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I am a white cis-woman who was drawn to the permaculture package of information because of my curiosity about how humans can live in right relationship with the earth. I found that there's a lot to know first about how humans (especially white people) should live in right relation with other humans, and I 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 (in other words, when we see people of color treated unequally, we're likely to follow cultural messages that individuals are to blame rather than decades-long systems of inequality). 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 I know of). Could it be better? (I hope so). What can I do about it? (Think? Listen? Amplify others? I don't fully know).

My 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 regardless 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 for POC** that challenge the status quo. In my PINA diploma advising, support for free Black and Indigenous post-PDC leaders in becoming the next round of teachers and mentors (so younger BIPOC*** students won't need to learn from white teachers if they don't want to). Always be learning more, personally, so that I am able to truly acknowledge and create supportive space, which also nurtures white people in the permaculture world to learn more themselves. On my wish list: 1) tangible give-backs financially with each PDC to the indigenous groups that inspired permaculture 2) robust land-giving-back curriculum and examples 3) regularly hosting small groups of land-based white people doing anti-racism work. Perpetuate decolonialism

For me, it's about keeping permaculture in context. Permaculture is about what I do to live on the earth in right relation, but is it all I need to do? No. There will be no sustainable, happy future while there is injustice. Period. White supremacy is noxious thinking that messes up our minds, and there's a role for white people to learn other (multiple!) ways of thinking and doing. I fit into that somehow, though I'm 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

Whitewashed Hope, A Message from 10+ Indigenous Leaders: regenerative agriculture and permaculture offer narrow solutions to the climate crisis

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

A Message from 10+ Indigenous Leaders: Regenerative Agriculture & Permaculture Offer Narrow Solutions to the Climate Crisis

Sorry for the acronyms!

*Permaculture Design Course, especially the beginner 72 hour design certificate course

**Person of Color

***specifically Black or Indigenous Person of Color (important because of the severity of systems often directed to them)

Divine Earth Gardening Project

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