bioregion


A podcast with Gregory Landua, Site Comittee Coordinator for the upcoming Bioregional Congress, and the Interdependent Radio Project.

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Oct 4-11, 2009 for the 10th Continental Congress at The Farm

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Across the planet, people recognize that we must become guardians of our life-places.  Human beings have long understood that security is found in acting responsibly at home – in our neighborhoods and watersheds, our bioregions.

Bioregions are living systems where every being is connected to, and interdependent with every other; bioregions are not by property lines, states, or nations, but by rock, soil, weather, water, terrain, plants, animals, human cultures and human settlements.

Bioregionalism calls for active citizenship in the whole of life, yet its key understanding is cultural: attention to place, to local history, natural history, and to how a community’s hopes, wounds, and dreams can inform enduring ways of life that will heal the planet’s bioregions and their inhabitants.

Bioregionalism cultivates learning the natural history of all our relations in order to craft diverse human societies respectful of place and planet.

Bioregionalism means working to satisfy basic needs locally, relying on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, developing local enterprises based on local skills and strengths.

Bioregionalism challenges and is an alternative to nationalism, corporate rule, and top-down globalization of our lives.

Bioregionalism embraces the struggle around the world to preserve, restore and enhance the life of the distinct places that constitute the planet.

Since 1984 bioregionalists have been gathering semi-annually at camps throughout continental North America.  You, too, may be a bioregionalist, in fact probably are, if you’ve received this invitation.   Continental bioregional gatherings are meetings of peers and kindred spirits, open to all ecology-minded persons that offer unparalleled opportunities to envision and develop a realistic, restorative way of life in your bioregion.  We set their own agendas, operate by consensus and build a common commitment.  Grand times and good friendships are only the first fruits.  At bioregional congresses, we live in community, concern ourselves with the things that matter, and return home informed and inspired.  We also spend time talking in depth, sharing technical knowledge and processes, in areas related to community and ecological restoration: water, forestry, health, education, prairie management, the arts, energy, etc.  We earnestly invite the participation of all, especially those involved in the work necessary for the human species to reinhabit the bioregions of the Americas and of the whole Earth.

The survival of humanity and of the planet’s bioregions depends on our advocacy of ecological design in all branches of human endeavors: economics and auditing, technology, agriculture and forestry; planning and industry; education, culture and art; philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics; law and justice; healthy and environmental defense; politics and land tenure. Any and all activists and practitioners in these fields are strongly urged to attend, to share their passions, lore, successes and learning experiences; to find new friends, mentors, or fellow travelers while participating in plenary discussions and spontaneous conversations.

If we are to avoid ecological and social collapse or  global monoculture, we need to begin to listen to the planet, to learn our places.  Home is the ground for honest hope.  Only in our life-places can begin anew, in the timeless way of Earth’s ecologies.        — By Stephanie Mills, ratified by the CBC Coordinating Council and the Congress.

Stephanie Mills is a long-time bioregional author whose articles have appeared in Whole Earth Review and many other publications.  Her books include Whatever Happened to Ecology, In Praise of Nature, and the forthcoming, Epicurian Simplicity.  She has been active in the bioregional movement for over twenty years.

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BIOREGIONAL ORGANIZATION
A Resource Index for Bioregions

(from Chapter 14, Strategies for an Alternative Nation,
Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual
, by Bill Mollison)

A bioregional association is an association of the residents of a natural and identifiable region. This region is sometimes defined by a watershed, sometimes by remnant or existing tribal or language boundaries, at times by town boundaries, suburban streets, or districts, and at times by some combination of the above factors. Many people identify with their local region or neighborhood and know its boundaries.

There is an obvious conflict between the need to live in a region in a responsible way (bioregional centrality) and the need to integrate with other people in other places (global outreach). We need not only to “think globally and act locally”, but to “act and think globally and locally”.

The region is our home address, the place where we develop our culture, and take part in bioregional networks. Through global associations and “families of common interest” we cross not only the regional but also state and national borders to set up multicultural alliances.

