By Rev Dele, PAN Board Member
Current events inspire me to reflect on racism within the permaculture movement. I have served on the front lines of desegregation since 1965 as a child, and now that I am an elder, I still seem to be the first black person in many professional venues. Racism is a virulent virus. These musings are just one way I am catching my breath.
Racism is an ideology that allows white people to separate themselves and their resources from the rest of the world. Racism uses the tools of secularization, separation and dichotomy to braid itself into most of the modern world. We see this played out when white men living in Australia created a new language for the regenerative design science of Indigenous peoples. This new language of — people care, earth care and fair share — allows permaculturists to ignore the first practitioners of regenerative design. Ignoring the people who give you something seems to be in direct violation of the “fair share ethic”… Anyway, these ethics came complete with a new “religion” called permaculture principles. I find it a little humorous that permaculturists have as much difficulty practicing their ethics and principles as most religious practitioners. The same tools of secularization, separation and dichotomy that embedded racism in western culture, created Permaculture. Relationship may be a faster cure than a new set of rules.
Mind you Indigenous peoples never stopped practicing regenerative design science. We are still spiritually grounded in the art and science of living on earth. We are grounded in relationship with earth. Westerners began to promote the idea that you can separate spirit out of everyday life and live a “secular” existence that does not honor your source of existence. The combined earth and social pandemics we are experiencing right now are a result of this type of thinking.
Western philosophy continues to use physical force and economic violence to separate humanity from natural abundance into hierarchical, warring factions. The divine feminine and people of color populate the bottom of accepted ideology and practice. Dichotomy becomes a reinforcer. The term “woo woo” is still used to discredit and shut down permaculture practice which keeps spirit included in its teachings. I will never forget being on an international listserv where the white men were disrespecting one another and then became angry because there were a large number of us “on the margins” who did not join in the arguments. After a few threats, they deleted us from the listserv. So much for “valuing diversity at the margins.” As I said, religious practitioners are not always good at relationship. The good news is that with the pandemic we have a lot of time to rethink and strengthen relationships. I look forward to the time we rejoin people and earth relationships in regenerative ways.