Saturday, May 16, 2009
Frontlines of Permaculture
This is not the frontline I want to be on.
I do not want to live where gunmen kill, and fleeing authorities, slam through busy intersections killing more people.
I do not want to hear sirens passing, heralding another violent tragedy.
I do not want a helicopter bristling machine guns circling a point just a few blocks from my home, pounding away the peace of twilight with its thwop-thwop-thwop and pushing back the night with its searchlight.
I want to live at the frontline of unmaking the system that has institutionalized classism, ableism, sexism, globalism, and whatever "ism" stands in the way of people treating each other humanely. I want to live at the frontline of spreading seeds of future greatness, of future opportunity, of future abundance. I do not want to live at the frontline of this urban violence.
And yet, I do live here.
People are dying by violence in Pakistan, in Gaza, in Darfur, in Sri Lanka... and in Berkeley and Oakland. Caitlan notes the irony of requiring an illiterate parolee to fill out and mail a postcard to the parole officer who tracks addresses; Betsy notes the lack of choices available to low-wage earning parents with children enrolled in public schools that are failing under the "No Child Left Behind" program; my black neighbor struggles to distance himself from the black thug that sometimes roams our street, to create for himself a future where "black" does not equal "criminal."
In permaculture, there is no away. You cannot throw trash away, because the whole world is your backyard. I submit that in urban permaculture, we are all on the frontline. There is no place you can "escape" to, because the problems are all around us. The problems belong to all of us.
We've made our street safer, through diligence and connecting with neighbors who value working together, through parties and food and sitting in each other's yards. Prejudice is not vanquished, but there is grace and tolerance here. We have yet to take on a larger task, such as ensuring children in the area get access to fresh produce, or that parents in the area have energy left to attend parent's night at school after an emotionally wearying workday. Were I to live in a place removed from violence, would I be safer? Or simply less at risk? What use is my mortal life if I've forsaken the task and destiny of my immortal soul? Am I allowed to risk my children? What choice does a parent in a refugee camp have? What choice do I have? What is my choice?
I'll choose to see that I am at the frontline. Of Oakland violence. Of Sri Lankan violence. There is no away. There is no shirking from choosing to help. This permaculture, intentional community, food justice and opportunity for all demonstration project that I am part of, is what I am doing and will continue to do. It's small. It's slow. But it is change.