The catastrophic effects on Earths biosphere due to human activities since the
inception of the industrial era have become imperiling to all life. A transformation of
fundamental aspects of consciousness is urgently required to halt and reverse this
destructive process. Conservation of resources and environmentalism alone are not adequate
to the task. The concept of a bioregion as the basic location where people live, and the
practice of reinhabitation of that life-place by its residents, are necessary to rejoin
human beings into the overall web of life. Harmonizing with the natural systems of each
bioregion is a necessary step toward preserving the whole biosphere.
A bioregion is defined in terms of the unique overall pattern of natural
characteristics that are found in a specific place. The main features are generally found
throughout a continuous geographic terrain and include a particular climate, local aspects
of seasons, landforms, watersheds, soils, and native plants and animals. People are also
counted as an integral aspect of a places life, as can be seen in the ecologically
adaptive cultures of early inhabitants, and in the activities of present day reinhabitants
who attempt to harmonize in a sustainable way with the place where they live.
Because it is a cultural idea, the description of a specific bioregion is drawn using
information from not only the natural sciences but also many other sources. It is a
geographic terrain and a terrain of consciousness. Anthropological studies, historical
accounts, social developments, customs, traditions, and arts can all play a part.
Bioregionalism utilizes them to accomplish three main goals: 1) restore and maintain local
natural systems; 2) practice sustainable ways to satisfy basic human needs such as food,
water, energy, housing, and materials; and 3) support the work of reinhabitation. The
latter is accomplished through proactive projects, employment and education, as well as by
engaging in protests against the destruction of natural elements in a life-place.
Bioregional goals play out in a spectrum of different ways for different places. In
North America, for example, restoring native prairie grasses is a basic
ecosystem-rebuilding activity for reinhabitants of the Kansas Area Watershed Bioregion in
the Midwest, whereas bringing back salmon runs has a high priority for Shasta Bioregion in
northern California. Using biomass as a renewable energy source fits Cascadia Bioregion in
the rainy Pacific Northwest. Less cloudy skies in the Southwests sparsely vegetated
Sonoran Desert Bioregion make direct solar energy a more plentiful alternative there.
Education about local natural characteristics and conditions varies diversely from place
to place, along with bioregionally significant social and political issues
In the early 1970s, the contemporary vision of bioregionalism began to be formed
through collaboration between natural scientists, social and environmental activists,
artists and writers, community leaders, and back-to-the-landers who worked directly with
natural resources. They wanted to do more than just save whats left in
regard to nature, wildness and the biosphere. Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco
became a voice for this sentiment through its publications about applying place-based
ideas to environmental practices, society, cultural expressions, philosophy, politics, and
other subjects. By the late 70s, bioregional organizations such as the Frisco Bay Mussel
Group in northern California and Ozark Area Community Congress on the Kansas-Missouri
border were founded to articulate local economic, social, political, and cultural agendas.
The Mussel Group eventually played a pivotal role in persuading the public to vote down a
bioregionally lethal Peripheral Canal proposal to divert fresh water away from San
Francisco Bay. The Ozarks group has held continuous annual gatherings to promote and
support place-based activities. At present there are hundreds of similar groups (and
publications) in North and South America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
There is a strong affinity for bioregional thinking in many fields that relate to
ecological sustainability. Restoration ecology practitioners readily grasp the importance
of an appreciative local culture for their efforts to revive native plants and animals.
Urban ecology advocates use bioregions for nesting their redesigned cities in
a broad natural context. Permaculturalists and most organic farmers employ techniques that
are appropriate to their particular locales and insist on maintaining soils, water
sources, and native species. Poets, painters, theater groups, and other artists have
embraced bioregional themes in their works. Grade school teachers introduce bioregional
concepts, and graduate schools recognize theses and dissertations based on them. Followers
of Deep Ecology claim bioregionalists as a social manifestation of their biocentric
philosophy. Even traditional conservation and environmental groups including the Sierra
Club have subsequent to the inception of bioregionalism adopted a system of
ecoregions to address members problems in home areas.
Bioregionalists are primarily concerned with their own local areas. There are a
surprisingly large number of opportunities to address everyday living conditions for the
benefit of local sustainability; as wide-ranging as resident-based reforestation projects
in rural areas and community gardens in cities. Their influence is felt most strongly on
county and city levels because this is where they take place and are most visible.
Watershed-based organizations with bioregional priorities for basins as small as a creek
or as large as the Great Lakes are a steadily growing phenomenon. Their recommendations to
boards, councils, and other agencies arent limited to creek restoration, water
conservation, and other obvious issues, but may also include redrawing political borders
to fit watershed lines and adopting ecological urban plans.
On a broader level, representatives of the bioregional movement from far- flung places
have held gatherings and congresses in Canada, Italy, Mexico, and the US that resulted in
the formulation of general principles and statements of intent like the often-reprinted
proclamation Welcome Home. The defense of bioregions from globalist intrusions
is a persistent issue that requires especially creative responses. When the town of
Tepoztlan in Mexico was threatened with loss of traditional water rights and political
autonomy by multinational land developers, bioregionalists from throughout North America
assisted in mounting a resistance that was eventually approved by the Mexican government.
Most recently, the destructive ecological impact and official greenwashing of
the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake Bioregion was investigated and successfully exposed
to international media coverage through Guard Fox Watch, a monitoring group made up of
bioregional activists from Japan and the US. More bioregional alliances to defend
particularly threatened places can be expected in the future.