Moving Towards Our Ecological Future
Mitchell Thomashow in his chapter entitled “Toward a Cosmopolitan Bioregionalism” in the book, Bioregionalism, edited by Michael Vincent McGinnis speaks of what he calls “cosmopolitan bioregionalism.” That is quite a mouthful especially for people who are not yet intimately familiar with the idea of bioregionalism.
Let me try to unpack this for a moment. In very simple terms, bioregionalism is the idea of understanding specific areas of our planet based on the types of species, land formations, flow of water, weather patterns, etc. in that place as well as the past and current human cultures of those who have inhabited the place. The ultimate decision as to what is the boundary of the bioregion is left up to a collective decision by the people who currently reside there.
This designated area as in the bioregion of “Cascadia” which involves some western areas of the United States and Canada can be an overlay on the official national and state jurisdictions, though some bioregionalists envision a future time when the bioregion could supplant these current formal jurisdictions.
People live, work and produce in the bioregion in harmony with the ecological characteristics of the bioregion. They act to support the regeneration of nature in this region. The idea of Place becomes central to all of this recognizing the human need to be anchored in and associated with Place. Rather than living our current globalized existence, we exist on a more local basis.
As eloquently said by Thomashow, “Bioregionalism projects a spirit of wholeness within community, a place-based foundation, grounded in the ecological nuances of the home territory.”
Thomashow recognizes that this does not necessarily describe all of us. Some of us have moved from place to place and even continue to do so. It may be difficult to designate what is our home-place or to connect deeply enough to the ecology of our current home place. There may not even be a sense of our place as within a bioregion. The attributes of our current global life style may lock us into our current situation though many would wish it to be different.
Thomashow points out that this exclusive anchor to place does not even describe all creatures of nature. He points out that “migrating species have much to offer regarding what it’s like to live in different places.” “A myrtle warbler has two addresses.”
With this as a context, Thomashow provides an accessible transitionary step to those of us who wish to live a regenerative life — in which we act to regenerate the nature around us with which we live in harmony in whatever way we are able to begin to do this. His approach builds on the current strengths we may have already developed to work constructively in community and the pluralistic approaches we have developed living in a globalized world.
This is where he posits the idea of a “cosmopolitan bioregionalism.” He also uses terms such as bioregionalism psyche or “the mind regions that cut through bioregional distinctions.”
Berg and Dasmann contribute to this perspective setting out that: “Bioregion refers both to a geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness — to a place and the ideas that have developed about how to live in that place.”
Thomashow, quite helpfully, speaks of a “bioregional sensibility.”
He says that “a bioregional sensibility requires multiple voices and interpretations. There are many paths to bioregionalism, and its perceptual vision is likely to reflect the diverse experiences of its practitioners.”
He adds that, “A bioregional sensibility must also cultivate a language for expressing the connections between regions.” “Place-based knowledge is meaningful not only as a commitment to understand local ecology and human relationships but as a foundation from which to explore the relationships between and among places.”
Thomashow believes that “bioregionalism should necessarily speak to the transient as well as the rooted, the sacred places on the land as well as the sacred places in the psyche, the cultural traditions of reinhabitation as well as the threatened knowledge of traditional place-based communities.”
Thomashow concludes saying that “The challenge for the bioregionalist is to learn how to see the world through such a lens and then to bring those insights, patiently and strategically, to classrooms, public forums, legislatures, media networks, nature centers, or wherever people congregate to learn about their lives and make decisions about their future.”
Even though we may not yet be able to situate ourselves locally in a bioregion with the accompanying lifestyle, we can still support the world in moving forward along the path towards greater regenerative activity. We can each be part of the creation of a global bioregional sensibility.