Permaculture and Racism

Jun 2, 2020

It’s been a devastating week in our global community where systemic racism has repeatedly reared its ugly head with the death of George Floyd, Rio Tinto literally blowing up an aboriginal sacred site 46,000 years old and Christian Cooper being threatened while bird watching. And all while National Reconciliation Week is taking place here in Australia.

What’s permaculture got to do with racism?

Everything. As permaculturalists, we can either perpetuate racism or we can help break the cycle.

Permaculture is based on three ethics – earth care, people care and fair share. You cannot do one without doing the others, all three or nothing. It’s more than just gardening/farming – it’s a holistic approach to actively re-thinking and re-shaping the system we all live in to be good for everyone. 

It also bases a lot of its strategies and techniques off indigenous practices. It’s vitally important this is acknowledged when practicing permaculture – otherwise you’re part of the problem. You’re taking away from First Nation cultures when there’s an opportunity to work with them and highlight their incredible skills, knowledge and resilience. I’ve personally been in situations in Australia and overseas where I can vouch that First Nation farmers know better than some young, white permaculturalist (i.e. me). My advice?  Be quiet, listen and learn and then use your white privilege to highlight/celebrate First Nation farmers/land stewards in that region, giving them the credit and authority they deserve and helping others realise this.

You cannot practice permaculture without practicing social justice. 

What are we personally doing about it?

  • Paying the rent: As of this past week we now pay the rent to a local Aboriginal organisation (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre). We encourage you to connect with local First Nation organisations in your region to find out how you can support them.
  • Supporting climate action: We are members of Groundswell Giving which fund effective climate action. When you fund/support climate action, you’re supporting First Nation communities who feel the impacts of climate crisis disproportionately to others.
  • Getting educated: We are continually learning how to stop being racist. Yes we’re racist. As white folks, we’ve grown up in a system which we benefit from and we have bone-deep implicit biases that we’re working on dismantling. I find reading and listening to First Nations voices helpful in this ongoing mission. Here’s a good book list for you to explore (I’d just add Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe to the list )and a new podcast “always was always will be our stories” by Marlee Silva launched this past week. Please leave your recommendations in the comments below.

As the impactful artwork of Molly Costello says below, we were built for this. This is hard, uncomfortable work and we will all be better off for doing it.

your thoughts:

9 Comments

  1. Delilah Gardner

    Thank you for this 🙏

    Reply
  2. the_quiet_wilds

    Thank you!
    Favourites for booklist: Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking can Save the World. It’s a beautiful book, and invitation into listening. Stories from Bruce Pascoe’s Salt are still unfurling in my brain, like seeds. And Warwick Thornton’s The Beach on sbs at the moment! Incredibly moving and gentle activism🖤🖤

    Reply
  3. ray

    who is the artist who made the image here? its really beautiful.
    thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  4. Yours truly

    Someone thought they were actually doing the world a service by making sure people were gardening in a racist way…….. We need more plagues

    Reply
  5. Janet

    Love this! Thank you. Could I add a book recommendation? “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. She’s in Seattle, WA, USA. She’s amazing.

    Reply

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