Nonviolence and Agroecology

Nonviolent Communication or Empathic Communication or Communication from the Heart, which might be some of its synonyms is a concept created by Marshall Rosenberg, doctor in psychology, in the 60's. At the core of the concept lies the principle that all (human) beings have needs, which are universal and stand behind each and every one of our actions. This article takes into consideration the perspective of taking care and respecting nature's needs, which is what Agroecology aims at doing. Not only nature's needs per se, but nature & human beings needs taken as a whole.

Nonviolence and AgroEcology

by Robyn Marie Bors Veraart (a member of the Asociatia pentru Comunicare Nonviolenta din Romania team) 

Nature is full with life and new growth as spring explodes here in Transylvania.  The insects begin buzzing, the plants are spraying out their draughts of pollen, the trees are in bloom and all of nature is striving to reproduce.  That is because, still in this small region, there has not yet been large-scale agriculture enforced yet the way it has been in Western Europe or the United States already for many decades.  An anecdote: when we hear the village gossip that this year is scheduled to be a year when the May Beetles will swarm, we hope that it will happen during the time that my mother-in-law will be visiting because she remembers May Beetles from her youth spent in the Dutch countryside.  There have been no swarms of May Beetles that she can remember in the whole of her adult life.  She will turn 75 years old this year.  It is suspected that the larger farm machinery kill the larvae of this beetle who then die out.  And then there is less food for the wild animals that would eat them (most notably bats).  It is just one example of the level of biodiversity that is still present here.  Not to mention the wild flowers in the meadows.  Not to mention the birds and the bees who are dead or dying in droves all over the world.  Death is not the subject of this article.  Life, and the life-enriching effects of NonViolence and AgroEcology is the subject of this article!  AgroEcology is life-enriching because it takes all of life into account.  That means we want the way we do agricultural production of all kinds to enrich the soil, not to deplete it.  We want our agricultural systems to become scaled toward life-enrichment.  This means, of necessity, small and local.  This will enrich community life both for humans and for all the plants and animals who support them.

Life-enrichment is something that Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of NonViolent Communication, talked about very often.  He proposed that paying attention and talking about feelings (building emotional intelligence as it is often called nowadays) is particularly important as our feelings are like signposts that point us to our needs.  Needs are important to be conscious of because our socialisation tends to block our deeper understanding of them, thereby preparing the field for us to be used as human resources and in ways that are not life-enriching.  Marshall Rosenberg, in other words, felt enormous concern that the violence embedded in our human social systems was preparing us well for lives as slaves or pseudo-slaves.  This is not life-enriching, so I will speak no more about it.  What IS life-enriching is when we take the understanding that we all share the same needs back into our consciousness and we learn to use these needs as building-blocks to improving relationships; our relationship to ourself, with others, as well as with the non-human living world.  Extending NVC consciousness to all of life is what this article proposes.

To create NonViolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg was also enormously inspired by NonViolence, particularly from Gandhian and Kingian schools and he studied these movements and the practices necessary to ignite them.  One of my NonViolent Communication teachers, Miki Kashtan, writes this:

The word nonviolence is the closest literal translation that Gandhi found to the Sanskrit word ahimsa. Although in English this word appears as a negation, in Sanskrit naming a concept or quality through negation instead of directly is sometimes a way of suggesting it is too great to be named. Indeed, avera, the word for love in Sanskrit, literally translates into “non-hatred.”…Gandhi said: “ahimsa … is more than just the absence of violence; it is intense love.” (Gandhi the Man p. 53)

So, NonViolence is love.  And AgroEcology’s wish and promise is to act lovingly as we work with the Earth by taking all life into consideration.  NonViolence and AgroEcology are in alignment with one another, and can move beautifully together.  They each have gifts to offer to and to receive from one another and their union can be very fruitful indeed.

Imagine with me if you will, a world in which we all know that we are truly, fundamentally free.  Imagine that there is no fear around belonging and mattering; that we all know our value and worth as living beings.  Imagine that there are endless possibilities of how to contribute toward creating a world where all needs could be met, including our own.  Imagine the beauty of this, the magnificence of this.  Something like a primeval forest or garden where we don’t need money to grow on the trees because something much sweeter and more luscious is already there…. 

We have the systems.  We have the solutions.  We are stunted in our ability to imagine and to begin living it because we perceive that we are stuck in systems that are not life-enriching.  And we are.  (Most of us have at least one foot in the trap of debt to the global economic system.) So, as we work on the outside to free ourselves from these traps, gnawing off limbs as necessary for survival, may we also work on the inside to eradicate the roots of all that we have learned that leads us towards helping to perpetuate a reality that is killing us.  May we lift ourselves up with our principles and our values, awareness of our feelings and understanding of our needs.  And may we learn to fly on the wings of NonViolent systems including AgroEcology.  May we once again happily eat succulent fruits from this beautiful garden called Gaia

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