Just as bioregions need a federal congress periodically, so do they occasionally need global congresses; societies or families also need global meetings to break down the idea of defended regional boundaries to humanity. Ethics and principles of self-governance, interdependence, and voluntary simplicity or restriction of human numbers on earth still apply at regional and outreach levels. Intermarriage, visits, mutual trade and aid, skills exchange, and educational exchange between regions of very different cultures enrich both. This is the antithesis of “integration” (bureaucratic genocide) that is promulgated by majority groups who disallow language use and cultural life to minorities. In particular, reciprocal education values both sets of knowledge and world concepts, and respects others’ lifestyles.

Ideally, the region so defined can be limited to that occupied by from 7000 to 40,000 people. Of these, perhaps only a hundred will be initially interested in any regional association, and even less will be active in it. The work of the bioregional group is to assess the natural, technical, service, and financial resources of the region, and to identify areas where leakage of resources (water, soil, money, talent) leaves the region. This quickly points the way to local self-reliance strategies.

People can be called on to write accounts of their specialties, as they apply to the region, and regional news sheets publish results as they come in. Once areas of action have been defined, regional groups can be formed into associations dealing with specific areas, e.g.:

· Food: Consumer-producer associations and gardening or soil societies
· Shelter Owner-builder associations
· Energy: Appropriate technology association
· Finance: An “earthbank” association

And so on for crafts, music, markets, livestock, and nature study or any other interest. The job of the bioregional office is complex, and it needs 4-6 people to act as consultants and coordinators, with others on call when needed. All other associations can use the office for any necessary registration, address, phone, and newsletter services, and pay a fee for usage.

Critical services and links can be built by any regional office; it can serve as a land access center, operating the strategies outlined later under that section. It can also act as leasehold and title register, or to service agreements for clubs and societies. More importantly, the regional office can offer and house community self-funding schemes, and collect monies for trusts and societies.

The regional office also serves as a contact center to other regions, and thus as a trade or coordination center. One regional office makes it very easy for any resident or visitor to contact all services and associations offering in the region, and also greatly reduces costs of communication for all groups. An accountant on call can handily contract to service many groups. The regional group can also invite craftspeople or lecturers to address interest groups locally, sharing income from this educational enterprise.

Some of the topics that can be included in the regional directory are as follows. These can be taken topic by topic, sold at first by the page, and finally put together as a loose-leaf notebook (volunteers enter local resource centers and addresses under each category; the system is best suited to computer retrieval). The following Resource index for Bioregions has been compiled by Maxine Cole and Bill Mollison for the Northern Rivers Bioregional Association of New South Wales, Australia.

The primary categories are as follows:

A. Food and food support systems
B. Shelter and buildings
C. Livelihoods and support services
D. Information, media, communication, and research
E. Community and security
F. Social life
G. Health services
H. Future trends
L. Transport services
M. Appendices (maps, publications of the bioregion)

All of the above sections can contain case histories of successful strategies in that area.

CRITERIA: Practical resources (people, skills, machinery, services, biological products) essential to the functioning of a small region, and assisting the conservation of resources, regional cash flow, the survival of settlement, employment and community security. (Security here means a cooperative neighborhoods and ample, sustainable resources for people.)

CATEGORY A – FOOD AND FOOD SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Criteria: Native and economic species, organic and biocide free, products of good nutritional value.

Al. Plant resources

1.1 Nurseries and propagation centers, tissue culture, sources of inoculants, mycorrhiza.
1.2 Plant collections and botanical gardens, economic plant assemblies, aquatic species.
1.3 Research institutes, horticultural and pastoral agencies.
1.4 Seed sources and seed exchanges.
1.5 Native species reserves and nurseries.
1.6 Demonstration farms and
gardens, teaching centers, workshop conveners.
1.7 Government departments and their resources, regulations.
1.8 Voluntary agencies involved in plant protection, planting, and propagation.
1.9 Skilled people, botanists, horticulturists.
1.10 Publications and information leaflets of use in the region, reference books, libraries, posters.
1.11 Contractors and consultancy groups: implementation of plant systems, farm designs.
1.12 Produce: products and producers in region, growers.
1.13 Checklist of vegetables, fruits and nuts which can be grown in the region and species useful for other than food provision.

