When I first learned about Restorative Justice (RJ), I visited the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice and listened to their free webinars to get a better understanding of RJ and its connection to social justice issues such as racism, mass incarceration and gender inequality. These webinars were a wonderful tool to get better acquainted with RJ and I also recommend reading the groundbreaking book Changing Lenses by the institute's founder, Howard Zehr.
To my delight, on April 17th 2019 the Institute broadcasted a webinar on RJ and ecology, since 'we cannot have restorative justice without restoring our relationship to land and water'. Jonathan McRay was the guest speaker. He is the founder and caretaker of Blacks Run Forest Farm, a riparian nursery and folk school in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA. It's led by the principles of agroforestry, watershed health, and restorative justice, and guided by
'a desire to farm in the image of the forest and remediate the toxins that pollute our souls, society, and soil, from chemical leaching to white supremacy, through the healing work of our hands, heads, and hearts.'
I was impressed by his presentation. Here follow some things Jonathan said that particularly spoke to me:
-Conflict is the most renewable form of energy we have – we are going to keep having it, so how do we channel it into something that is healing and transformative instead of something that is destructive and erosive?
- Harm done to people and to the land are often the same. Hurt people hurt the land. So how can Restorative Justice help communities liberate the Earth and its creatures rather than destroy the Earth?
- The point of justice is to nurture and care for each other, and root ourselves in practices that help cultivate cure, nurturing, love and freedom from violence.
- It’s not about restoring some mythic pre-human Earth or Holocene, but it’s about restoring peoples’ and the lands dignity.
Jonathan not only addressed the philosophical roots of Blacks Run Forest Farm, he also spoke about their day-to-day work and challenges. This made the webinar both inspiring and down-to-earth and I heartly recommend checking it out: you can listen to it here.
Thu, 06 June