Positionality

We are a white cis-gendered couple who have received the permaculture package of information because of our curiosity about how humans can live in right relationship with the earth. We found that there's a lot to know first about how humans (especially white people) should live in right relation with other humans, and we did not learn this through the permaculture community. It is such a large omission to permaculture's 'solutions-based approach' that it ultimately makes the permaculture curriculum, and many of its practitioners, racist in omission and relevance, if not more.

White people are cultivated in western culture to be implicitly racist. Permaculture is a design system created to heal ecologies, but woven together by a white man (himself not the best at social justice) who was privileged enough to travel the world and learn from all sorts of traditional communities. Many (though not all) of these communities are people of color, who are fighting in various forms to keep their land-based sovereignty and who get no material gain from the Permaculture community (even though their generations of work helped create it!)

It is a worthy debate to figure out whether to trash a system that is so implicitly racist or whether doing so is throwing 'the baby out with the bathwater'. We don't know. Is the baby doing any good? (Sometimes yes, sometimes no). Is there anything else like it? (Not that we know of). Could it be better? (We hope so). What do we do about it? (Think? Listen? Step back? We don't fully know).

My (Kelda's) philosophy is pretty simple. Teach only when asked. Hire, and pay well, traditional peoples or people of color, whose rightful place is in front of the classroom. Make the permaculture curriculum have a stronger social justice lens, with techniques that are accessible regardlesss of income. Make PDCs as affordable as possible and always have space for a few students to take it for free. Make the structure of the PDC accessible (schedule, childcare, etc) and a safe space that challenges the status quo. Always be learning more personally so that I am able to truly acknowledge and create that safe space. Someday, probably with my next PDC, incorporate the well-being of the traditional communities that informed permaculture into the classroom, through financial or political support. And step back, by supporting traditional people or people of color to be the ones teaching full PDCs.

For us, it's about keeping permaculture in context. Permaculture is about what we do to live on the earth in right relation, but is it all we need to do? No. There will be no sustainable, happy future in our communities while there is injustice. Period. White people did the messing up in this country, and there's a role for white people to learn other (multiple!) ways of thinking and doing. We fit into that somehow, though we're not sure exactly how.

Here are some examples of the inappropriate use of permaculture, or permaculture blown out of healthy context:

Frankly, Not About Food Forests

Permaculture as a Gringo Movement

Development, Gentrification, Food Forests, and Autonomy

A Critique of Permaculture: Cleaning Out the Stables

And here are some examples of how permaculture can have a better context

The Secret Strength of Standing Rock (it's diversity, though permaculture helps!)

Black Lives Matter Solidarity Statement

Indigenous Culture and Permaculture

Permaculture Design on display at Occupy Wall Street

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