Love & Waste: Igniting A Permaculture Paradigm Shift ~ A Personal Story, Part IV
Cara Judea Alhadeff
In reference to the Vietnam War and President Nixon's “Pentagon Papers,” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, decried: “They hear it, they learn from it, they understand it, and they proceed to ignore it.” Both my personal and professional lives focus on how we can re-interpret "information" in order to embody our interdependencies. How can we learn to decode what we are told is “transparent truth?” How can we educate ourselves and our children to take nothing for granted, to filter perception management and the seemingly self-evident through cultural, historical, and ecological relationships, to unlearn what we think we know and debate differing perspectives?
Four installments, from January to April 2021, will include my personal-political discussion of both the roots and the implications of perceived solutions to climate crisis and environmental racism. We will see how these solutions may unintentionally sustain ecological devastation and global wealth inequities—actually diverting us from establishing long-term, regenerative infrastructures. As we unfold the possibilities of a “permaculture paradigm shift,” we will explore the implications of supply chains that render particular humans superfluous (Hannah Arendt). When radical self-inquiry converges with infrastructural mechanisms and institutional support, we can begin to uproot the foundations of our industrial-waste consumer culture—our internalized fascism (Michel Foucault). We can begin to actualize symbiotic, biophilic solutions as we transition from our petroleum-pharmaceutical-addicted cyber-culture to a biocentric economics.
Creative-Waste Living as Biophilia
Rob (Wild Menagerie), Zazu, and I integrate the utilitarian with the sacred. This is our tikkun—our particular task of repair. Our actions model how to live differently. Two proverbs come to mind—the first is from my family of origin’s hybrid language, Ladino: Lo ke se aprendre en la kuna sien anios dura (What you learn in the cradle lasts a hundred years); and, the second from a Ghanian Asante proverb: The Ruin of a Nation Begins in the Home of Its People. Both share the idea that change, positive and negative, begins in the family, at home. Through our daily choices that directly educate Zazu, we inspire a different kind of present and future that resonates with geologian, Thomas Berry’s concept of the Ecozoic. The Ecozoic Era is one in which humans share mutually beneficial relationships with the world around them; intellectually, structurally, and spiritually, we integrate with our natural environment, rather than compete with it. This integration reflects the Jewish tenets: tikkun olam, repair of the world, and bal taschit, do not destroy or waste. We ignite tikkun by living our shared ideals. Wild Menagerie and I believe one reason we came together is so that we can grow together and beyond ourselves in order to make a difference in the world.
We feel in our bodies and in our relationship that we vitalize our capacity for love as we enliven our home. On a daily basis, Wild Menagerie and I rescue each other from a society suffocating on its own sense of entitlement—the paradigm of accumulation and individualism. We rescue each other as we animate our hearts; supporting one another as a form of devotion to a shared ideal. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone explores this kind of spiritual intelligence, this deep mindfulness, as a form of devotion, a shared purpose in which “we are brought together to grow beyond ourselves. ...In order to be fed, we must feed the world around us, or our system collapses.” I see this devotion to repurposing, to constructing an architectural and infrastructural support system for renewal as shared biophilia, love of life.
We rescued the bus, and it rescued us. Not an anonymous object that we walk into and out of without consciousness, a house is a home providing a place for giving and receiving. This reciprocal refuge is a place in space that reflects essentially who we are—echoing ubuntu, the Xhosa people of South Africa’s word meaning, “I am because you are.” Reflecting this interdependency, the Mayan in lak'ech—a la k'in<, “I'm another you”—“you're another me” “affirms an irrefutable bond between interlocutors that is at once psychological and spiritual. ...[This] shared field of meaningful interaction...has the power to transcend tribal, linguistic, or religious affiliations.” These personal-political practices recognize and nurture the sacred in everyday objects and the spaces / environments they (and we) inhabit. An Ecozoic Era reflects these manifestations of Indigenous perspectives on kinship, Quechua Sumak Kausay's Buen Vivir, Buddhist Inter-Are / Interbeing, and socialist ecofeminist bioeconomies: cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural examples of community and empathy (co-implication / co-responsibility) that generate dialogic thinking and action.
Ecozoic practices generate this creative response to colonialist legacies of economic oppression
and extractive industries rooted in Anthropogenic dualistic assumptions and illusions of separation. When we implement social-permaculture-design infrastructure rooted in the Commons, we debilitate how systemic economic violences (from e-waste to 5G/AI/Internet-of-Things juggernaut) are enmeshed. Recognizing, designing, and implementing emancipatory interrelationships co-creates humane infrastructures for every social system. This joyful, intercultural, interspecies approach to climate-crisis mitigation weaves together simultaneous individual, community, and infrastructural change. Disrupting our homogenizing “monoculture of the mind” (Vandana Shiva), this strategy involves unlearning what we think we know while tapping into the fertility of our curiosity, beauty, and ever-evolving interconnectivity.
How we animate our home using only repurposed materials and equipment parallels how we build our sense of belonging and can be a demonstration of our deepest sense of self and our deepest sense of community. How we perceive our choices can determine how we inspire democracy—instead of playing off guilt, we build on love—radical love. The word radical comes from the Latin for “root.”
As all forms of climate crisis / climate chaos are interconnected, all forms of environmental justice are equally interconnected. A devotion to repurposing objects, to constructing co-beneficial, regenerative infrastructural support systems, is an antidote to industrialized convenience culture. This kind of social permaculture reflects values in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, classical Sufism, Isma?ili and Shi?i mysticism—all of which offer both individual and social behavioral ideals for which to strive to live an ethical life—that really is Love.
