod in Edmonton in 2019. It is time to listen to these communities (practicing the principle of “Observe and Interact”) and hear what they are asking for in order to thrive and fully participate in our society.
I liken police in a social system to a pesticide in an ecological system. They are a quick and violent response to the feedback offered by a broken system. They are a treatment for the symptoms of a flawed design. They often fail to address the root causes of the problems they try to solve. All too often they are a one-size-fits-all response that leave the system more broken, more fragile, less diverse and less healthy than before. This happens when a pesticide wipes out soil biology and diverse flora, taking years to recover. This happens when police dehumanize, harm and kill Black and Indigenous people, leaving their communities to pick up the pieces and fill the gaps.
Divesting from policing is about “Applying Self-Regulation and Accepting Feedback” and “Creatively Using and Responding to Change”. It requires a recognition that the model of law enforcement we have relied on for centuries is inadequately equipped to serve communities of Colour, Queer communities, people experiencing mental illness or distress, people experiencing homelessness and people struggling under capitalism and manufactured poverty.
The resource needed by these communities is not a man with a gun, any more than the response required for a patch of wildflowers is a bottle of RoundUp.
Divesting from policing won’t happen overnight. It requires “Small and Slow” but real and meaningful solutions. We can imagine a system of “community-led initiatives that nourish our communities.” (BLMYEG) This could look like counselors trained and deployed to respond to people in distress. This could look like housing and food for those who need it, without conditions. This could look like sexual assault crisis workers and centers. This could look like mediators trained to resolve disputes between people. All of these programs could likely be well-funded for as much or less than the ever-growing budgets of conventional police. In fact, ending conventional policing has been tried by some communities like Camden, NJ where crime dropped and communities flourished.
If you feel called to, I ask you to participate in BLM YEG’s letter writing campaign to Edmonton city council and to educate yourself on the reality of racism in Canada and in Edmonton with some of the resources on their website including this Anti-Racism Toolkit from Edmonton writer Bashir Mohamed. If you have the resources, donate to BLM YEG and support their work in Edmonton, or support Bashir’s new project “Is This For Real – Breaking the Blue Wall” on Patreon.
Fighting for a just future where everyone can not just breathe but thrive is the true spirit of permaculture.
Permaculture gives us a toolkit for moving from a culture of fear and scarcity to one of love and abundance
- Toby Hemenway
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