The function of these pages is to start conversations – I hope people will contact me with their stories, resources and experiences in linking permaculture, anarchism and community organising.
The second function is to raise awareness & raise the profile of community organising. I actually genuinely feel we have all the techniques, tools & technologies in place to achieve a permanent culture. Its getting them implemented that is the challenge, which is why becoming skilled organisers as permaculture practitioners is so important.
For me, anarchism is a dedication to eradicating all forms of oppression in totality. This is not an end point goal, this is a constant and dynamic process of learning and unlearning how to relate to myself, loved ones, my community, nonhumans and the land. This is why connecting the rich traditions of anarchism together with the practical principles of permaculture makes so much sense – because it is all about creating beneficial relationships.
While anarchist organising offers a wealth of insight and analysis, and despite my resistance to labelling or categorising, I have for a long time described myself as a green anarchist. Green anarchism for me enraptures the most holistic world view unlike may anthropocentric radical world news.
“Revolutionary ecology recognises that all forms of life are equal & practices of domination (which run gamut from homophobia to racism, to speciesism etc) are part of a control pattern that leads to the exploitation of all forms, which includes our living, breathing planet: Gaia. An injury to one is an injury to all” – Orin Langelle
Personal is political
Through living as an anarchist, these principles of mutual aid, compassion, autonomy & self-determination and the rejection of irrational authority, continuously intersect with daily life. Challenging my own privilege, internal & external oppressions, premises and roles in relationships & groups is a constant task of daily life. As is a commitment to living by desires, queerness, pleasure and sensuality that being alive brings and that oppressive cultures are constantly trying to deny.
“Ultimately, political involvement that comes at the expense of our relationships with loved ones and the larger community is not truly liberatory.”
– Paula X. Rojas
Radical community organising
While challenging the patrix (the patriarchical matrix of oppressions) in our daily lives is important, our sphere of influence as individuals is limited, therefore I organise with others to achieve a regenerative culture.
‘Radical’ in latin simply means getting to the root – that is how radical community organising is unique. The aim is not to act as a sticking plaster or act as a buffer for state control but to constantly try to get to the roots of our problems. This may involve applying an anti-capitalist analysis or identifying that the patrix needs to be challenged in order to get to the root of communication issues in groups for example.
Unlike ‘activism’, with its social change specialists, radical community organising begins with daily life. Organising to meet community needs; food, housing/shelter, energy, healthcare, so that we can reproduce ourselves is the focus of energies. As Bill Mollison describes, “To let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to loose power over them”. Achieving social justice in these areas I feel will give leverage to successfully building a culture based on right relationship to all beings.
“A movement that can reproduce itself and moves to reproduce larger communities without capital and state, after all, is one of the most dangerous.” – Team Colours Collective
Food is a powerful connector. As Mary Clear from Incredible Edible Todmorden says, “If you eat, you’re in”. How we feed ourselves as humans is probably the most determining factor of how we organise our societies. Industrial agriculture can be seen as one of the ultimate assaults on the land. Getting permaculture implemented across the planet and organising industrial agriculture out of existence, I feel is one of the highest organiser priorities of today.
On my blog you’ll read of various events, projects and groups that I organise with for food sovereignty, which is basically the means to determine our own food systems. I try to work at different scales, from extremely public friendly work at Somerset Community Food, a local charity aiming to re-connect people to their food through events, growing & cooking training, access to land projects & more right through to groups such as Reclaim the Fields an anti capitalist constellation organising to reclaim food production. I am passionate about community food projects, about working as a grower & bringing people together through local food however I recognise what is said in the Another World is Possible cookbook & therefore push for movement building within our networks.
“Many of these community food projects present us with amazing opportunities to collectively make our lives better, more sustainable, meaningful & interesting. However without a context of explicitly addressing & challenging the global exploitative food system as a whole they are basically reinforcing privilege. The system will not change because a few of us eat better.”
Social justice for nonhumans
I have a long term history in organising for animal liberation, for over 5 years I have been controlled by the state with bail & license conditions before and after a 3.5 year prison sentence for a campaign related to closing down an animal testing company.
During this time disabled as an organiser, I have been analysing and exploring the intersections between animal liberation, anarchism and permaculture. It is clear as described by Bob Torres that speciesism, “is woven into our mental, social & economic machinery, and reproduced through the interaction of these parts – its a structural aspect of our political-economic order.”
What animals need worlwide more than anything is a sane human culture and “Only with an integrative, holistic & thoughtful approach to all oppression & hierarchy can we hope to build a different society” (Torres). Therefore my next steps from when I’m able to organise again (this September) will be to build the connections between permaculture & community organising and the animal rights movement.