We succeeded in our social-permaculture commitment to only use reclaimed materials, down to the last screw—everything before it was headed to landfill (including our bus itself): used wood (prying up hardwood floors, 100 year-old lathe from our previous blighted home, and all the other decorative and functional wood throughout our tiny home), plastics (recouping old billboards to use as moisture barriers), metals (sifting/consolidating scrap, reusing the screws, wiring, and brackets from the bus itself), insulation (non-toxic foams and wools), granite counters, cooktop, and a variety of demolition/construction products. Additionally, we’ve found used oil lamps, wood-burning stove, and perhaps most significantly, used batteries for our solar panels (only for our used DC fridge, otherwise no other electricity).
It was time to move our LoveBus to our new home, so we filled up on biodiesel (yet again conflicted by its band-aid and monoculture implications) and drove from the “blighted” Pontiac, Michigan to a rarified EcoVillage near Asheville, NorthCarolina.
TIMBERRRR! Stump, timber, wood, lumber, stick…
It happened before I could realize what was going on. The “final cut” was made. In both fast and slow motion, the 90+ foot eastern white pine tree was about to hit the ground. And it did. Gripping nausea overcame me. I am told pine trees don’t live long, but I still feel tormented by the assumed entitlement of the capacity to choose life and death. Just as I was struck by the odd intersections between Pontiac and Boulder, I am struck by how similar building practices in mainstream society intersect with those in so many “alternative” communities. Although we left Michigan and the history of its decimated state tree, the eastern white pine, how much fundamentally had changed? In the1800s “The Big Cut” had ravaged forests. At the end of the century so much eastern white pine was cut that if it were placed end to end it would have made a path from Michigan to the moon. From pre-industrialization 200 years ago to today at an EcoVillage internationally known as a model of sustainability, we are again confronted with the indifference and unaccountability of the Anthropocene—humans’ unspoken, ever-present sense of entitlement manifesting in the belief that humans have sovereignty over nature.
In an attempt to ignite a sense of balance, Wild Menagerie, Zazu, and I incorporated into our home every branch we could from those felled trees—intended for our neighbor’s new house, a plan that we would soon learn was simply a passing fancy. We used the pine's limbs for the solar panels' bracing structure on the bus roof, our post & beam shed, water hydrant, garden, inside the LoveBus for shelves and hooks, and the potty frame and walls (the potty itself is made from another neighbor’s disassembled cedar hot tub). After the cinderblocks shattered, and our home slipped three feet (Wild Menagerie still beneath the 33,000 lbs!), propping it up with the jack, we listened to my intuition to use parts of the felled tree for leveling our LoveBus.
Dung Beetles: the fertility of contradiction in action
I just finished burying Mac’s poop (from rescued golden doodle, bat-service dog). As I write, an iridescent deep-green dung beetle is climbing over dried leaves and twigs beneath my legs. It tries to make its way up the dead, felled pine (so full of life!) where I am perched with my solar-charged laptop. I continue to feel unable to gracefully navigate the hypocrisies of my chosen dependency on our techno-euphoric age. The dung beetle tumbles and climbs up again. Even though I can’t see the scarab right now, I feel we are encouraging each other to keep searching, supporting one another as we continuously reanimate our little worlds. Suddenly, a second dung beetle swoops down, honing in on Mac’s buried treasure—its new home. The first scarab resurfaces and changes direction. True love.
And then we, too, shift our path...
 Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women’s Wisdom. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2003, page 187.
 “Maya civilization flourished for millennia in a geographically diverse and climatically volatile region because of a fundamental belief in the vital essence of all sentient beings, including stones and streams, existing in dynamic cycles of interdependence. This integrated outlook informed their agroecological subsistence practices, such as intercropping and fallowing.” John Esposito, “In Lak'ech—A la K'in” in Matthew Schneide-Mayerson, Brent Ryan Bellamy, and Kim Stanley Robinson, eds., An Ecotopian Lexicon. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019, page 136.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cara Judea Alhadeff, PhD, is a scholar/activist/artist/mother whose work engages feminist embodied theory, and has been the subject of several documentaries for international public television and film. In addition to critically-acclaimed Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, A Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era (Eifrig Publishing, 2017), her books include: Viscous Expectations: Justice, Vulnerability, The Ob-scene (Penn State University Press, 2014) and Climate Justice Now: Transforming the Anthropocene into The Ecozoic Era (Routledge, forthcoming). She has published dozens of interdisciplinary essays in eco-literacy, environmental justice, epigenetics, philosophy, performance-studies, art, gender, sexuality, and ethnic studies’ journals/anthologies. Her pedagogical practices, work as program director of
Jews of the Earth, parenting, and commitment to solidarity economics and lived social-ecological ethics are intimately bound. Her photographs/performances have been defended by Freedom-of-Speech organizations (Electronic Freedom Foundation, Artsave/People for the AmericanWay, and the ACLU), and are in numerous collections including SanFrancisco MoMA, Berlin’s Jewish Museum, MoMA Salzburg, Austria, Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, and include collaborations with international choreographers, composers, poets, sculptors, architects, scientists. Cara is a former professor of Performance & Pedagogy at UC Santa Cruz and Critical Philosophy at the Global Center for Advanced Studies. She teaches, performs, parents, and lives a creative-zero-waste life. She is always eager to collaborate with other activists, scholars, and artists from other disciplines. If you are interested please contact Cara via email at email@example.com or via her websites, Cara Judea and Zazu Dreams. See also this article: Social ecology pioneers return to Nederland.