Activism: Hearing the Call of the Wild

Maddy Harland
Thursday, 2nd January 2020

Maddy Harland explains why activism, like an ecosystem, has many niches, from demonstrating on the streets to teaching low carbon solutions. Wherever you belong, it is vital that we stand up for the wild, the more than human world, and remind ourselves daily that it is Nature that ultimately sustains us.

As we enter a new decade, the world is experiencing a huge shift in awareness. Many are hearing the Call, some for the first time; Greta has chastised the UN; XR continues to take to the streets; the proroguing of the British Parliament that subverted the world’s oldest democracy was judged illegal; Trump risks impeachment (again); every hour the corporate media are reporting on climate change; and trolls are purveying their noxious climate denying excretions on social media. We must try not to get angry (don’t waste energy arguing, just unfriend / block them), take this disinformation as a sure sign of awakening.

After almost three decades of work on this magazine, it is hard not to take the long view. I see a world that is becoming increasingly afraid of the Great Unravelling, as scholar and eco philosopher, Joanna Macy, called it and I can’t help feeling a little relieved. There is nothing more damaging than to be trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse and be ignored, invisible. The Earth has suffered and at last climate activists have visibility. We need to seize the moment.

There is a temptation to waste energy by breaking into bitter factions, trying to tear down an iconic 16 year old by muttering about ‘manipulation’, or nitpick over who is funding XR. Quoting conspiracy theories within our own movement is like misguided politicians imploding their own party to reach a dubious moral high ground. Please, let’s not do that. Let’s accept that we all have different skills, agendas and resources, and come together in support of the Earth and the many human beings and other species that are suffering. We do have to keep our eyes open but we do not have time to sow doubt, division, and despondency.

Now is the time to identify our allies, develop coherent strategies and ACT. This can mean taking to the streets, organising mass tree plantings, practicing and teaching about climate solutions, and any other form of activism. Diversity of approach is key. 2019 is the hottest year globally on record and feedback loops are kicking in. This is caused by burning fossil fuels, not natural climatic cycles. Those hearing the Call for the first time and desperately feeling the Fear need to hear solutions. Permaculture has been experimenting with many of these for decades, but we all need to open our minds to new ideas, practices and innovations. I am not talking about techno-fixes here but new science driving regenerative practices and what Rob Hopkins describes as the unleashing of the imagination. None of us have all the answers. This is work in progress. 

I have consequently really enjoyed co-producing this edition of the magazine with the team. It has lifted my heart, engendered respect for the people who work under difficult circumstances, transforming people’s lives, and it has kindled active hope once again. Two Permaculture Magazine Prize winners immediately come into my mind: the Bayoudah Village initiative that is regenerating an area in Jordan (see page 34) and African Women Rising, who work in a south Sudanese refugee camp rolling out permaculture gardens with virtually no resources (see page 30). Both these projects are truly transformational.

Back home, there is Whistlewood reclaiming what was once common land for the benefit of a local community. It reminds us that before the main Enclosure Acts (1650-1860) that privatised land, there was common land by every settlement where landless people could graze their animals, forage and collect firewood. Can we envisage a landscape where one day efficient regenerative farming will take up far less space than our current industrial agricultural system, allowing a rewilding of less productive land and us space to roam and rewild ourselves? Then there is Charles Dowding and Steph Hafferty on planning productive year round gardens, new techniques to regrow coral, the exceptional Youth in Permaculture Prize winners, and the many other glimpses into the regenerative, life-enhancing worlds of our authors. I even get to read and review two new books about Imagination and Bees, both curiously interconnected...

So I invite you to immerse yourself in these worlds. Then, when you have read this magazine and absorbed its stories, the facts, and the imaginative energy of optimism that is scripted into every page, go out to your quiet spot, a place nearby where you like to sit and watch the sky, the fading light between day and night, the birds overhead, and sense the turning earth beneath your feet. Go and sit quietly and imagine all of these good people and projects proliferating, and feel your pulse as a part of their pulses, and honour the courage and inventiveness they demonstrate by their acts. Then breathe in the scents of the day and know that by taking time out to quietly attend to your senses you are altering your neurological patterns, nourishing your nervous system, and expanding your capacity for imagination. Sniff the air and scent the wild in you.