the experience of well-being is ultimately dependent on collective liberation.
On this stunning Earth, many of us exist in corporatised, globalized but overly individualised, profit driven societies, with what can feel like alienating values of consumption, greed, shortsightedness. With structural outcomes like poverty increasing over the last few years, it’s obvious to many that we need deep, lasting, embedded and embodied transformation in the systems of power.
We can do this work through many approaches and paths. Staying cognizant of not falling into colonised habits and truly, radically creating healed landscapes, ecosystems and communities. A living theory and practice that emerges each time we listen to the rain clouds, tend the earth, care for each other, create and muse. Sit with the massive unknowns and let the hunger for heart and justice propel us into planting gardens of shelter and sustenance.
We feel it’s important for us at the medicine grove to underline that our concepts and practices of well-being center first and foremost on ultimate systems transformation. None of us are truly well until all of us well. ‘Us’ being our wider human family and the whole Earth. All lifeforms are interdependent and work in synergistic webs, we are porous and made up of many other biotic and abiotic beings.
Our health is related to the health of the culture and environment. We exist as a part of a complex whole. Well being is not simply being happy and able all the time, although consumer PR campaigns of the 20th and 21st century would have us think otherwise. Health is not an endless fountain of energy to do many tasks simultaneously, often in isolation, which late-stage capitalism demands of people. Wellness isn’t never getting sick or depressed. Wellness looks different in everybody’s bodies, because everybody is different.
While we are mammalian beings with certain biophysical and psychosocial needs necessary for our baseline health + functioning, which adequate nutrition, movement, sunshine, sleep and social connection can meet, we are also diverse and complex. Therefor, wellbeing is also contextual. This raises another important matter. Health is not a virtue. It is determined by class, race, gender, culture, environment, trauma and other factors. Ample research correlates the relationship between oppression and poor health outcomes, so wellbeing also means we have to dismantle oppressive systems.
There are cultures with economies, cosmologies and norms that are conducive to the wellbeing of the collective, including the more-than-human community. We can often find these in traditional agrarian, peasant and Indigenous cultures. Old ways memories dwelling in bone marrow. We know it is possible to organise ourselves in a way that centres the health of the whole above the supremacy of endless growth and individual power.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a precarious and violent situation where the health of our collective species and the biosphere is being jeopardised by an elite few and the goals and narratives of the over-culture. Existing systems of power have to compost and be reconfigured into truly just and equitable forms. It takes many imaginations and places to determine what that looks like but it is vital if we want to live on a well planet, populated by well life-forms and ecologies.
To us, well being is being able to ride the seasons of life with secure housing, a meaningful occupation/way to be of service, adequate/living-wage moving towards gift/solidarity economies so people don’t need money, in a community with friends and plenty of time for creativity, nature, play and innovation. Well being necessitates emotional intelligence, a connection to purpose, joy and pleasure, things wise and in-tact cultures teach their young, future elders. Practices in many of our lineages, that need remembering, re-imagining and updating.
Wellness means access to nutritious food that is culturally appropriate as a human right. It is ecological and food literacy in communities where people have agency and self-determination to define how they want their needs to be met within ethical frameworks. Wellness is living in a clean environment with good air and living water. Well being means people do not stress about racial or sexual violence, money, abuse, hunger, where to live or war.
These are quite meta aspirations for wellness but it’s crucial to imagine the systems change necessary for our advocacy of health/well being to have any integrity. Teeth. Roots. We are committed to imagining, articulating and forming with others around practices and policies that will change the status-quo in order to actualize these visions of well-being.
Agroecologically produced food and herbal medicine is a pathway towards personal and planetary well-being that we advocate for because it has such poignant intersections. I’ll write a longer piece explaining these in the future. As we launch this online platform to share our farming and plant-centric journey, we really want to emphasize that as agroecologists, we have a strong political and social transformation orientated praxis. This is an inherent part of agroecology. Systems change. It is this capacity of farming/food growing to be a hands on, rewarding form of activism that drew us both down this dew and bird song filled path.
As a training community/clinical herbalist, I also contend that the plants have much green love to share with us and my vision of health for the plants and the people we care for, is also rooted in a wider lens of health for the whole. Herbs can help out bodies and spirits in many effective, magic and verified ways, however, they can only do so much while we live under unjust systems. Herbal medicine can help us become more vital and well, so we can show up to this significant time and contribute something transformational (in whatever form that is appropriate to you).
herbal plants can help us reestablish relationships that are reciprocal and caring with our soils, gardens, forests, bodies and many other parts of life. We can continue a lineage of knowledge, healing and health that is ancestral and an intrinsic part of being a human on/in Earth. Herbal medicine is the peoples medicine. It grows wild and weedy, never abandoning us. This is the loving power of plants and part of their enchantment, even at our most grief stricken and ailing, they bloom and soothe.
To conclude, we take a breathe of gratitude for the people who have walked and advocated before us, those worst harmed by colonial powers, and we give thanks for their wisdom, courage and commitment. We thank you for reading these reflections and encourage discussion through the comment function below.