Reflections on Mutual Aid: Mother Earth’s Call to Action for Regeneration

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Living cooperatively is no easy task. As humans, we are all one species but we all have distinct fingerprints. This duality between self and group based identities might lead one to paralysis when analyzing human social life if we believe in the false narratives of the bootstrapping mentality. . However, for those who see mutual aid in all we do, we are able more readily to see our differences as the beauty of life. Myriad options open up the possibility of choice. I choose to be in harmony and peace. For me, that starts with truly reckoning with who I am. Introspectively digging deep to ponder the philosophical and epigenetic quandaries of my existence. This type of reflection is not a “one and done” type of thing, it is a consistent practice, a personal work of art which ebbs and flows. I believe that a critical part of this internal work is to figure out how you can be of help. Yes, I said it: HELP. We need you, we need all hands on deck to craft a more thriving society. 

It’s remarkable to consider how far we have come as humans. Considering, we are not the strongest nor the fastest or the most durable lifeform on the planet, we had to rely on our wits (intelligence) and relentless will to live through the use of our biggest resource: each other (community). We realized early, in order to survive, we had to work in groups. We endured harsh living conditions yet we created tools to better interact by use of speech giving life to language and drawings to better express our experiences and visions on what was or what was to come. Through centuries of plight, pestilence and plunder, we managed to form civilizations, each one building upon the successes and failures of the past. At the core of these marvelous communities, there is not a lone man or woman who built it, it was the people coming together to foster better ways of living. Our human story is centered around the fact of our collectively inherent ability to come together to make our dreams a reality. The side effect of our human nature is fear. Coupled with our intellect, we have the ability to rationalize our fears. Fearing the loss of something, we have fostered cultures of pride and greed to justify exploitative systems like slavery, prison, debt and war. 

Like a body, a multifunctional organism, most of our organs are operating in harmony where we do not have to consciously work or think about the flow of our blood, it is just happening.  As a society, a communal body, it is vital we work in harmony to create thriving communities. As I look at the world today, attempting to be as objective as possible, I think we have been misguided by our own hubris. Looking at the many decadent distractions available (the origins of which we rarely investigate) , many of us are forgetting our social responsibility to be in harmony together. In the age of globalization, our focus should not just be centered around trade or power but focused on how we can help each other. According to the World Health Organization, “currently, 2.2 billion people have limited access to safe drinking water, and by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.” And, as indicated by Unicef,  “World hunger rose to as many as 828 million in 2021 following a sharp upturn in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s clear looking at our collective body parts of us are in extreme distress. 

Let’s now zoom out to include the predicaments faced by other lifeforms. Given that we are not on this planet alone, and need other species to survive, it’s important to me when we examine mutual aid that it is not merely anthropocentric. As indicated by many who study the effects of global climate disaster, “plant and animal species are disappearing at an ever faster rate due to human activity. Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as land use changes, pollution and climate change.” 

In addition, the plants we use to nourish our bodies are also in peril. For example, “the nutritional values of some popular vegetables, from asparagus to spinach, have dropped significantly since 1950. A 2004 US study found important nutrients in some garden crops are up to 38% lower than theyre were at the middle of the 20th Century.” Furthermore, it is well documented that soil around the world is in need of deep repair and that this degradation is leading us towards an inability to produce enough food to feed growing populations. 

These effects and their consequences are not inevitable or random. Today, the 10 richest men in the world own more than the bottom 3.1 billion people.” And, due to economic policies that focus on failed trickle down economic models, rather than redistributive practices, income inequality has risen sharply over the past two decades both within countries and across the globe. Human behavior which fails to account for sustainability, equity, and care in social, economic, and subsistence policies is driving us to greater and greater disaster. In this neo-liberal capitalist dystopia, as the gross accumulation of wealth by the global elite, the hoarding of land, the poisoning of our natural resources and our bodies, and extraction over stewardship are prioritized, we are all being harmed. 

And you know the common denominator, in all of this: us. We did this. We continue to do this.

Those aforementioned matters of the anthropocene are obscene. Who are we becoming? What are we going to do? While I agree that most of this degradation is being caused by corporations and capitalist state policy, all of us have some reckoning to do. It is easy to throw one’s hands up and say “what can I do?,” in a world , where very few Black, Brown, Indigenous, Disabled, Poor, LGBTQIA+  are controlling the strings and are more often than not excluded from exercising power and amassing wealth. Indeed, most of us are at the whim of powerful individuals that directly and indirectly control the functionality of our society. However, we have to start imagining and building beyond those narratives. We have to start questioning, “who gave them this power? What does it look like for us to take it back? How can we do so in just ways?” 


Admittedly I caught up in this matrix just like you but I decided to not give into the insatiable hunger for materials and money because in the great words of Baba Wayne Curtis (a former Black Panther and co-founder of Feedom Freedom in Detroit), “it’s not real”. Personally, I decided to take an aspect of my power back by pursuing the practice of food sovereignty, closing the food loop, and beautifying my neighborhood. At Sanctuary Farms, we have three main objectives: 1) cultivate organic produce, 2) create nutritious compost and 3) provide equitable green spaces to historically disadvantaged communities. With these aims we want to foster a thriving community in the neighborhood of Riverbend where people are safe, healthy and connected to their local environment and food by actively being involved in closing the food loop.

I want to be unequivocally clear, I do not believe in the concept of an utopia. I’m not an absolutist, the notion of all things one way or another just does not make logical sense to me. And frankly it doesn’t sound like a world that I would be interested in living in. However, I do believe we should be striving to make the world a better place. And I also do not want to romanticize the world. This world is filled with many natural dangers and disasters but right now the only real existential threat to the world and ourselves is us. We are the major problem. We are the APEX predator. The human story started with the want to protect ourselves from the world and now we have to protect the world from ourselves. In sum, we have become the thing we were fighting against. 

Thankfully we have a choice, either to continue down this spiral of hubris or to reconnect with the natural world. I sincerely believe when we start to heal the world, we will begin to heal ourselves. The earth is our original ancestor, it is where we come from and where we will return. We have a duty to do what we can to protect our living ancestor: Earth.

If you got to this point in the piece, my hope is that you are seriously considering how you can be of help. Most times, if you have conscience which I also pray you have, you know that much of what we are doing is wrong. But, do not let the negative bias that’s wired in our brains to tell us that we can’t change anything consume you. This piece is to illustrate the need for you to help make your community better. I am called to do that in respect to the land and in other ways but your calling may be different. Whatever it is, don’t wait. Your community needs you and you will be surprised how your help will be reciprocated in ways unfathomable to you. We hope you make the choice to be of service. And if you are looking for a place, come join us at Sanctuary Farms! 


jøn kent’s principal aim is to be of help. His life’s work focuses on serving the community through acting, activism, and creating sustainable spaces. As the Co-Founder of Sanctuary Farms, he works to close the food loop by collecting food waste to create nutritious compost and in turn uses that compost to cultivate organic produce. He is also the Executive Director of Sacred Spaces, a nonprofit organization that works to bring food sovereignty and healing nature-scapes to historically disadvantaged communities. He is working to develop a community land trust to curb displacement in the Riverbend neighborhood, located on the eastside of Detroit. He is currently an Urban and Regional Planning master’s student at the University of Michigan as a Transformative Food Systems (TFS) Fellow and Sustainability Fellow. He is also working to develop a community land trust as a solution to curb displacement in the Riverbend neighborhood located on the eastside of Detroit.