Dual Power: Radical Activism and Permaculture Solutions
By Taylor Proffitt
Since 2012, Occupy The Farm has combined people care, earth care, and fair share with their direct action resistance to commercial development of the Gill Tract Farm near the UC Berkeley Campus in Albany, Ca. To this day, the group has grown organic food for the community and initiated a working urban sustainability project while taking back the commons, occupying the space, and defending the land without compromise. From sit-ins to flash mobs, from locking down to heavy machinery to occupying the land, direct action and permaculture have always been at the core of Occupy The Farm.
Occupy The Farm protesters sitting-in to prevent the excavation of the Gill Tract. Support them by attending their court date to get the charges dropped!
Occupy The Farm employs Dual Power. Dual power in this context means building new infrastructure with permaculture-based solutions while actively tearing down the forces of oppression that the old world attempts to perpetuate. Occupy The Farm’s creative use of dual power is more or less an anomaly in its balanced approach to making change happen.
As both permaculture and radical environmentalism grow, these two approaches to world changing work are increasingly intersecting. The edge in permaculture is that there is a lot of emphasis put on solutions, and we sometimes forget about the necessity of resistance and diversity in world changing tactics. We are building solutions within the framework of a system that is still very much in place, and if our communities are to really transition to post-patrix (patriarchal matrix) capitalism, we must actively dismantle it in as many ways as necessary. To deny that resistance efforts and solutions efforts are equally important, is to see things from a potentially vulnerable vantage point.
It is imperative that, as systems thinkers, we acknowledge the more holistic perspective of earth stewardship that includes direct resistance efforts in addition to eco-socially regenerative solutions.
Jean and Jean of Occupy the Farm locked down to an excavator. they stopped industry destruction for the day and no charges were filed at their court date on March 1st! Let their story inspire you to escalate your tactics!
Many will say, “solutions are resistance!” By solutions, I mean things like community gardens, urban food forests, autonomous land projects, and other ecosocial design projects. By resistance, I mean actions designed to be expressions of negativity aimed against exploitation. Some are quick to judge negativity as “perpetuating scarcity.” But what this reactionary sentiment perpetuates is avoidance. The world is both a beautiful and brutal place. It seems only fair for proponents of biomimicry to adopt this brutality in practicing ecological design.
As quite privileged people, one could argue that it is our duty to put ourselves on the line. It’s time to step out of the garden and say “I’m willing to move into uncomfortable situations if it means effectively standing up for the victims of patriarchal oppression and against systems that perpetuate racism, xenophobia, intolerance, commodification, and exploitation.” It is empowering and liberating to risk one’s immediate comforts for effective resistance.
As a way of looking at organizing in environmental justice and permaculture, we can see world changing strategies as niches within a forest of action. While All Out ATL is fighting White Supremacy, their stance on diversity in tactics applies to environmentalism and permaculture: “We recognize that participants have different ideas, abilities, and perspectives on how to best obstruct white supremacist efforts. Our opposition will be stronger if we understand the diversity of our perspectives and strategies as an asset.”
Protesters at the Gill Tract Farm in Albany, CA
Not to mention, this diversity in strategies is where it gets fun! Effective resistance comes in many shapes and sizes, and it certainly doesn’t have to be so serious or illegal-sounding. Designing an action or a role in an action that fits you where you are in life, and that fits your strengths is a part of designing your zone 0. If you support a family, it may be poor design for you to commit to a tree sit. A more appropriate niche for you might be acting as a legal observer, or bringing supplies to the person that is committed to saving that forest. There are innumerable unarrestable actions that make effective change in preserving ecosystems for the person that isn’t in an arrestable situation at the time of action. Designing your resistance is every bit as important as designing your solution, just as working through one’s shadow is every bit as important as acknowledging one’s strength and beauty in depth psychology.
The beauty of resistance is that it tackles the darker parts of our world unapologetically. You do not have to ask for permission. You can go out to the streets with your community and shut down a highway. Or you can use sidewalk chalk to tell a story. Or perhaps you climb a tree and refuse to come down. You can autonomously decide what your ecosocial justice ecosystem looks like, and implement the design. As a part of your bioregion, you are it defending itself. What will your niche in your bioregional ecosystem’s self-defense be? Ecosystem self defense is part of integrating with the ferocity and unforgiving nature of the forest, the desert, the arctic, and the ocean.
Direct Action can be productive, disruptive, or sometimes both at the same time! A sign from the Gill Tract Farm.
In Northern British Colombia, the Unist’ot’en camp, which is directly and intentionally located on the route of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The camp is an indigenous land occupation that is a mostly self-sustaining community and a pipeline blockade of sorts. For years, the founders and volunteers of the Unist’ot’en camp have prevented pipeline surveyors and representatives from entering the land and they continue to “protect the land because we know the land sustains us.” They garden, use solar panels, drink, cook, and clean with water straight from the river, heat themselves with firewood, and live with the seasons. Unist’ot’en is an example of true and effective resistance as a result of indigenous lifeways designed to protect ecosystems. We can only hope to learn the lessons that Unist’ot’en provide for us.
The Earth acting in self-defense at the Gill Tract Farm in Albany, CA
Consider intersectionality between your personal transformation, your permaculture solutions work, and the ways that you can act in resistance. These three elements of world change work can come together more intimately than we might suspect, and can propel us toward a more balanced world.
If you are in or near the SF Bay Area, get involved with Occupy The Farm. Here is an index of groups by state in the US and in Mexico and Canada. If you live in Canada, consider supporting Unis’tot’en Camp either by volunteering at the camp in Northern BC or by supporting remotely.