Social Permaculture (SP) is an idea born in the Cascadian bio-region, an area which has "no precise borders, but [is largely agreed to include] the lush strip from San Francisco Bay up to southern British Columbia, and from the crest of the [Cascade] mountains west to the Pacific Ocean." (Henri, 1) |
Informed by both current scientific understanding and thousands of years of collective lived experience, SP asserts that every human should: 1) be free to build and/or participate fully in community with equality and sustainability, and 2) rehabilitate, foster and defend the wild, diverse and healthy environments and lifestyles of all living things.
These assertions reflect SP's basic driving philosophy that mutual cooperation, by and large, makes more sense and works better than coercive, exploitative hierarchy. This philosophy is nothing new in and of itself: it's a notion, albeit worded differently, found throughout human existence, and humans have flourished (qualitatively, not numerically) when it has. SP is simply a context-based application of that philosophy.
In order for SP to act contextually it must first understand its context. Currently, that is mass, industrial civilization. Semantically this is defined as: living permanently in population densities too high for natural accommodation by a land-base, using technology that due to depletion or pollution is not truly sustainable, believing that this is the best and only way to live and destroying all other alternatives. (Jensen, 17-23)
Recent insight into the wholly destructive nature of civilization shows us an inherent deadliness therein, a fundamental narrowing of existence through "production" (the conversion of living things to dead things) that will advance exponentially until our planetary ecosystem is so depleted that it may well collapse, making life unimaginably difficult or impossible for most if not all humans.
To try to describe our experiments with civilization as anything other than recent, overwhelmingly tragic marks on the long and otherwise largely harmonious record of the human race is na?ve optimism at best. Even "everyday life" in civilization rests upon a foundation of continuing exploitation and violence here and abroad (Diamond, 1) - this fact would remain so even without catastrophic collapse looming ever nearer.
The nature of this problem is one of culture and identity, namely the steadfast and overriding identification of the civilized with consumption. As such, no "quick fix" is likely to be of use to us. SP suggests then not the reformation or modification, but the replacement of this culture and its civilizations with a diverse complex of surviving indigenous cultures and socially/ecologically responsible non-indigenous cultures.
The Social Permaculture Advocacy Collective (S.P.A.C.), once created, and as its name implies, will advocate for and build SP in Cascadia in a collective fashion.
But in what specific ways will it do this? Unlike the Maya, Olmec , Teotihuacan, Hohokam and Anasazi, (Quinn, 37-39) most of us are incapable of simply walking away from civilization; our populations are too large, our naturally bountiful environments are too degraded to sustain us, and we've largely forgotten how to live sustainably and in more egalitarian fashions. Shrinking away from this challenge by denial or preferring to wait for some super-technology to save us however, will likely cause more needless hardship or extinction.
A pragmatic first step then is to build or re-build our body of knowledge for truly sustainable living. Thus, the S.P.A.C. will practice three "&s;" - Learning & Teaching, to Survive & Thrive, Without & Against Civilization. This will initially include, but not be limited to; studying indigenous lifestyles and wilderness survival skills as well as their adaption to urban settings; presentation and teaching through free workshops and classes; and the production, collection and distribution of educational materials in a publicly accessible library. Hence the creation of a school and supplemental library are projects of significant priority. Subsequent actions will be decided on and taken from a position of increased understanding, awareness and ability.
SP - and thus the S.P.A.C. - values and will use a diversity of tactics. However, because the most directly effective tactics are severely under-represented in our region at this time, it is these that the S.P.A.C. will largely focus on.
SP is greatly inspired by the indigenous Zapatistas of Chiapas, whose revolutionary struggle departs from the Marxist tradition of centralization (a concept radical only in the sense of "producing" and distributing goods more efficiently than capitalism), instead supporting diversity by building respect for relationships with the "other." This kind of revolution dares not dictate the norm from a position of dominance, but rather opens space for diverse communities with equality and sustainability to thrive on their own terms. SP seeks to build this kind of revolution in Cascadia as an option for people to adopt of their own will- as a concrete and viable means of making civilization replaceable.
If this project sounds like something you'd be interested in helping to build or donate to, please contact Alec at SocialPermaculture@Gmail.com or visit Myspace.com/SPAC_Nonprofit (non-myspace members can view this page) for info on upcoming events, a wish-list of books for the library project, other item requests and more recent statements. Alec is currently filling the role of coordinator for future projects and organizing.
It's important to never forget that while we may struggle for our own survival - and that this by itself would be reason enough to struggle - what we're building in this case will also be a lot more fun than what's currently offered to us...
Works cited Henri, Binyamin. "Nation vs. Liberation" Cascadia Ascendant 1 (2005): 1. Jensen, Derrick. Endgame: the Problem of Civilization. 2 vols. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2006. Diamond, Stanley. In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization. - Somerset, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993. Quinn, Daniel. Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure. - New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999.