Episode 53, Season three of the Climate Curious podcast is now live with our special guests, Guy Ritani and Toad, the co-founders of PermaQueer.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS | Android 

As part of our Pride mini-series exploring the intersection of climate change and queer theory/LGBTQIA+ movements, we’re hoping to answer questions like:

  • What is the link between queerness and climate change? 
  • How can queerness help us approach the climate crisis in new ways? 
  • Why must the climate change activism intersect with the LGBTQIA+ activism? 

And to do that, we’ve invited our fave Jamie Windust to feature as a special co-host, a contributing editor at the Gay Times, author, model and TEDxLondon speaker.

Guy Ritani and Toad from PermaQueer on the Climate Curious podcast by TEDxLondon

The big idea

PermaQueer is a collaborative effort to share ecological sustainability methods. It’s a community education initiative focussed on building resilience and equitable living systems using permaculture and queer theory for LGBTQIA+ and people of colour in Naarm, Australia, and more widely.

So what does this look like in practice? It’s work ranges from everything between free and pay-as-you-feel courses teaching ecological foundations, permaculture, social justice, decolonisation, trauma and neurodivergent, to working with partners to develop new ways of living, such as co-housing villages, food systems, cultural training and regenerative restoration programs. In November 2021, they held a 3 day TEDx symposium, TEDxPermaQueer, which is also explorable via its Instagram.

Source: @perma.queer – TEDxPermaQueer held in November 2021 exploring how shifting culture from mainstream society, whether ancient or modern, can help change our current climate path.

What’s the PermaQueer approach about?

PermaQueer is a mashup of the words permaculture and queer. Permaculture is essentially a design methodology, and queer comes from queer theory. Together, PermaQueer uses the guidance of queer theory, applied through permaculture design principles, to create an ecologically designed, queer approach to how we engage with our food systems, our social systems, and just systems design in general. 

What is queerness?

During out chat, Toad calls on Bell Hooks to explain what it means by queerness: 

“Queer is not about who you’re having sex with, (although that can be a dimension of it), but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it, and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and thrive and to live.”

For Guy, they describe it as “nebulous”. “I like to explain it as you know, when you get like a filament on your eye, and you try and look at it and it keeps moving away.” 

What is permaculture?

“Permaculture is an ethical design methodology based off of Earth care, people care and fair share. And it uses principles to apply how we engage with our lives and with systems. So it’s a really, really powerful toolset to orient ourselves in a sustainable and regenerative way,” explains Guy.

Source: Lush Spring Prize – Guy Ritani with a wheelbarrow full of organic veggies

The problem?

We live in a world where systems design is broken. People can’t afford food and are reliant on food banks whilst luxury department stores dispose of fresh food into dumpsters, parents can’t afford childcare but they also feel that they can’t trust their neighbours to help raise the child… you get the idea. Life is made hard not by our circumstances, but by the design that surrounds it.

“It’s not actually anyone’s fault. […] We’ve inherited this structure that’s inherently damaging and destructive. And there’s actually a better way to do it. And we’ve been sort of trying to figure out what that is,” shares Guy.

And matter how much plastic we recycle, or clothes we don’t buy, there is still going to be a limit that we, as people, can drive via individual action. As Guy puts it, “we can only be as sustainable as our environments allow us to be right. When the only food available is wrapped in five layers of packaging. And when you know the only transport available is fossil fuels. Like that’s actually not on us as consumers.”

So how do we take the power back?

“The vital edge of regeneration, love and care”

Guy and Toad believe that through applying queerness and permaculture, we can create resilience. And that the innovation and creativity innate to these approaches is something that could help create more sustainable systems around the world.

“We look at queerness as the edge of innovation and creativity that you can’t quite grasp. And it’s ever evolving. And I think in a world right now, where we’re facing such difficulty, because of the social norms that we have. Having a design approach that is imaginative, that is new and innovative, is where we need to be. And so that’s what houses queer. For us. It’s this growing vital edge of regeneration and love and care,” explains Guy.

How do I get involved with permaqueerness? 

You don’t have to move to the countryside and live in a commune to get involved with this. 

It’s more about adopting a mindset – one of openness, innovation, and systems redesign – that is intrinsic to the PermaQueer thesis on life.

“It is the interrogation of social norms[…] It’s interrogating it and understanding what works and what doesn’t work, and then recreating systems to better meet the needs of all,” Guy advises.

Source: perma.queer Pictured: a photo of Toad looking extremely happy inbetween two bright red toadstools.

Why is this relevant to me? 

The PermaQueer way of life highlights how life can be made simpler, easier and more sustainable by taking a ‘good design’ and queer (i.e. innovative and other) approach.

For you, adopting PermaQueer principles maybe this might look like: 

  • Moving beyond rigid black and white thinking 
  • Not letting other peoples’ standards confine you 
  • Leading a peaceful and nourishing life, and facilitating others to do the same 
  • Thinking about what skills, goods or services you could share with your local community (for Guy and Toad, this was leaving out surplus food they had in a little cupboard. In return, people would leave them socks!)

In this conversation, hosted by advocate and activist Ben Hurst and author and Gay Times contributing editor Jamie Windust, PermaQueer founders Guy and Toad share the unexpected luxuriousness of dumpster diving, why we need more grassroots community projects, and why queerness – meaning an ever-evolving state of innovation and creativity – is essential for the systemic overhaul this planet so desperately needs! It’s an inspiring blueprint for how local communities can sustain themselves by working together.

Until next time – stay Curious!

How can I listen?

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS | Android 

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