[permaculture] Inclusion and Invisible Structures

Jason Gerhardt jasongerhardt at gmail.com
Wed Aug 13 11:44:31 EDT 2014

Thanks for sharing that article, Steve, and for your consistent thoughts on
invisible structures. I agree fully and the more I think and experience the
more I see permaculture needing to take much greater leaps than we have
seen (while also keeping the garden focus and metaphor too).

I was just visiting my family in St. Louis, hangin’ with old friends, and
in general soaking in my home city. I’ve been talking and meeting with a
neighborhood restoration group in STL for the last year and spent a lot of
time with them last week. As I plan my move to this neighborhood in a year
or so, I couldn’t help but see tremendous potential to use permaculture to
think about solving crime and violence and justice and economic inequality
and race relations, etc. If anybody keeps up with the national news they
know about the rioting and burning and looting going on around St. Louis
due to a tragic event. I have a lot of pain inside about that because I
know this kind of violence and discrimination from a very young age, and as
a permaculturist I can’t help but think through that lens about how we can
bring police and citizens together, how we can develop income streams for
inner city youth, how we can restore crumbling neighborhoods (literally,
war torn slums), how we can restore positivity in the lives of millions who
have very little of that. I’ve decided there is no other choice that I will
be happy with other than going back to the city that I come from to do that
work. As I make my plans to move into quite a rough and crumbling
neighborhood, I’m excited to see permaculture applied to this landscape in
a very real way. And the best part is the people of this neighborhood
really want to help me come in and do this work even while they have no
idea what permaculture is.

A story: I was at the tiny North City Farmer’s Market last Saturday and
walked away to explore the neighborhood to wind up at a community garden
that was supplying the farmer’s market, after talking to the main garden
volunteer we were walking back to the market to see if they needed anything
else from the garden when a police car rolled up and stopped. Immediately
my shellshock of dealing with the police as a teenager in that very city
kicked in. The police officer got out, smiled, and greeted us. She opened
the back of the car and pulled out an award and gave it to the volunteer,
saying, “the police department wanted to honor his work in community
engagement”. I was stunned, and also felt a deeper, more heartful joy than
I’ve experienced in a long while. After I left the neighborhood I heard
about the incident that sparked the riots. On that very same day, nearly at
the same exact time, another police officer only 10 minutes away shot and
killed an unarmed teenager for nothing more than walking down the middle of
the street (which I call cultural difference).

I sincerely think we have much bigger problems to solve than our suburban
backyards. Not that I would ever belittle that kind of work, which I
participate in to an extent, but it is so much bigger than that. We have
real human culture issues playing out all around us, and something with the
transformative power of permaculture is desperately needed to contribute.
And I will venture to say permaculture has a lot to learn from other
fields, from people already doing this work.

I’ve been asked to write an article on permaculture education for a special
edition of a journal that will also feature articles from an authority on
race relations, an ecopsychologist, a climate scientist, a peace and
justice scholar, and other educators to explore the new paradigm we are
trying to usher in. During the phone conference I asked if the other
authors knew anything about permaculture, all but one had taken a full PDC.
I was shocked. People from other fields are coming to permaculture for more
understanding, and we should be doing the same. As I see it, we are all
part of one broad movement for social change.

Jason Gerhardt

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