A2. Animal resources

2.1 Breeders and stud or propagation centers, artificial insemination, hatcheries.
2.2 Species collections, including worms and like invertebrates.
2.3 Fish breeders and aquatic species.
2.4 Useful native species collections and reserves, potential for cultivation.
2.5 Demonstration farms, e.g. free range, bee culture, workshop conveners, teaching centers.
2.6 Government departments and their resources, regulations.
2.7 Voluntary agencies and animal protection societies.
2.8 Skilled people, farriers, vets, natural historians.
2.9 Contractors (shearers, etc.) and consultancy groups, farm designers.
2.10 Publications, posters, libraries for the region
2.11 Produce: species and suppliers in region.

A3. Integrated pest management (IPM)

3.1 Insectaries and invertebrate predator breeders and suppliers of biological controls.
3.2 Suppliers of safe control chemicals, traps.
3.3 Information sources on IPM.
3.4 Pest management of stored grains and foods.
3 5 References and libraries
3.6 Checklist of common pests and predators, and safe pest control procedures.

A4. Processing and food preservation

4.1 Suppliers of processing equipment.
4.2 Food Processing Centers (FPCs).
4.3 Information sources on food processing and preservation.
4.4 Sources of yeasts, bacterial and algal ferment materials.
4.5 Processed-product producers in region.

A5. Markets and outlets

5.1 Local markets, farmer’s markets.
5.2 Delivery services.
5.3 Export markets and wholesalers.
5.4 Urban-rural co-op systems, direct marketing.
5.5 Retail outlets.
5.6 Market advisory skills and groups, contract and legal skills.
5.7 Roadside and self-pick sales.
5.8 Market packaging and package suppliers, ethical packaging systems and designs.
5.9 Annual barter fair, health fairs, conferences, etc.

A6. Support services and products for food production

6.1 Residue testing services for biocides, also nutrient, mineral and vitamin content (food quality control).
6.2 Soil, water and leaf analysis services for micronutrients and soil additives, water analyses, pH levels.
6.3 Hydrological and water supply services (dams, domestic water), design and implementation.
6.4 Fence and trellis suppliers and services, cattle grids and gates.
6.5 Suppliers of natural fertilizers, mulch materials, trace elements, soil amendments.
6.6 Farm machinery, garden and domestic tool suppliers (see also processing), appropriate and tested equipment, fabricators and designers, repair services, hire and contract services.
6.7 Land planning services.
6.8 Greenhouse, shadehouse, food dryers, suppliers, and appropriate materials.
6.9 Lime quarries and sources, stone dusts, local trace mineral sources, regional geological resources.

CATEGORY B – SHELTER, BUILDINGS
Criteria:
Energy efficient house design and non-toxic materials only

B1. Construction materials

1.1 Timber growers and suppliers, community timber plantations.
1.2 Stone and gravel, earth materials.
1.3 Plumbing and piping, drainage, roofing.
1.4 Bricks and concrete products (tanks, blocks, etc.)
1.5 Tiles and surfaces, paints (non-toxic)
1.6 Furniture and fittings.
1.7 Tools and fasteners, tool sharpening services and repairs, glues and tapes.
1.8 Library and research resources.
1.9 Current state of housing in the region (numbers seeking housing, rentals available).
1.10 Sources of toxins and unsafe materials in buildings, appliances, furnishings, paints and glues; high voltage equipment.

B2. Energy systems

2.1 Home appliances for energy conservation and efficiency, energy saving and insulation.
2.2 Hot water systems, solar systems.
2.3 Space heating and house design for the region.
2.4 Power generation systems for region: current and proposed.
2.5 Appropriate technology groups, research centers and demonstrations.
2.6 Designers of low energy home systems and buildings.
2.7 Sources of information, publications, trade literature, and library resources.
2.8 Reliable contractors and builders.


B3. Wastes, recycling

3.1 Sewage and greywater disposal (domestic).
3.2 Compost systems and organics.
3.3 Solid wastes disposal and collection (boxes, bottles, plastics).
3.4 Occupations based on waste recycling.

CATEGORY C – LIVELIHOODS & SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Criteria: Concept of right livelihood or socially useful work. Durable and well-made items.

