Bioregionalism reflects perhaps one of the most important, yet least known or understood philosophies that may exist today. Once learned however, bioregionalism provides a unifying set of principles and organizing methodology, and is a powerful tool for breaking down large, urgent global issues, and creating simple, accessible pathways for action and change.
Many of these largest issues systemic and spread themselves through social, cultural, economic and physical means. However, within current national and international frameworks, these issues become fragmented, too large, or too distant to be combated in their entirety. Ocean acidification will never be addressed solely through a political campaign in one country. Carbon emissions will never be solved by only addressing economic issues. Locally, issues like undamming the Snake or Columbia river will never be able to be addressed by only one state.
And yet, by focusing internationally, many efforts are forced to do just that, either working to address issues so large it becomes intangible, or by working within political frameworks which are arbitrary, fragmented, and not truly representative of the people or place. It is in fact common for those working to combat these issues are often forced to break problems down and try to face them issue by issue (global warming, consumerism, poverty, healthcare, or social issues like labor, identity or gender, environmentalism, racial equality et al) which can often be overwhelming, broad, or require a level of specification that reinforces the very systems they were meant to subvert. When broken down like this, each issue on its own cannot paint the complete picture, nor will it address the systemic roots or social context of why those issues exist in our society today.
Trying to target any one of these, while ignoring another, is doomed to failure.
Rather than replace any other specific ideology, or present only a single solution, bioregionalism instead tries to connect other dominant philosophies back into place, and to find ways they can exist in a manner that is beneficial for the well being of the people, inhabitants and planet.
Instead of an issue by issue approach, a holistic approach much be taken and bioregionalism provides that answer, serving as a physical container that connects the global to local, as well as a terrain of consciousness that connect us with the way that people have been living for thousands of years, strategies that have grown and been adapted for each area, with our society and practices today.
Bioregions are the place where we take action, the largest and most efficient scale where cultural connections of place still remain, and allow us to break down broad, nonspecific and intangible ideas, to a place based approach where every person can walk out there front door and achieve a measurable result.
By being a place based movement and regional identity, bioregionalism invites a diversity of political beliefs and backgrounds all to work together around shared principles and values. This cultural ecosystem is just as wealthy as the ecosystems they represent. There can be Cascadian libertarians, socialists, conservatives, anarchists, greens, communists, and many more, just as there can be straight, lesbian, gay, wealthy, poor, people of color, young, old, differently gendered, differently abled Cascadians, all working to improve our region, because we love it here, think we can be doing better, and rooted in bioregional principles.
Unlike many of these other ‘isms’ which seek to to provide a single solution, or work centralize power and authority, or take control of central power for the ‘right solution’ (revolution), bioregionalism views this non-diversity as inherently non-representative, instead seeking to devolve (devolution) power back to watershed governances, fitting into an inter-bioregional system of partnerships and systems of voluntary mutual aid, sharing and support.
National politics based on arbitrary boundaries, that are disconnected and ignore the areas they are set within, are not representative of the place or the people, nor can they hope to achieve a truly democratic or independent society. In addition, they create wedge issues that focus on the small percentages of things that divide us, which are toxic and negative and similarly arbitrary, the result of national politics, accidents of history, and products of systems that do not accurately reflect the people or place. We all love this area, want a better future for our friends, family, and society, and are more common than we are different. By instituting broader democratic and natural frameworks that reflect the region and people, communities are better able to realize shared values, concerns and achieve a consensus for a shared future.
Another issue bioregionalism focuses on is the disconnect of people from their natural regions by a broad range of economic and political philosophies, and the treatment of humans as simply economic units. If we look at the three largest political ideologies of the 20th and 21st century, Capitalism, Socialism, Communism – each has been responsible for the worst ecological destruction and devastation the world has ever seen, ushering in the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, which is currently underway. Each of these societies could achieve a political and economic utopia, while stil be wreaking this devastation. Ultimately, even if a utopian society was achieved, life expectancies, health problems, and disease, as well as other effects of standardization of agricultural crops and others uniformity, would lead to a range of issues that decreased the well being of communities and their watersheds.
Many of the ills that we see in our world, is a product this political mono-cropping; of taking ideas or values from one watershed or community to place on another, in a way which is not connected to the place. Systems of colonization rely on fragmentation regions and communities, creating dependencies for the goods and services the colonizers provide. Because of this, oppression can exist and manifest within our own communities, movements and actions both knowingly and unknowingly, and into the institutions we often rely on.
By rooting into our bioregion and home, by building communities that are non-exploitative and authentic, by looking at our own selves through the lens of history, the space we occupy, subtle powers and privileges we may enjoy without realizing… we begin a life long path towards healthier communities, and healthier lives. In such systems, bioregionalism is a potent force for systemically removing these issues, and creating a dialogue in which true reconciliation can be possible. By reconnecting culture and ideology with place, and indigenous ways of living in balance with a life place, bioregionalism is the physical manifestation of decolonization.
Bioregionalism reconnects philosophies and ideologies back in with place, provides a container where a diversity of ideas can thrive, in an efficient and democratic manner. Every different community will be the best suited to represent their own interests, and know their needs the best. At the end of the day, it will probably take a bit of every different ‘ism’ to succeed, because in each watershed, there will be such different needs based on the type of inhabitation, background and geography. The change we need is not political, not economic, not environmental, not social – rather it is cultural – everything working toget
her. It is all of us making small changes to create a real and lasting difference that we need, and it is the sum of these small personal, and interpersonal changes in our habits, connecting with indigenous ways of living adapted for each area from which a true bioregional culture can emerge.
As long as we agree to treat each other with respect and compassion, and around a set of shared principles, then we share the same movement, and can support one another in improving our region and world. Ultimately at the end of the day, we are all neighbors in the same watershed.. It will take all of us, working together each about what we are most passionate about, rooted in with the amazing places we live to create the real and lasting solutions that we need.
What is Bioregionalism? | Becoming a Bioregionalist | Why Bioregionalism? | Core Principles of Bioregionalism | Cascadia: Our Framework for Change | Cascadian Principles | Cascadia Goals | Why the Doug Flag