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Het Kloosterbos withdraws from EuPC21 programme

Sanity before celebration? or: Why we decided not to participate after all, and why this may impact you too…

Dear Cândida, friends in permaculture :-)

With this message I'm replying on behalf of the team of Het Kloosterbos (HKB) and Faire Cabane (FC) to all your outstanding messages concerning the EuPC and EuPN/EPT events this October.

For clarity: I'm copying this reply to our local/remote support partners as well as all the presenters and facilitators here at HKB & FC.

Please consider this a constructive and critical response for the evolution of and my contribution to the EuPC/EuPC & EPT online events.

The short version

Het Kloosterbos & Faire Cabane teams have collectively decided not to participate in the European Permaculture Convergence (online) 2021 and will not host a European Permaculture Teachers partnership anniversary at this point.

The main reason for this is that we find the platforms chosen to broadcast the presentations and facilitate the online interactive events are in direct conflict with what we wish to achieve with our respective projects, based on the published privacy policies and terms of use of the corporations providing the online services. We are concerned that the EuPC in particular has chosen to use these platforms, not in the least because these terms and policies also violate the ethics of permaculture design philosophy directly. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that alternatives have been developed over the past years, with the support of European permaculture organisations and EU financial support at CoLab. We would have expected that EuPC21 could have been the perfect opportunity to showcase these alternatives and get the European permaculture movement on board.

Feel free to read on at your convenience :-)

The longer version

In April this year I got the first invitation from Steve Charter to get involved in the organisation or contribute to the programme of this years first fully online edition of the EuPC.

Since my first EuPC (2010 in Nethen, Belgium) I've been closely involved with co-creating a better online presence of European permaculture and online EuPC/EuPN development in particular. Even so, pioneers like the late Stefania Strega-Scoz (Stella of Finca Luna, La Palma) and others have been active and successful in various degrees in creating online convergence platforms for even longer. Just to indicate that nothing about the issues and solutions of online meetings and communications is particularly new in permaculture circles.

CoLab's digital circle is a good point in case. I was much encouraged by CoLab's Aimee Fenech's involvement in this EuPC and her enthusiastic offer of support when I contacted her earlier this year. My local partner and friends at MAD emergent art center were also looking forward to make streaming from the wilderness of HKB a successful event.

After the initial meeting in April, I contributed some thoughts and proposals in May and July. Some more preliminary correspondence followed in August and September. On 30 September I received the invitation to register at Comcast as presenter/facilitator. The details of planning arrived with the message below on 2 October, with 6 days to go till the start of the EuPC event. Since then I have consulted the members of our team at HKB & FC.

Checking out the registration page at Crowdcast set of all my alarm bells. That is when I first realised what we were getting into, from a point of view of the protection of our privacy and the agency over our contributions to the EuPC programme. I dove deeper into the terms of use and privacy policies of the other commercial partners that EuPC has chosen. I'm both unpleasantly surprised and shocked to find how participants of the EuPC event are exposed to the surveillance marketing practices of commercial corporations that we, as practitioners of permaculture ethics and principles, would never want to be associated with by choice. Not unlike we choose not to use pesticides, eat farmed meat or drive hummers to the office. You now what I mean ;-)

So, why is this different? It's not like there aren't any viable alternatives available.

In essence the event partners like Google (documents, forms, email. etc), Crowdcast (curated programme), Zoom(?) (Open Space) and KumoSpace (Socializing) all have one goal: gathering as much data from the participants as possible, with the incidental "service" provided totally at the sole discretion of the provider, while taking effective and exclusive ownership of all that data. The privacy policies are only statements of the legal framework and justification for violating your privacy. Even more so since none of the participants are in a position to independently verify whatever happens to their data streaming over the public internet into the private corporate data centres around the world. Which is exactly why it would have been of immense value had CoLab been contracted to provide those platform services.

The activities at both Het Kloosterbos and Faire Cabane are based on trust, on equality, freedom and hospitality.  All of these would be violated by the commercial nature of the platforms chosen for this EuPC. We would be complicit in sabotaging our own work as well as compromising the key ethics and principles of permaculture: planet care, people care and fair share. Not to mention loosing all agency over the content we unintentionally provide to unaccountable and unverifiable commercial parties. We would also be exposing the participants in our events to the data gathering and processing activities of those commercial parties, well beyond the scope of the EuPC event itself.
The other consideration is that with just three more days to go now, the room for negotiating timeslots is less then ideal. Three days to do detailed local promotion of our live events is now practically impossible.
But given the fundamental issues of the chosen platforms, this is a very minor issue now.

So: as a unanimous and collective decision, we choose not to participate in EuPC and/or act as presenters or facilitators in this 2021 edition.

What now?

For the future: we are always open to share our work with like minded people, whether online or IRL :-) We will actively work with anyone interested in further developing online channels of communication that respect the principles of trust, equality, freedom and hospitality. There are some great things happening in this field already. We have no ambition to dominate the market in online surveillance, but would love to grow our own secure and trusted network of people and communication tools. Just like you are :-) Let's make it happen. Now is as good a time as any.

Please let's work together on "living in harmony with nature". Fixing our addiction to coercive control mechanisms like the "social media" platforms, monitored "free" information services like cloud data storage, search engines and unencrypted email is the first step in fixing our civilised mind sets that prevent us from transitioning from a world in distress to "living in harmony with nature". Permaculture is a strategic step in the right direction. Let's work from its ethics and principles and follow the path that emerges and evolves from there. AT HKB & FC we have been taking some baby steps already.

Over the coming months we, here in Eindhoven, will be busy with doing our own little bit in this quest. Stay tuned - and get your own protonmail.com account or your nextcloud account at CoLab or set up your own in-house internet communications hub system.

Wishing you an enlightening and satisfying EuPC21 experience!

warm regards and hugs!
leo :-)

kwartiermaker for Het Kloosterbos

On behalf of
Ana Laura Richter, Anna Mareschal de Charentenay, Francesca Tambussi, Gaja Pegan Nahtigal & Marie Verdeil.

More on Het Kloosterbos and its current projects at: dekloosterbostuin.nl

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