Thursday, 30 January 2020

All things fall and are built again: a neopeasant response

Fire. One of the most significant phenomenons of this world. Fire makes us human, transports us into technological animals, transforms ecologies, and devastates life when we do not accept its uncompromising feedback.

The seven year old on the right in the below pic is Patrick, joined by his older brother Sam in 1977. They are on a camping trip with their father, Robert. On this night Robert (the photographer) lit a fathering fire after making a fire circle – an early rites of passage for his boys – and cooked a meal.


Four decades later Patrick and Meg light monthly fire circles and gather with community folk to listen deeply to one another and more-than-human life. Each circle, held within the Southwest community forest in the south of Djaara peoples' land, starts with a listening to country. In an unprecedented time of fear, anxiety and aggregating bushfire cycles, these fire circles provide opportunities for collective reflection and care. And for transformation.


While a far greater acceptance and understanding of fire in Australia is required throughout the various non-Indigenous communities, there are things we can do to reduce bushfire risks.


For us, the most obvious things to mitigate bushfires have been to refuse air travel, boycott drought-producing supermarket products, and compost car ownership. Increasingly refusing drought-making economy and tools, has enabled an advancing of our form of neopeasantry, slowly transitioning over the past 12 years, making an immeasurable number of mistakes, which we've converted into an education, and a home.


Five years ago we began taking action in the forest near to us, on the edge of town in one of the most fire-prone regions in the terra-nullius-fiction state of Victoria. We work with neighbours and friends, transforming ourselves into community shepherds.


Our forestry practices marry bushfire mitigation with post-correct biodiversity values. Djaara people, First Custodians to this land, traditionally have managed their country through lores that maintain such a marriage. We've been organising community working bees to remove tyres from the creek,



plant trees,



and herd the most ecologically-sound weeders we know.


Above are a few of our co-op's goats reducing weeds and bushfire risk at Daylesford Secondary College in the spring. Below are our goats carrying out guerrilla bushfire prevention on the edge of town this summer. Working with animals outside industrial-commercial relations connects us with our animal selves. We become dog and goat people.


Animals. Labouring with animals, being animals, eating and honouring them after fire has cooked up all those acres of medicinal fodder – blackberry, gorse, elderberry, broom, wild apple and oak – connects us to our ancestors and produces relationships of interbelonging between species and with land. To kill for food is sacred work. Whether we pull up a carrot or slit a throat. Souls are transformed. Life and death dance together to make more life possible.


There are always hierarchies, the question for us is whether the ideological order we subscribe to supports ecological hierarchy or mass-death hierarchy? The food we produce is some of the most nutritious money will never buy. Food that has been produced requiring almost no transportation fuels, no deforested pastures, no irrigation, no packaging or additives, and no industry-science laboratories.


Some of our walked-for food is produced by reducing the dominance of pioneer plants and their fire hazards, and in doing so moving ecological succession into the next phase to increase the number of species in the biome. The question of meat or not to meat is not a simply-packaged reductionist exercise, it's an enquiry into ecological, cultural and economic functioning, or dysfunction, depending on what sort of consumer we are.


As ecological eaters and actors on Djarra peoples' country, 100% of our manures – goat, dog, duck, hen and human – go back into the soil to make more life possible. This flow of goodly shit within a closed-cycle and walked-for poop-loop, gives to plants – the great converters of life.

Plants. Forests of trees make rain. An expanding body of evidence supports the idea that forests, in the right conditions, not only make rain locally but also hundreds of kilometres away. Our druidic ancestors held strict tree lores. Druid universities took place in sacred forests. The trees were the professors.

Cultures that remove forests remove rain. Ingenious swidden agriculture grew Mayan cities and civilisation, for a while. As civilisations grow, increasingly more people become urban-centric and thus increasingly estranged from direct connection to land. Thankfully, all city-empires collapse. Ours will too. Cities represent the pinnacle of primitive thought, smugly bound up in ideologies of abstracted culture making, which inside the context of the city appear sophisticated and advanced. When such smugness reaches a tipping point cities collapse, the monocultures that feed the city return to forests or diverse perennial ecologies, rain returns, populations decrease, animism flourishes again.

