Bioregional Cosmolocalism

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Paddy Le Fluffy:

"The systemic basis of the new civilisation is also a combination of two parts. They are bioregionalism and cosmolocalism, and they combine to become bioregional cosmolocalism. To explain what this is, I will describe the two parts separately.

Bioregionalism is a paradigm in which societal systems, including political, economic and agricultural systems, are organised around bioregions, which Joe Brewer defines as ‘geographic areas defined by the intersection of ecosystem boundaries – typically things like watersheds, mountain ranges and so forth – with human systems that have a coherent cultural identity’. Bioregions are quite large areas – One Earth has mapped the entire world into 185 bioregions. There are smaller scale areas within the same paradigm, such as ecoregions and individual watersheds and ecosystems.

Organising society bioregionally enables us to align with the natural environment and so decrease our negative environmental impact and regenerate nature. For example, it helps us integrate our food systems into ecological cycles to create increased diversity, resilience and abundance of both agricultural production and local ecosystems.

Cosmolocalism is an economic system that’s equivalent to capitalism, because its structure creates a dynamic that drives forward development. Whereas capitalism has a competitive dynamic that drives economic growth, cosmolocalism has a collaborative dynamic and includes a set of features that means it can drive development in a truly positive direction.

The organisations at the heart of cosmolocalism are global networks that connect local nodes. The local nodes only serve their local area, for example their local bioregion, while the networks connect them with similar nodes in other areas. The global networks include information commons through which every member node can access the innovations and experience of every other node, while remaining free to choose how to apply it in order to serve their own local area. This is what creates the collaborative development dynamic.

The networks also have charters, which set out the ethos and rules of the network and by which member nodes must abide. The charters include a description of the goal of the network, but they can also include a set of guidelines that steer the network’s development in a good direction. For example, by including a stipulation that nodes should aim to ‘meet the needs of all within the means of the living planet’, a network can align itself with the Doughnut goal. This is what allows us to integrate the societal goal of getting into the Doughnut into the systemic basis of the new civilisation. With similar stipulations in their charters, combined with the institutional infrastructure to ensure they are enacted, networks can require their nodes to have democratic and community-based decision-making processes, give equal importance to the interests of each of their stakeholder groups, and strive for regional circularity.

This basic structure can be applied very widely, including to makerspaces, local-scale factories, community agriculture, food forests, permaculture, community hubs, bioregional learning centres & projects, and research & development labs. Two examples of successful cosmolocal networks are Fab Labs and Transition Network.

Cosmolocalism is designed to be applied to local nodes, which means it is very well-suited to local-scale factories that supply some or all of a single bioregion. These factories and the associated distribution channels can be designed to create regionally circular material flows, so that the materials used in products cycle around the bioregion again and again. This not only greatly decreases total environmental impact, it also creates a new dynamic of bioregional self-sufficiency.

If the materials keep cycling around the local economy, then once a factory is set up and enough raw materials are supplied to fill the materials cycle, few outside inputs are needed. There will be an ongoing need for energy and labour to keep the system running, but these can be provided locally. So long as the factory itself is kept in working condition and the materials continue to cycle around the economy, only small inputs of capital and materials will be necessary.

This dynamic of bioregional self-sufficiency makes it possible for the cosmolocal networks to have truly global inclusivity. Even in an area that is currently extremely poor, once a factory is set up, the initial raw materials supplied, and the people taught how to run the system and access the cosmolocal network, they can quickly catch up to the level of development embodied in the globally shared knowledge database. They will probably have different needs to places in the West, but such variety is incorporated into the model: they can use the network to find others in similar situations and share their experiences with them to collectively discover the best ways forward.

The combination of sharing developments globally and allowing different locales to apply them as appropriate to their own situations creates another possibility: a renewal of cultural diversity. In a cosmolocal system, individual bioregions can choose not only which material technologies they want to use, but also how they organise the work needed to manufacture them. This means that different bioregions can choose their own development paths independently of other bioregions, enabling new cultures to develop, and old cultures to be revitalised, around the world."



