Bioregional Congress

Bioregions: An Introduction



North American Watersheds (click on map for for larger image - 1.82MB)

What is a Bioregion?
What is Bioregionalism?
The Fundamental Role of the Bioregional Movement

What is a Bioregion?

A life region. A geographical area described in terms of its unique combination of flora, fauna, geology, climate and water features—the whole of which distinguishes it from other bioregions. Thus, natural forms and living communities, including human, become the descriptive features of each bioregion—instead of the politically drawn lines used to define county, state and nation. Watersheds, being an important physical feature of bioregions, are often used to define their boundaries.

"Bioregions are geographic areas having common characteristicsof soil, watershed, climate, native plants and animals that exist within the whole planetary biosphere as unique and contributive parts.

A bioregion refers both to geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness - to a place and the ideas that have develped about how too live in that place.

A bioregion can be determined initially by use of climatology, physiography, animal and plant geography, natural history and other descriptive resonance among living things and the factors that influence them which occurs specifically within each separate part of the planet.

Discovering and describing that resonance is a way to describe a bioregion."

Peter Berg & Raymond Dasmann, Reinhabiting a Separate Country
Planet Drum Foundation, 1978

What is Bioregionalism?

Bioregionalism is a comprehensive "new" way of defining and understanding the place where we live, and living in that place sustainably and respectfully. What bioregionalism represents, identification with place and its history and culture, and living within the laws of nature, is new only for people who come out of the Western industrial-technological heritage. The essence of bioregionalism has been reality and common sense for native people living close to the land for thousands of years, and remains so for human beings today. At the same time, bioregional concepts are rigorously defensible in terms of science, technology, economics, politics, and other fields of "civilized" human endeavor. Bioregionalists are lifelong students of how to live in balance with our eco-communities. We recognize that we are part of the web of the life, and that all justice, freedom and peace must be grounded in this recognition.

Bioregionalism re-connects us into the living biosphere through the Places where we live. Bioregionalism acknowledges that we not only live in cities, towns, villages and countrysides; we also live in watersheds (map above), ecoystems, and ecoregions. The awareness of those connections to the planet is vital to our own health and the health of the planet. By discovering our connections to the planet, we find a context for our lives to grow in. This context allows us to find ways to live sustainably in our settlements while at the same time provides us ways to nurture and restore the more-than-human community that surrounds us and which we are dependent on in so many ways.

The following statement was adopted by the Continental Bioregional Congress (then called the North American Bioregional Congress) at its first gathering in 1984, and it has been affirmed by many organizations and congresses since that time:

Welcome Home

A growing number of people are recognizing that in order to secure the clean air, water and food that we need to healthfully survive, we have to become guardians of the places where we live. People sense the loss in not knowing our neighbors and natural surroundings, and are discovering that the best way to take care of ourselves and to get to know our neighbors, is to protect and restore our region.

Bioregionalism recognizes, nurtures, sustains and celebrates our local connections with:

  •  Land
  •  Plants and Animals
  •  Water: Springs, Rivers, Lakes, Groundwater & Oceans
  •  Air
  •  Community: Native Traditions, Indigenous Systems of Production & Trade

It is taking the time to learn the possibilities of place. It is a mindfulness of local environment, history, and community aspirations that leads to a sustainable future. It relies on safe and renewable sources of food and energy. It ensures employment by supplying a rich diversity of services within the community, by recycling our resources, and by exchanging prudent surpluses with other regions. Bioregionalism is working to satisfy basic needs locally, such as education, health care and self-governance. The bioregional perspective recreates a widely-shared sense of regional identity founded upon a renewed critical awareness of and respect for the integrity of our ecological communities.

People are joining with neighbors to discuss ways we can work together to:

  •  Learn what our special local resources are
  •  Plan how to best protect and use those natural and cultural resources
  •  Exchange our time and energy to best meet our daily and long-term needs
  •  Enrich our children's local and planetary knowledge.

Security begins by acting responsibly at home.

Welcome home!

The Fundamental Role of the Bioregional Movement

The Bioregional Movement acts as a catalyst for social and political change in government toward decentralization of power to smaller units of population and land for the purpose of: keeping wealth at home in local communities, preserving and enriching the natural systems of water, air and land, and practicing ways of living that foster sustainable energy use in human endeavors. Change includes redefining the laws governing corporations to ensure they serve societal and planetary interests for health and sustainability. The Bioregional Movement should pioneer new modes of relatedness to the mystery and wonder of the natural world.

The above was abstracted (and paraphrased) from a view of one bioregionalist, Gene Marshall—full text can be found on the Bioregional Listserve (July 2005

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