It wasn’t that long ago you could drink the water. All the water, I mean; lakes, rivers, little streams. Now we have to watch what the kids get into. What might they be ingesting? What do they miss out on when they drink the chemically treated water from the city? I don’t even want to know. If it’s in the oceans, in our lakes and our rivers, in our glaciers, there isn’t much I can do to avoid it. I just have to accept that it. is. everywhere. Accept that they probably can’t live as long as I still have a chance to. Accept that they can’t be as healthy as, say, my grandparents. Can anybody be, now?
“On no”, I’m told. “We’re gonna live to be 120. All the experts say so”. Who, the ones that can look at a chart, see the rising line and conclude, “that’s the trend”. As if there are no other factors? My parents are still of a generation to be financially and materially more privileged than the last. They’ve really had the most promise, the most stability, the most upward mobility (in a capitalist sense, anyway). It’s understood that mine is the first generation since the industrial revolution that will be poorer than the one before. In a financial sense, that is. In an industrial sense.
And what do these financially wealthy people buy for their grandchildren? Full length plastic suits to protect them from UV rays.
Neoliberal capitalism…transnational financial capitalism, whatever you want to call it, it failed, ok? It was an experiment. Not so much a grand conspiracy as a grand mistake. You thought you were doing good and making the world a better place for us. We know you did it in love and you continue to do it out of love for us (not you megalomaniacs, but our parents, those who did and continue to do the footwork. Those who invest, who vote, who subsidize, who thought it was easier for us to buy food than grow it).
I am also doing what I’m doing out of love for my children. Out of a desire to leave them something more beautiful, connected, and loving than I had. And by doing so, creating something loving, beautiful and connected for myself.
What I envision is an earth on which water is safe to drink. On which water is protected, not up for grabs to the highest bidder, regardless of how they want to treat it. They deserve to know that water won’t be stolen from them or poisoned by some corporation in it for the money, giving lower and lower estimates for the value of life that they rob from the undesirable. The poor. Those who don’t buy their products or invest in their companies.
Those who dare to…use less resources? Those who dare to rely on themselves and their communities.
That’s literally my only aim in life. To learn and thus model for my children how to be a competent human being. A human being that can survive on earth. One that supports the spiritual growth of those around them. Who can build their own shelter out of the resources around them. Forage and grow sustainable food that nourishes them. Who can sit in (or lead!) a restorative justice circle and speak from the heart and listen with empathy. One who defends the land and the water and knows how to live peaceably with those around them. And who knows how to communicate anger and frustration in a healthy and beneficial way? All these skills are necessary to permaculture. Because it won’t be a permanently sustainable culture unless we can cooperate, and we need to learn these skills in order to survive and in order to cooperate and thus thrive.
What else would I want for my children? And for those saying, “we tried that, it didn’t work”. No, we didn’t. We have never tried to grow sustainable, nourishing food for us all while simultaneously building community support and cooperation. Some small tribes have had beautiful, happy and fulfilling lives, with everything they need, by doing this (ever heard of the Sarayaku?).
Harsha Walia points out (in the brilliant Undoing Border Imperialism) that focusing on decolonization as an aspiration “grounds us in an understanding that we have already inherited generations of evolving wisdom about living freely and communally while stewarding the Earth” (11)
And we are fucking human beings. Do you know what we can accomplish? Do you know the feats of creativity we’ve come up with when allowed to be passionate and follow our dreams?
In the wise words of Harry Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”.