Bioregionalism — Living with a Sense of Place at the Appropriate Scale for Self-reliance

An excerpt from ‘Exploring Participation’ (D.C.Wahl, 2002)

“Living-in-place means following the necessities and pleasures of life as they are uniquely presented by a particular site, and evolving ways to ensure long-term occupancy of that site. A society which practices living-in-place keeps a balance with its region of support through links between human lives, other living things, and the processes of the planet — seasons, weather, water cycles — as revealed by the place itself. It is the opposite of a society which makes a living through short-term destructive exploitation of land and life.” 159

— Peter Berg & Raymond Dasmann

“Bioregions are geographic areas having common characteristics of soil, watersheds, climate, and native plants and animals that exist within the whole planetary biosphere as unique and intrinsic contributive parts.” 161

— Peter Berg

“The natural region is the bioregion, defined by the qualities Gaea has established there, the givens of nature. It is any part of the earth’s surface whose rough boundaries are determined by natural characteristics rather than human dictates, distinguishable from other areas by particular attributes of flora, fauna, water, climate, soil, and landforms, and by the human settlements and cultures those attributes have given rise to. The boarders between such areas are usually not rigid — nature works of course with flexibility and fluidity — but the general contours of the regions themselves are not hard to identify by using a little ecological knowledge.”162

— Kirkpatrick Sale

“A bioregion is itself a sort of geopolitical entity, one in which boundaries are not set by arbitrary political factors but with a sensitivity to natural conditions. The boundaries might follow the definition of a watershed, changing flora or fauna, differing soil type, or geological formations. Most likely it will be a combination of these and similar factors.” 163

— Daniel Coleman

“Is not the purpose of all this living and studying the achievement of self-knowledge, self-realization? How does knowledge of place help us know the Self? The answer, simply put, is that we are all composite beings, not only physically but intellectually, whose sole individual identifying feature is a particular form or structure changing constantly in time. There is no “self” to be found in that, and yet oddly enough, there is. Part of you is out there waiting to come into you, and another part of you is behind you, and the “just this” of the ever-present moment holds all the transitory little selves in its mirror. The Avatamsaka (“Flower Wreth”) jewelled-net-interpenetration-ecological-systems-emptiness- consciousness tells us, no self-realization, without the Whole Self, and the whole self is the whole thing.”166

— Gary Snyder

“The only way people will apply ‘right behaviour’ and behave in a responsible way is if they have been persuaded to see the problem concretely and to understand their own connections to it directly — and this can be done only at a limited scale. It can be done where the forces of government and society are still recognizable and comprehensible, where relations with other people are still intimate, and where the effects of individual actions are still visible; where abstractions on intangibles give way to the here and now, the seen and felt, the real and known.” 168

— Kirkpatrick Sale

“Please understand: I do not underestimate the complications. Yet I am certain that in the bioregional paradigm we have a goal, a philosophy, and a process by which to create a world which is not only necessary for the continuation of our species, but is also desirable and possible.”171

— Kirkpatrick Sale

“The bioregional principle has important worldwide connotations. It is in line with the vision of Gandhi and Schumacher, who saw a new world order based on small, organic groupings, geared to satisfy all the needs of whole human beings, respecting each others’ identities, exchanging surpluses and cooperating rather than competing with each other.”173

— Robert Hart

“Our society is built on an economic ideology based on exploiting economies of scale, international competition and comparative advantage, these have led us to create a global market which has its benefits and its drawbacks. However, the prices of many of the products and services we buy do not take into account the damage they cause to the environment, to people and communities.

If we were to take these external costs into account, we would see the balance shifting towards smaller scale, more diverse local and regional development, or bioregional development. We can then reap the benefits of bioregional advantage. It will not take much to tip the balance and make bioregional development a much bigger part of the mainstream economy.”175

— Desai & Riddlestone

“The solution is simply for us as humans to join the earth community as participating members, to foster the progress and prosperity of the bioregional communities to which we belong…. Such a bioregion is a self-propagating, self-nourishing, self-educating, self-governing, self-healing and self- fulfilling community…. The future of the human lies in acceptance and fulfilment of the human role in all six of these community functions. The change indicated is the change from an exploitive anthropocentrism to a participative biocentrism.”177

— Thomas Berry

“From the first imaginable moment of cosmic emergence through all its subsequent forms of expression until the present. The unbreakable bond of relatedness that makes of the whole a universe becomes increasingly apparent to scientific observation, although this bond subsequently escapes scientific formulation or understanding. In virtue of this relatedness, everything is intimately present to everything else in the universe. Nothing is completely itself without everything else. This relationship is both spatial and temporal. However distant in space and time, the bond of unity is functionally there. The universe is a communion and a community. We ourselves are that communion becoming conscious of itself.”179

— Thomas Berry

“Bioregionalism is land-use planning that integrates industry, agriculture, economics and governance together with the ecology of the region. It begins from the premise that humans evolved in response to their environments; and are subject to natural laws and limits; therefore, communities should be designed to fit their bioregion. …Bioregional planning could also be designed to assist the transition to a bio-based economy.”180

— Birkeland & Walker

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Source: Figure p. 236 Birkeland

“Human cultures have co-evolved with nature, a relationship which has been integral to both human survival and biological evolution. Thus, humans are dependent on the integrity of the food chain (e.g. without the bacteria in our stomachs, we might be unable to live). Therefore, lifestyles, cultures, industry and even systems of governance are rooted in, and should conform with, the natural conditions of the region.”184

— Birkeland and Walker

“Bioregional planning is a model which addresses the roots and results of ecological ignorance, globalisation and urban development on the natural and social environment:

• By stressing local self-reliance, participatory democracy and community building activities, it offers resistance to these centralising forces.

• By applying basic indicators of social justice, like ecological footprints and environmental space, it provides a more equitable basis for resource allocation.

By involving the community in developing shared and positive visions for the future, it stimulates activities that restore local ecosystems and renew traditions which give communities social and ecological value.”187

— Birkland & Walker

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Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

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Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures

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