Section 3: Active Reflection
This section evaluates my work at a deeper level, exploring my emotional and political feelings 'at the edges' of the comfort zone of my identity.
Pathway Reflections: Self as Organiser, Self as Peasant
My original plan for this output was to do a permaculture design for my family’s smallholding, however organizing commitments heightened as cycles of opportunity increased and I decided to review and redesign, allowing time to focus on my organizing work and associated readings. This process however was a learning opportunity in itself:
- Other areas of my life are being sidelined e.g time with my partner, family, social life (major pattern in previous relationships)
- Distrust of others to complete tasks so end up taking more on
- Often only person with certain skills e.g. website design so workload heightened
- Sheer passion & energy for achieving social change means I invest a lot of energy e.g. staying up late studying
- Constant mental analysis of how to be more effective is mentally draining
- Often events simply occur close together, leading to tiring pattern of traveling/engaging/reflecting
Growing as resistance: repeasantisiation
I have identified that working in the garden is recharging to me, not only through connecting with the land but through the process of growing my own food I feel empowered. One element of Reclaim the Fields is the identify of reclaiming peasantry, that is small scale growing without a capitalist incentive.
In an article by Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau and Justin Myers, repeasantisation is described as, “crucial to healing the social and ecological bonds that maintain both the integrity of the landbase and produce less hierarchical and more egalitarian relations premised upon reciprocity, care, love and respect.”
"Repeasantization is therefore designed to build more just and sustainable relations through relocalizing flows of nutrients, value, and power. Repeasantization is the production of a new politics of place that rebuilds the local ecologically and socially in order to address the global crisis of industrial capitalism and modernization; as counter-hegemonic, repeasantization develops in a multiplicity of ways based on social and ecological conditions."
Adopting this political identity is empowering as the framework of food sovereignty celebrates food growing and connecting with the land as essential practices for achieving social change.
Political reflections: Reclaiming the Fields
In my new engagement in Transition and Land & Food organising circles I have been bemused, and occasionaly disturbed by the lack of politics, with a capital P. I have sat in conferences on food and planning without a single comment on the concentration of land ownership, heard Transitioners appeal for a sane, sustainable local food systems but refuse to see the power of supermarkets, instead the focus is on 'positive solutions', an intriguing myriad of feel good projects without any focus or strategy.
This has been a learning curve for me, at the edge of frustration, testing my patience and challenging my assumptions.
Why Food Sovereignty?
Unlike resources developed by transition groups or the community food movement in the UK, food sovereignty has a political edge. "Food Systems have been reduced to a model of industrialised agriculture controlled by a few transnational corporations together with a small group of huge retailers." - Nyelein Europe 2011. Food Sovereignty recognises the power relationships in the food system and proposes not only practical solutions but political practices that can faciliate the democratisization of the how we grow and distribute food and manage land.
Those working for change in local food need to place this work in context:
"The current, and linked, food, economic and environmental crises are in fact the direct result of decades of destructive economic policies based on the globalisation of a neoliberal, industrial, capital intensive and corporate led model of agriculture." Wittman, Desmarais & Wiebe (2010).
Achieving the Adoption of Sustainable Agriculture
"All good food has to come from good land" said Delwek Matheus from the MST. But how do we achieve sustainable agriculture?
World expert on agroecology, Miguel A Altieri, emphasises that, "Ecological changes in agriculture cannot be promoted without comparable changes in the social, political, cultural and economic arenas that conform and determine agriculture."
Therefore ecological activities, such as promoting permaculture land use or agroecology need to be placed within their political contexts so that strategies to maximise the likelihood of their implementation can be adopted. Social movements are the main players in this kind of widespread change as seen in section 4.
Enemies or Allies?
The third main area of reflection for me has been around animals in agriculture. Following over a decade's experience in the animal liberation movement and with being denied the ability to contact those with similar beliefs to myself, my passion for animal rights is understandably deep and emotive.
However I now find myself in the same circles as those who farm animals or are at least supportive of animal farming. Permaculture is challenging me - is the problem the solution? Do we have a common goal e.g. ending industrial agriculture which will unite us as allies even if we have a different end point in mind? These are challeneges I am still exploring and every so often a moment occurs where I know I am being pushed to the edges of my own comfort and boundaries.
These reflections have also pushed me with an urgency to dedicate time to research land use alternatives to animal farming, a potential MSc in itself.