C1. Community finance and recycling
1.1 Barter and exchange.
1.2 Small business loans.
1.3 Community banking and investment systems.
1.4 Land access systems, cooperatives, leases, trusts.
1.5 Legal and information services.
1.6 Local currencies

C2. Livelihood support services

2.1 Small business service centers, business incubators.
2.2 Skills resource bank: business, legal and financial advisory services, volunteer and retired people.
2.3 Self-employment (work from fulfilling regional needs: job vacancy lists).
2.4 Training courses in region.

C 3. Essential trades, and manufacturing services and skills

3.1 Clothing and cloth (spinning, weaving).
3.2 Footwear and accessories, leatherwork.
3.3 Basketry and weaving, mats and screens.
3.4 Functional pottery.
3.5 Steelwork, fitting and turning, smithing and casting, welding.
3.6 Functional woodwork
3.7 Engines and engine repairs.
3.8 Functional glasswork.
3.9 Paper recycling and manufacture, book trades, printing and binding.
3.10 Catering and cooking (food preparation).
3.11 Drafting and illustrating services.
3.12 Soaps, cleaning materials.

CATEGORY D – INFORMATION SYSTEMS, MEDIA SERVICES, COMMUNICATIONS AND RESEARCH.

Criteria: Essential community information, aids, and research

D1. Communications networks

1.1 Regional radio and C.B., ham radio.
1.2 Regional news and newspapers, newsletters.
1.3 Audio-visual services, photography, television, film
1.4 Business and research communications e.g. fax, telex, modem, card files, computer, journals, libraries, graphics, telephone answering services.
1.5 Computer services and training.
1.6 Libraries and collections of data in region.
1.7 Maps.
1.8 Bioregional groups and contacts—local and overseas.
1.9 Standard documents and data sheets available via the bioregional center.

CATEGORY E – COMMUNITY AND SECURITY.

E1. House and livestock security

1.1 House siting.
1.2 Neighborhood watch.
1.3 Cattle and livestock watch.

E2. Fire volunteers and reports (4 wheel drive clubs)
E3. Flood (cleanup)
E4. Woodland, cliff, beach rescue services
E5. Communication systems

5.1 Report center.
5.2 Emergency communications.

CATEGORY F- SOCIAL LIFE.

Criteria: Assistance for isolated people to meet people of like mind

F1. Introductory services.
F2. Think tanks.
F3. Expeditions.
F4. Work groups.

CATEGORY G – HEALTH SERVICES.

Criteria: Basic preventative and common ailment treatment, necessary hospitalization, accident treatment, local resources

G1. Medical and pharmaceutical services.
G2. Surgical and hospitalization services.
G3. Gynecological and midwifery services, home birth support.
G4. Profile of morbidity in region, life expectancy, infant mortality, causes of death, ailments in order of importance, under:

4.1 Accidents & injuries; infectious diseases; addictions & drugs.
4.2 Genetic and birth defects; nutritional problems.
Note: until the above listing is made, no region can assess health priorities.

CATEGORY H – FUTURE TRENDS & POTENTIAL THREATS TO THE REGION (AS A SERIES OF RESEARCH ESSAYS).

H1. Climate change
H2. Ozone depletion
H3. Water pollution and biocides: radioactives and chemical or waste pollution.
H4. Financial collapse: recession
H5. Implications for policy making
H6. Deforestation
H7. Soil erosion
H8. Fuel shortages
H9. Food shortages
H10. Etc.

CATEGORY I – TRANSPORT (SEE ALSO CATEGORY H).

I1. Barge and river systems
I2. Draft animal systems
I3. Joint or group delivery/ portage
I4. Innovations: local fuels and new sorts of vehicles
I5. Transport routes, bikeways
I6. Air and ultralight craft, blimps

CATEGORY M – APPENDICES.

Maps-

Bioregional map
Geological
Plant system
Soils
Sources and reference to maps, suppliers
Regions, parishes,
Land titles
Access and roads
Conservation land and easements
Rivers and water supplies

Note that if essential services are listed, deficiencies noted, and leaks of capital detected, then there is immediately obvious a category of “jobs vacant”
if, in addition, there is a modest investment or funding organization set up (itself a job), then capital to train and equip people to fill these gaps is also available. When basic needs are supplied locally, research and skills will reveal work in producing excess for traded this excess can be as information and education to other regions.