Standing People Together Program

Standing People Together is a new constituent-led grassroots program of Waste for Life based in Sullivan County, NY.

It emerges from years of experience working alongside people with minimal civic voice, those who are scorned by power – be they communities desiccated by HIV/AIDS in Lesotho or ransacked by mining in Andean Peru; generationally unemployed single mothers in Liverpool or ambulatory waste pickers in Argentina; abhorred indigenous students in Australia or trauma-laden war survivors in Sri Lanka.

The personal framework that knits this work together and has animated our values and methodologies as educators and activists is a commitment to an ethics of engagement that foregrounds, in the words of Gayatri Spivak, ‘learning to learn from below.’ It is an anti-authoritarian, profoundly democratic stance, which presumes that the relationship of teacher with learner is fluid, and that the vernacular is a repository of wisdom: “Wisdom sits in Places”, as Keith Basso reminds us.

During 2015-2016 we trained and received certification as Forest School facilitators. This training, involving intensive work alongside indigenous Australians, extended our conception of community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. The ethics of care, cooperative interchange, and solidarity which motivates us to question and chip away at the boundaries that partition segments of society from the resources of that society, has been enlarged by a land ethic that works to transform and build resilient communities by connecting people to one another and to the natural environments they share.

In homage to this deepening understanding and renewed commitment to work close to home, we have named our working space, Cala Munda, which, in the Wajuk language of the Beelu people east of Perth Australia where we lived for many years, means ‘a home in the forest’. This is our place.