What is Social Permaculture?
In recent years, people in permaculture have been talking extensively about the concept of social permaculture. But why seems social permaculture so important when “people care” is one of the three main ethics in permaculture? According to Diana Leafe Christian in the book “Creating a life together”, 90 percent of the international communities fail largely because of conflict. As Starhawk, a permaculturist and environmental activist, expresses “our understanding of soil biology or water harvesting techniques is often far more advanced than our skills at making decisions together. Our needs and goals often clash, and we don’t always have the tools we need to resolve conflicts.”
So, even if “people care” is one of the three ethics, the need to zoom in and work on the social part has to be highlighted.
This means working on the community. It is well-known that individualism is one of the main bases of capitalism and structure of modern societies, which has a clear effect on the dynamics of social groups.
As permaculture establishes connection between ecological and socioeconomic elements, it means that same way that “we look plants in the garden not in isolation but in terms of how they affect one another, how they interact, how the pathways and beds determine the flow of our energy in caring for them, how they can provide fertility or protection for one another, how we can get multiple yields from each element…” , we can not understand a human being without the relations that she/he is building with others.
Starhaw emphasizes that Patrick Whitefield called permaculture “the art of designing beneficial relationships.” Social permaculture aims to design the same beneficial relationships in a social frame like in an ecological one.
Today, facing climate change, which is one symptom of a deep socio-ecological crisis, humanity is called for a radical transition in worldview, relationships and lifestyle. It is not only there is climate change, that on an ecological level species disappear and soils are eroding and whole landscapes turn into deserts because of industrial agriculture. All of this is also added on with a crisis on human relations in a national and international level. And those crises aren’t new. The novelty of this moment is the situation in which we find ourselves today. We are reaching collapse, both socially and ecologically.
One main example about the devaluing of human values and human rights is happening in the borders of developed countries. Most of refugees find final refuge in countries with the lowest or average income. Meanwhile, countries with high incomes are closing their frontiers.
Permaculture, as a successfully implemented design tool, needs to face also those social problems. Permaculture principles may foster change on the social level, if they are implemented in a wise and determined way. As Starhawk says: “embracing diversity also means confronting those systems of racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, and all the other destructive patterns of discrimination and structural oppression that keep us divided and separate. It requires us to actively engage in efforts to change those larger societal patterns.”
Rather than making you run through Permaculture principles again and again and apply it to social level, our intention permaculture here is to also offer you an introduction into some schools of thought that are connected to and bringing different perspectives to social permaculture.
For ecofeminists heteropatriarchy and capitalism have gone hand in hand until the situation we are in: the collapse. Ecofeminism presents itself like the alternative to regenerate social and ecological relationships. As they affirm, the production system, which is taking place outside a home and normally being performed by men, is not sustainable. The reproductive system, which is happening inside the home and normally through women, needs to be put in the centre of our way of thinking and living. For this kind of thought, we need to put an emphasis on the culture of care in our relations to other humans and the planet. The three ethics of permaculture (earth care, people care, fair share) can be read in the same way.
We all are carrying visible and invisible oppressions and privileges in different distribution. As mentioned before, oppressions and privileges exist within gender, age, sexual orientation, social class, ethnic group, abilities, etc. These oppressions and privileges come from the development, application, maintenance, and inheritance of power relations. Some of them, like racism or partriarchy, have been building the core of our societies for centuries. Those systems of oppressions aren’t encouraging beneficial relationships, but building a hierarchy of privileges and oppressions. Intersectionality opens our view on the social for a systemic way of understanding power relations, also in within the relatedness of different sections of society.
Most intellectuals that work on Decolonization affirm that post-colonialism never took place in reality. Most of the invisible power structures that were established during imperialism remained in the countries even after they officially became independend, keeping dependences and issues of social injustice a comparable way as within the period of colonisation but giving it different faces. Today, the global liberal market exerts colonial power structures, where the global south becomes the production space, factory and dumpster of the global north, while people that lived in a caring raltionship with their land, being self-sufficient small farmers for millenia are now forced to access the economic system and become workers in factories or on monocrop farms, producing coffee, palmoil, soy…
The school of decolonialsiation affirms that western philosophies tend to separate man from nature, while oriental philosophies a tendency not to devide between humans and nature or environment. For them, one of the ways to restore their system, and a more healthy relationship to the environment is to “delink” themselves from western philosophies.
Before acting, we all need to decolonize our mind.
So, the same that a garden full of diversity is increasing the resilience, in human systems valuing diversity can lead us to value differences instead of letting them separate us. Following with Stawhak “a community that includes people of diverse ages, genders, races, sexual orientations, physical abilities, and economic backgrounds, as well as diverse ideas, cultures, and opinions, will have broader perspectives and a deeper understanding of issues and events, as well as more resilient responses.”
As well has the permaculture principle indicates “use self-regulation and accept feedback”, we present these theories that can help us to stop the situation of social collapse. Our idea has been to introduce some steps to follow in this path of social and ecological regeneration.