What's in a Name?
The name, Earthseed Laboratories, takes inspiration from Octavia Butler’s book Parable of the Sower. In this stunning example of black feminist science fiction and afrofuturism, the main character Lauren Oya Olamina is the daughter of a Baptist minister who grows up in a small walled-in community. They are living in a dystopian future and she does not trust “her father’s god”, Olamina builds her own religion, Earthseed, based on what is in her time and place. Olamina finds brief moments to write short, poetic passages on whatever paper she can find. She makes space for this spiritual and intellectual work in the midst of scarcity, violence and transformation, from the burning and looting of her walled-in community, to an epic journey where she leads others on a trek to Northern California. Within Parable of the Sower, the beliefs of Earthseed are recorded in the fictional book Earthseed: The Books of the Living. Portions of this text are presented at the beginning of each section, some chapters, and occasionally throughout the text. The central idea behind Earthseed is encapsulated in the following verse:
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Change is inevitable. We can either collaborate with change and consciously adapt for our own survival as a species or change can be something that happens to us, something that we are simply the victims of without thought or agency. Olamina writes:
A victim of God may,
Through learning adaption,
Become a partner of God,
A Victim of God may,
Through forethought and planning,
Becoming a shaper of God.
Or a victim of God may,
Through shortsightedness and fear,
Remain God’s Victim,
The word Earthseed embodies the idea that living beings on this Earth can adapt and grow in many different situations and environments. The task before humanity now is to see if we can evolve, make conscious choices about how we want to live, and save the planet from the processes we have set in motion of capitalist profit, greed, white supremacy and environmental collapse. Can we bring ourselves into balance, heal, grieve, and learn new ways of living?
This project is called Earthseed Laboratories not in order to reference dominant notions of Western science, but to rethink that legacy of knowledge production and herald a new relation to experimentation. In opposition to the long line of historical experiments, which have treated the bodies of marginalized folks as objects, the experiments of Earthseed Laboratories are about playing with new ways of being in the world. This is an experiment in adaption that we as a species might meet the challenges of our times, forge new practices of living, and heal the land & ourselves.