All things fall and are built again. And those who build them again are gay.

Planting fire-mitigating, carbon-sequestering, shade-producing and moisture-retaining trees is now our emphasis. We're being led by the trees themselves, oldtimer and newcomer species that have established their own inter-indigenous logic on Djaara country – blackwood wattles, English oaks, native ballart, wild apples, sweet bursaria, elder, holly and common hawthorn.


These forests make rain and they retard fires, while producing for us and countless others nourishing food, materials for habitat and more-than-human medicines that the Capitalocene will never access.


Food. There are well meaning people who are always trying to get us to scale up, put our food into a marketplace, subject ourselves to time-poverty, grow our art in capital-career terms, and generally get us to be more real in the realm of the Capitalocene. But what we do is modest, and we recognise that the scale must remain small, intimate, informal, flexible, and it must embrace uncertainty and constant change.


The market demands assurity, which in turn becomes a force against life. Assurity is essentially boring, so the transaction is a boredom in exchange for money, which can buy empty promises to fill the hollowness of modernity. While the spirit and ethic of what we do is free to grow, our household-community economy operates at a scale that enables ecological accountability and market degrowth. If the scale of everything is small, everything is novel, everyday there is a mosaic of labours, which never get boring.


We now know the origin stories of our food,


the medicinal properties of hundreds of plants.


how to turn raw materials into fermented wealth. 


and many processes for making prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.


People. An increasing urbanised civilisation produces ever greater enclosure laws. Peasants are kicked off ancestral lands, forests are cut down, ships are built, people once bonded to sacred land become transported slaves who in turn find their way to freedom and join their equally traumatised jailers in dispossessing other indigenous peoples. For the Capitalocene is really the Traumaocene. Healing societal trauma begins with a consciousness of the ruptures and displacements and the severing off from connection to ancestral (loved) land.

While living our ethics and values is foregrounded in forest, garden and community biomes, the political work to protect what's left of the Djaara commons is also important.


We are currently fighting our local council on their proposed revised local laws, which are effectively new enclosure laws being brought onto unceded Djaara peoples' country, drafted by lawyers in Melbourne. One such local law seeks to ban open fires in a public place, on non-total fire ban days. As Patrick argues, this attacks ancient cultural practices. Other laws stop us from salvaging waste, or mitigating bushfire threat. The laws are supposed to make us safer, they often don't. Five people have died in cars in our shire in less than one month and our council is concerned about someone cutting themselves on the metal piles at the local tips while salvaging the waste of the Traumaocene. Cars kill animals, people, poison waterways and stoke up the bushfire gods, yet they are the most protected machines of hypertechnocivility.

In effect the local laws drafted set institutional creep deep into unregulated social life, disabling the status of alternative economies, environmentalism and culturing. A bunch of us are running a campaign to stop this state interference of local governance. We ran a meeting, we put together a website and made submissions, which were recorded and shared publicly.

Then on Invasion day, January 26, we came together to 'fess up to the legal fiction of Terra Nullius.


People make a difference. Four years ago council was livid we established the Terra Nullius Breakfast outside the Daylesford Town Hall, without a permit. If we had asked permission, or applied for a permit, we would have likely been refused. This year council reached out to be involved. We are not Libertarians, but we're not compliant puppets either. We believe in strict lores. We do however baulk at Capitalocene legalism. People make a difference. Unregulated actions change the culture. We all have a role to play in reculturing society from pollution ideology to diverse modes of low-carbon living.


People make a difference. Showing up makes a difference. Grandparents make a difference!


Permaculture scholars and filmmakers make a difference!


Wise forest women make a difference!


People on bikes make a difference!


Walked-for regenerative energy makes a difference!


And forest children (who are Free to Learn and who will never know what NAPLAN means) make a world of difference!


Until next time, Dear Reader, we need to get back to the real work now...