I am also working with the Vegan Organic Network to spread the alternatives to animal farming and the ways we can manage horticultural systems without depending on fertility from abused & enslaved animals.
None of the above would be possible without the strength I gain from the earth-centred spirituality I practice in everyday life. Brought up a pagan of sorts, going to camps, connecting with the land and more are second nature to me. While there are debates within permaculture circles, such as this permaculture & metaphysics article, I cannot help but feel congruent with the statement, “Permaculture minus spirituality represents a mindset not that divorced from mainstream industrial agriculture.” Having studied environmental science, I know the value of some reductionist approaches, but I have also soon learned the limitations. For me, the earth is alive & all beings are sacred. Remembering this & honouring this in daily life is what spirituality gives to me.
As John Stowe describes, in order to take strong, directed actions we need to be able to access the focus, clarity and sense of purpose that will make those actions effective, and these come from a place of deep personal alignment. Craft work for me is about staying focused & directed, not just for personal yields but for work in service of the land & our communities.
Cultures of resistance
And finally, even with all of the above effort invested in building solidarity economies & regenerative communities, it is clear that we will always need resistance. I see resistance as the feedback mechanism to capital’s actions. If strong ethical frameworks are not embedded in communities then harmful behaviour will persist. I lost hope a long time ago that those with power would give up their means of controlling world resources because they knew it was ethically wrong to destroy human & nonhuman communities, therefore resistance movements are necessary ‘holding actions’ to prevent the violent behaviour inflicted on the many by the few. Likewise, we will always need ongoing resistance against movements like fascism, and militant, direct action will of course be necessary.
Bringing it together: Liberation Permaculture
Well there is a whole lot of ideas & precepts in this community organising section. I have been searching for a way to find an integrated approach, one that has led me to explore ‘liberation permaculture’. Liberation Permaculture is permaculture that is being used for liberatory means, as a tool towards ecologically and socially just ways of living. It is a label coined from a permaculture design course that took place in North America in 2010 exploring how permaculture can be used in grassroots resistance & community organising work.
Having been inspired I interviewed the participants and wrote ‘People and the Permaculture Edge: a tool for social change’ about liberation permaculture that featured in Permaculture magazine last year.
Continuing this process I explored the concepts of liberation permaculture further as part of my Gaia University learning pathway (read my Output 5 report here) & brought my ideas together to summarise some potential principles of liberation permaculture:
Principles of Liberation Permaculture
• Places permaculture in a wider context of social change
• Observes power relationships & structures within systems
• Recognises oppression as part of ‘people care’ & aims to consciously design oppressive practices and mindsets out of systems for the risk of otherwise perpetuating them
• Works in solidarity with multitudinous social struggles, indigenous peoples & ecological resistance movements
• Ensures yields are shared across genders, races, classes, ages and so forth & challenge privilege consciously reducing inequalities
• Supports the regeneration of our landbases without exploitative relationships and rejects speciesm and the domination of nonhumans
• Places re-skilling in a context of increasing autonomy and self-determination
• Takes a ‘beyond our backyards’ approach working for ecosystem & community restoration on broader scales than beyond home gardens
• Practitoners use observation and intelligent ecological design principles to inform decision making in all areas of life, not just farms but organisations and movements
• Places permaculture in the context of rebuilding land based cultures rather than ‘fitting in’ or mainstreaming into capitalist & oppressive societies
• Uses the practical applications of permaculture e.g. food growing, cleaning water, to genuinely improve people’s lives beyond that of a privileged few.
• Practitioners practice mutual aid for collective living and design systems that maximise power and relationship building within communities.
• Ultimately liberation permaculture is about ‘obtaining a yield’, by addressing root causes of systematic dysfunction.
“You cannot control a system. You can only design & re-design”
– Donella Meadows
In summary, it is clear that permaculture, as a concept in itself, challenges the foundations of modern industrial civilised society, simply from its premises of recognising ecological limits and its promotion of core ethics, such as caring for people, the earth and redistributing surplus.
However many criticise permaculture because it doesn’t fully challenge the roots of oppressive systems, the relationships or power at play. If we are truly to re-design our lives for freedom and autonomy and respect for the land then we need to break the denial and get to the roots of understanding our current state of affairs.
If permaculture is all about relationships, then we need to consciously design for relationships without domination. This is the premise of liberation permaculture.
I am learning that permaculture is a major tool in the tool box – permaculture can offer alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, real-needs orientated small scale food production and the use of grassroots social and ecological design in building regenerative systems.
“This is not only a political project, this is a project for existence”
– Team Colours Collective
If you have been inspired or provoked by anything on this page, please contact me at how we can organise together for liberatory ways of living.