Self-Sufficience in a Bioregional Economy

Paddy Le Fluffy:

"the idea of self-sufficiency. The aim is not for each bioregion to be wholly self-sufficient and so materially independent of other regions. Instead, each bioregion will be fairly self-sufficient, but still engage in trade and exchanges with other regions. An example of this is that it is unlikely we will be able to achieve complete material circularity, so regions with natural resources, or the ability to grow particular crops such as cotton, will need to supply other areas to the extent needed to keep their material cycles full. But because each region will be as circular as they can, which includes building long-lasting products and engaging in repair and reuse as well as recycling, the amount of raw materials needed will be vastly lower than it is today.

Another example is the infrastructure underpinning cosmolocalism. This includes both the capital assets, such as factory machinery, and the technological infrastructure, such as the internet and data servers needed for the information commons. It is reasonable to suppose much of this can be built cosmolocally – for example, Fab Foundation, which runs the cosmolocal network of makerspaces known as Fab Labs, has already built Super Fab Labs, which are Fab Labs with the machinery needed to build more Fab Labs. Developing this aspect to the extent possible is important to ensure the system remains resilient. But it may be that some specialist items, such as satellites or trans-oceanic cables for the internet, will need to be built by bioregions specialising in those particular areas.

A third example is food production. At the moment, major crop-producing regions provide much of the world’s food supply. This is because those regions can produce huge amounts of staple crops, but it decreases the resilience of the food system, because if climate change causes low yields in a few of these regions simultaneously, the global food supply will be severely affected. In a bioregionally cosmolocal world, each bioregion will provide much more of their own food. This can be done, for example, through increased community-scale agriculture in the West – which Liege Food Belt is proving can be done for cities as well as rural areas – and increased access to good tools and techniques in the so-called Global South. There are also various kinds of agriculture, such as permaculture and food forests, that are relatively undeveloped at the moment but have great promise. The collaborative dynamic created by cosmolocal networks will enable rapid development of these approaches, and as they spread they will increase access to healthy, local food grown in an ecologically sound way.

Even with increased community-scale agriculture, it is unlikely that every bioregion will be able to produce all of the food they need, and it would be unwise to aim for total self-sufficiency in each bioregion. This would decrease resilience, because when a bioregion was hit by climate disasters, their food production would decrease and people would go hungry.

Instead, with increased local food production around the world, backed up by abundant production in particularly fertile areas, resilience can be increased. If particular bioregions are hit by climate disasters, they can rely on a combination of neighbouring bioregions and the major crop-producers to help them out. If multiple breadbasket failures occur some years, the local production can greatly decrease the impacts in each bioregion around the world. And because local production will decrease the quantity needed from the big crop-producing regions, it should be possible to do farming there in a more ecologically positive way, for example by ensuring there are swathes of land left to nature."


circularity as an intrinsic part of bioregional cosmolocalism

Paddy Le Fluffy:

"Circularity is an intrinsic part of bioregional cosmolocalism. To increase bioregional self-sufficiency it’s essential to ensure materials can cycle around the bioregional economy; and cosmolocal networks should explicitly reference circularity in their charters. Circularity is also an essential element of getting inside the Doughnut, because it increases the material quality of life possible within the planetary boundaries. This means an organisation working in this paradigm will not be content to settle for a slightly less linear economy. Being part of a truly circular economy will be one of their foundational goals.

As such, for an organisation looking to help build a truly circular economy, a good guiding principle is to think about how to ensure your model fits into the new paradigm of bioregional cosmolocalism. Are you designing your products to ensure the materials can remain in the local economy for as long as possible? Are you fostering a culture among your consumers so they actually do? Are you learning from others working on similar problems, and are you sharing your own findings and innovations so others can learn from them? Is your organisation designed to ensure people in different areas can adapt their approach to suit their locality? And does your organisation’s design mean its monetary success allows it to create more positive impact, rather than its impact being in service of increasing profits?"