The School of Sustainability
The liberating character of education was the inspiration of the Friends of the Earth Asia-Pacific (FoE APac), Food Sovereignty and Digital Communications, School of Sustainability (SofS), held in Pulau Pari, Indonesia, February 2020. Fifteen participants from different FoE organisations in the Asia-Pacific region gathered to talk about the issues surrounding people’s right to food and share practical skills to elevate the call and movement to address these issues.
The SofS is no ordinary training. It is a learning space for the network to discover new knowledge and share new skills to enrich the diverse work of different organizations. FoE regional groups created their own Schools that fit their own social, political, and economic contexts. The Schools were built to address environmental injustices and social inequalities.
Learning from the Local Community
FoE APac chose to hold the School at Pulau Pari Island because it is a site of strong community resistance against privatization. A private firm, PT Bumi Pari Asri, claims ownership to the island that “some 1,000 locals have called home for generations”.
The firm has not respected the local people’s customary rights, and the community is at risk of losing their homes. The livelihoods of the Palau Pari coastal community and fisherfolk are also threatened by climate change and pollution.
The local community rallied together and organised to defend their lands and waters. This was not without consequences. These staunch defenders faced detention and criminal cases. Even with intensifying harassment and criminalisation, this did not stop the local community from fighting for their rights. Instead, they created a local organization and worked collectively to manage parts of the land. The organisation built a community-led eco-tourism initiative that helps the local community and protects the island’s pristine state.
It was important that the SofS was situated in the local community’s struggle in Pulau Pari. After all, being in solidarity with the local community’s assertion against oppressive structures is the reason why the FoE network exists. Our work is fundamentally connected to the social, economic, and political realities of communities. This is where the we get our strength in building movements.
Food Sovereignty as a Political Framework
As local food producers, the Pulau Pari community is an inspiration to the global movement for food sovereignty. Their management of the island protects the environment and the biodiversity that enables access to healthy food and abundant resources. It is an example of an alternative system that is not beholden to profit.
To open the conversation on food sovereignty, Kirtana Chandradekaran of FoE International (FoEI) explained the principles of food sovereignty:
- Valuing food producers
- Re-localising food systems
- Harmony with nature
- Gender justice
- Territorial control and autonomy
- Solidarity and resistance
- Life before profit
- Local ancestral knowledge
Food sovereignty is an important conversation for Asia-Pacific region. It is one of the sites in the establishment of Green Revolution in the 1960s. The ‘corporate food regime’ has disrupted the diverse local food systems. The SofS provided an opportunity to have a deeper political analysis on food sovereignty as a concept and as a movement and how it makes sense for different countries in the region.
Digital Communications for Building Movements
Learning about important concepts and theories is just one part of advocacy and campaigning. The ability to communicate them effectively is also a crucial task. Campaigners and activists see the power of digital communications in gaining support and influence for cam
paigning and advocating. To gain more knowledge, participants illustrated best practices and shared new ideas to explore the great potential of social media, photography, audio-visual content, and digital mixed media in movement building.
Indeed, great stories are always at the heart of effective communication. FoE Australia shared how their organisation created compelling campaign narratives and showed practical tips on framing the perfect photograph for advocacies. Russian Ecological Union (RSEU) gave recommendations on how to handle interviews ethically. FoE Japan demonstrated how to use Canva to gain more engagement through posters and online memes. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) presented ways of making films that will put the community’s voice at the center of the production.
In the spirit of ‘action learning,’ the participants, together with local community members, collected different digital content such as interviews, photographs, and footage, for the local community’s campaign on Pulau Pari. The collaboration and collective work made the content more meaningful and purposeful.
Greater Solidarity in the Fight for Structural Change
Everyone came to respect each own’s wisdom and the ability to share and collaborate. Throughout the SofS, participants were both teachers and students. The School built a safe space for everyone to listen and learn from each other, which led to greater solidarity within the group. The School was a manifestation that embracing diversity and paved the way for unity to attain liberation from structural injustices and inequalities.
This article was written by SofS participant Joolia, from the Legal Rights and Natural Resource Centre in the Philippines.
For more information contact:
Regional Program Coordinators