Bioregionalism

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Description

Gaia Education:

"Bioregionalism is a comprehensive way of defining and understanding the place where we live, in the aim to live in that place sustainably and respectfully. While the term “bioregionalism” is a new way of representing and identifying with a place and its history and culture and living within the laws of nature, the concept is new only for people who come out of the Western industrial-technological heritage. The essence of bioregionalism has been a reality and common sense for native people living close to the land for thousands of years, and remains so for most human beings today.

Bioregionalism re-connects us into the living biosphere through the places and regions where we live. Bioregionalism acknowledges that we not only live in cities, towns, villages or ‘the countryside’; we also live in watersheds, ecosystems, and eco-regions." (https://medium.com/@gaiaeducation/bioregionalism-e32937bb610b)

Source: Excerpt from the ‘Social Design’ dimension of Gaia Education’s online course in ‘Design for Sustainability’


Characteristics

Daniel Christian Wahl:

"Kirkpatrick Sale states the rationale for bioregional organization in terms of scale, economy, polity, and society in his book Dwellers in the Land (Chapters 5–8):

Scale: People can understand issues and their connections to them at a scale where the forces of government and society are still recognizable and comprehensible, where relations with others are still intimate, and where the effects of individual actions are visible. This is the scale where abstractions and intangibles give way to the here and now, the seen and felt, and the real and known.

Economy: A bioregional economy would seek first to maintain rather than use up the natural world, to adapt to the environment rather than try to exploit or manipulate it, to conserve not only the resources but also the relationships and systems of the natural world. This economy would also seek to establish a stable means of production and exchange rather than one always in flux and dependent upon continual growth and constant consumption.

Polity: A bioregional polity would seek the diffusion of power, the decentralization of institutions, with nothing done at a higher level than necessary, and all authority flowing upward incrementally from the smallest political unit to the largest.

Society: Symbiosis is as apt a model as any for a successful human society, which we may envision as a place where families operate within neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods within communities, communities within cities, cities within regions, all on the basis of collaboration and exchange, cooperation and mutual benefit, and where the fittest is the one that helps the most — and of course is thereby the most helped. The most important instance of such an interaction on a bioregional scale would be the social symbiosis between the city and the countryside." (https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/organizing-bioregionally-6ed398e7a8c5)


Aspects

Urban Bioregionalism

Daniel Christian Wahl:

"The sustainability consultants Pooran Desai and Sue Riddlestone of the London based consultancy BioRegional suggest that we need to reconsider the scale of our production systems and create more locally self-sustaining communities in compact cities. They propose that “creating stable regional economies can help to create a sense of community and security that can alleviate the stresses inherent in a globally competitive world”(Desai & Riddlestone, 2002: 75). Desai and Riddlestone ask the question: “What route might development take on a more bioregional planet?” (Desai & Riddlestone, 2002: 76); and answer their own question as follows:

“By ensuring that the economy is taking into account all the costs of environmental damage, fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources would become more expensive. Transport, particularly by air, would cost more, so that market forces would create an economy in which goods were moved around much less. This would shift production towards a more local and a smaller scale. In agriculture, the competitiveness of local farmers would increase, creating a healthy farming ring around the city. The proximity of these farms to the cities would mean that the farmers could use organic wastes and sewage from the city for fertilizing their fields, creating a symbiotic relationship between city and farms. […] In industry, the economy would favour local production of bulk commodities. Local paper recycling would become the norm. Losing the economies of scale by moving to smaller scale production in reality would simply shift employment away from the transport sector to jobs in recycling, local manufacturing, farming and forestry. Whilst smaller scale production might increase labour costs per unit of production, these would be offset by lower investment costs and greater adaptability to local conditions. […] Creating a more balanced regional, self-regulating, diverse and stable economy will create greater richness in opportunities for people to chose a wide range of careers and vocations. The connection between quality of life and economic diversity will become increasingly evident. […] Regional scale development encourages people to become engaged, creating an environment in which the political ideal of subsidiarity can be expressed.” (https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/organizing-bioregionally-6ed398e7a8c5)

Source: Pooran Desai & Sue Riddlestone, 2002: 76


Discussion

James Quilligan:

"The bioregional economy offers an opportunity for genuine accountability in our patterns of consumption and restoration of resources, reconnecting us with the consequences of our decisions. When people actually know their aquifer storage and crop acreage yields, then they can calculate how much groundwater and food they can produce, the size of the population they can supply and how to absorb the associated waste.

Bioregionalism takes us beyond the Enlightenment beliefs about inherent rights which are guaranteed by sovereign governments. When the people of a bioregion are making decisions about the production and management of their resources, they are creating a conscious relationship with their regional water and food supplies. In essence, they are expressing the fundamental right of resource sovereignty, a freedom that is denied in liberal democracies.

Basing economics on the functions of nature means reversing the consumption of scarce and non-renewable resources. It also means provisioning energy and materials sustainably for everyone in society. In evolutionary terms, the dignity of bioregional identity is the birthright of every human being—the inalienable value which arises from natural rather than political boundaries.

Tolerance and a respect for diversity involve a deliberative, participatory process for the management of resources and a revitalization of the cellular memory that connects people with the Earth. Resource democracy thus has a basis in many spiritual traditions. The individual attempts to integrate the Divine into his/her Human Nature, and his/her Human Nature attempts to integrate itself with the Earth. This means uniting the individual with the collective identity not only through healthy social relations, but also by ensuring a more equitable allocation of resources and restoring vital human contact with the Earth.

Human dignity is presently at odds with policies which disrupt or suppress the ability of citizens to provide for their basic needs. This is why the socially marginalized and the poor must be included in policies which promote dignity and carrying capacity. In this context, the principle of responsibility to protect (R2P) is providing hope for the security of vulnerable resource areas by the global community, particularly when it encompasses the human right to sustenance and a healthy environment.

Ensuring that all people receive an equal degree of esteem and consideration is the foundation of a new belief system. Bioregional democracy offers a world of vibrant respect for life and a lasting commitment to justice and peace. By generating freedom, guaranteeing equality and building social cohesion—and developing the conditions in which these principles are no longer set in opposition as they have been under Western liberalism—human dignity will become the basis for a new culture of bioregional identity and sustainable citizenship.

Like the natural world of which we are a part, human beings evolve to survive and survive to evolve. In this way, human dignity is like the headwaters which are the source of biodiversity and community within a watershed. The sense of respect arising from bioregional identity starts an unbroken stream of social responsibility, empathy and care flowing through interpersonal relationships. This generates the conditions for resource cooperation across borders and enables human beings to express the evolutionary will to succeed on a collective scale." (http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/human-watershed-the-emerging-politics-of-bioregional-democracy/)