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As the world’s attention focuses on Glasgow for COP26 – the Global United Nations summit on Climate Change – we wanted to delve into the queer world of Climate Activism and ecological disruption. What’s the link between queerness and the planet? What do all the words mean? Can you recycle an empty poppers bottle? So many questions.

Introducing PermaQueer: birthed at the beginning of the pandemic, PermaQueer aims to highlight the links and connection between the climate crisis, and queer and indigenous communities through shared community work, disruption and community education.

As the recipients of this year’s International Prize at the 2021 LUSH Spring Prize, the work they do highlights the need for community resilience, open dialogue and fresh and raw approaches to our way of living.

We sat down with Guy Ritani, one of the co-founders of the group to find out more.

For the beginner, what’s the best way you’d describe the work that you do in the environmental space?
PermaQueer is an ecological education network that uses queer theory, systems thinking and permaculture (the development of agricultural ecosystems to be sustainable and self-sufficient) to approach new ways of relating to each other and our environment.

We teach ecological themes from a trauma-informed perspective to understand the ways we can create better, more resilient, ethical and appropriate systems to exist within. Some of these include: community food share systems, co-housing relational frameworks, connections to regenerative agriculture practices, connections to understanding forest ecology and strengthening relationships and understandings towards first nations peoples and their ways of knowing and being.

We aim to be a source of information, inspiration, resource and support for LGBTQIA+ and BIPoc communities and seek to raise platforms for them when and where possible. The failings of predatory systems are never more intimately known than by the minorities for whom it has failed. This is why we value our marginal communities. We believe that equipping them with knowledge, inspiration and resources to form meaningful change within their food systems, housing systems, economic systems and more, we’ll succeed in slow and steady systemic change.

We understand and accept that ‘continuing as normal’ is not a viable path forward.

What is the link between queerness and climate change?
Queerness in our culture currently represents a form of other, weird, strange, wonderful and new all of which I read as innovative. Queerness is desperately needed in our march against climate change. We are moving into an era of science fiction with a global pandemic, environmental crisis and looming economic crisis. We need innovative, weird, other, strange and new solutions and we need them now. Not only that, we need them locally, contextually and to be bioregional (an area bounded by nature rather than artificial borders) in order for each node of this vast damaging system to be updated.

We understand and accept that ‘continuing as normal’ is not a viable path forward.

For us at PermaQueer, following this weird pulsating light has created huge and meaningful change. That being said, queerness evolves, so we must be vigilant that the space we occupy evolves too and that we’re not replicating patterns of ecological violence, just in a different form.

Indigenous cultures have long histories of what the right relationship looks like with our landscape and it is important for us to listen to, respect and uplift these practices, people and voices where this is possible. If at all possible, listening to queer voices within these cultures is important too. We are very much non-binary with how we approach these spaces of guidance. Apply what is appropriate and available to you and listen to the deep wells of wisdom that can lead us forward.

What does PermaQueer mean to you?
It is an intention to meet issues and crises with radical love, deep listening and unwavering transformative ethics … The binaries of gender, race, age, class, ability and identity act to homogenise the diverse, nuanced and complex beings that we all are to kowtow the creative innovative expression we naturally emit back into extractive efforts of colonisation, capitalism, environmental destruction and biodiversity loss. PermaQueer for me, is a teeming splash of technicolour paint across the vibrant tapestry that is the global climate action movement. We are thinking globally, acting locally and existing radically.

How would you encourage queer people to engage in climate change?
There are many ways to get involved in the climate change movement. The most encouraging thing I would say is truly understanding why our ecosystem is so incredible. Of course everyone understands that we should have forests, biodiversity, fish, mushrooms and water etc to stay alive. But connecting to and making friends with the beautiful, complex, integrated relationships of our greater ecosystems gives a sense of purpose and identity that absolutely nothing can waiver.

The good thing is, if you’re on planet earth, there’s an ecosystem near you to connect to! Start getting curious about where your food comes from, how is it grown? What is the soil like? What is soil? All of these can be huge gateway drugs to becoming fully fledged PermaQueers.

Connect with similar queers and start a community garden, even if you’ve killed every pot plant in your apartment try again, these things take time. It is significantly easier when you have friends and community to do it.

Learn more about PermaQueer here, including tickets to their upcoming TEDx talk