For those wishing to come to one of our two next house and garden tours you can find more info here

If you're just beginning your transition and would like a non-monetary online course in permacultural neopeasantry, start at the beginning of this blog (2009) and read forward, then smash your device and get digging. Working the soil gets you high.

A special thanks to Giulia and Michal, doctoral students currently living with us and sharing knowledges, labour and love. All the better pics in this post are theirs. We love you both and we love living with you.

12 comments:

  1. I have missed your frequent Fb contributions but I really enjoy the updates that make it to Fb. I send my best wishes for productive and sustainable practices to emerge from your local govt encounters.
    Regards from Chris D,
    a SEQ admirer of you neopeasantry.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are deep, rich, pungent soil. Thank you for helping me grow.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Disgusting how many tyres you had to pull out, but good on you all for doing it!! We removed some from our town's dam when the water was low - people throwing them into the town's drinking water is absurd!

    Thanks as usual for the post - always good to read, best regards
    Dylan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dylan, that pile is only a fifth of what's in the creek. A few more working bees with goodly neighbours and awesome types will see them converted into goat shelters before the coming winter. All the best from us...

      Delete
  4. This is an amazing piece. Your quote under Food really says so much to me. Thank you for what you all are doing ~ it gives me hope and resolve.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "recultering society..." I totally agree on almost everything you said here and i think you do a geest job at living. I Just can't get my head around the 'eating animals/animal products part'. I onderstand that animals van be very useful and good for the land and that they belong in the ecosystems. But why slit their throats or take their eggs and milk? Without that you could live equally as good and healthy as a human and let other animals live and enjoy life the wat you do too. I van see that you hang onto the cultural and traditional lives of your/our ancestors..but then again you, yourself talk about recultering society, do why not stop eating and using animals for food but Just live and work and play together with Them. Just that, be one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was big for us too when we started thinking through all the big structural problems of global society 15-20 years ago. Patrick grew up butchering animals, although would also eat commercially produced meat. Meg was a vego for 20 years, up until age 30. Then about 12 years ago we started to live as though the global fossil economy was no longer in place (for obvious reasons which are coming to the fore now). And when we began that conscious transition we realised that in not eating out of the industrial food bowl we needed to have all food (that could grow in this region) on the table. It's usually only the very privileged who can make the choice whether to eat animals or not, that is those privileged living in cheap crude oil societies.

      When peoples' food production is not seen or sensed there is always violence on your plate be you a vegan, vego or omnivore. For example, every commercial pulse, fruit, nut and grain (organic or conventionally grown) requires the wholesale killings of wild animals to protect those crops. We are blind to this when we go to supermarkets, as we are blinded to how industrial capital has depopulated 65% of species on the planet in the past 50 years because of the way we live, because people get their meat from feedlots, their almonds from California, their coffee from Brazil.

      We are reculturing a direct engagement with life, where our violence as eaters is not masked or disguised. We see, touch, smell and handle our violence everyday. We have come to accept it. This is what makes us understand what really goes into being human and a custodial species. We are both predators and prey (prey to march flies, mosquitos, sandflies, viruses and sometimes larger critters like sharks). Systemic blind violence is catastrophic in the world, it makes our species pretend violence isn't a part of everyday life and so the result is man-made mass death, which comes from veiled violence. We are saying, own your violence to stop systemic mass violence.

      Are you socially isolating at home? What will you do when your food runs out? We haven't shopped at a supermarket for ten years, nor owned a car or flown in this time (except once as guests at an Indigenous health conference). We are as prepared for the future as we can be, and there will be play and song and honouring and ritual in it as there is now. But there won't be fetishisation of animals as pets and cute objects. Sometimes animals will be butchered and carrots slaughtered and other sentient life forms will die so we can live before we too die and feed the trees, mycelium and animals, and then we will go into making their lives more possible until they too are eaten.

      Thanks so much for your interest.

      Delete
  6. This is awesome information that you provide us.
    I am very thankful to you for sharing this information with us.
    I am glad for new students.
    student accommodation near Curtin University

    ReplyDelete