Before Harrisonburg was blanketed with snow, I visited Tom Benevento at Vine & Fig, to talk to him about the environmental and ecological incubation projects that Vine & Fig works on throughout Harrisonburg. I thought it would be a great way to reintroduce ShoutOut! to EcoFeminism and ways to get involved with it in our community!
EcoFeminism, which grew out of the feminist movement in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, within anti-nuclear and environmental activism, is the idea that the Western World treats the environment in the same way that it treats women and othered peoples.
At Vine & Fig, the coordinators work to “build justice and ecological healing as a foundation for a non-violent way of living.” Like the ideals of EcoFeminism, Vine & Fig focuses on solving both social and environmental problems – “we can’t solve the climate issue without solving the racial justice issue inequalities.”
“Our work is to join with others to build justice and ecological healing as a foundation for a non-violent way of living. And so, we do that through providing supportive housing for people who are left out, whether that’s locally or internationally, people who’ve been refugees or people who’ve been struggling with addictions or abuse or homelessness. And then creating a space that’s an experimental lab of trying to live more sustainably and more socially just on land and on the resources that we use with energy and food and built environment and transportation. And then we expand that out on a bigger scale with that incubator projects at the city level.”
Following the principles of ecology and ecosystem design, combined with “the wisdom of people who’ve lived well on the earth for a long time,” Vine & Fig has created a permaculture design system. “For example, we put a pond in front of a South-facing building … [which] is made of stone and absorbs sunlight and stores energy. The pond also stores sunlight and energy. And so, then the land around that is warmer as a microclimate. So, we can grow certain species of fruit trees and other plants that you can’t grow in other locations because it’s warmer, it’s a concentrated environment”
Additionally, Vine & Fig is working with city officials and the Harrisonburg Electric Commission on a “50 by 25 Clean Energy For All” initiative. This incubator project is “focused on energy justice and a just transition to renewable energy.”
“We recognize that the issue around climate change is so critical. So urgent right now, that winning slowly is the same as losing, because we have about a 10 year window right now for humanity to really make a significant change away from fossil fuels. … And so just putting a few panels on buildings is not enough. We have to change in a dramatic way. So, this campaign is designed to convert the entire city of Harrisonburg to a 100% renewable energy on a timeline that’s in line with science and do it in a way that honors people who are low income, communities of color, folks who might be typically left out of the transition.”
I will end here on the note that, as Tom said, it is communities of color that are most effected by the transition to more environmentally progressive structures. We must remember intersectionality when we are fighting for the environment. Vine & Fig is doing what EcoFeminism calls for – they are working for both social and environmental justice – within Harrisonburg. And I personally think this is what we ought to be focusing on as Harrisonburg community members and feminists alike.
If you would like to volunteer with Vine & Fig, they take volunteers (following Covid-19 regulations, of course) Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, 8am-12pm, weather permitting.
For more information about Vine & Fig, check out their website.
For the full interview with Tom click here.