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Toward the 21st Century Bioregional Marketplace: Pillar 6 – Bioregionalism

In the August 31 opening post of this series, we propose 10 pillars for the design and creation of new bioregional marketplaces for industrialized nations:

  1. Creation-care ministries of faith and ethics communities
  2. Biomimicry
  3. Ecosystem health goal setting
  4. Ecological footprinting
  5. Holistic health care
  6. Bioregionalism
  7. Currency diversity
  8. Ecosystem services
  9. Sustainable macroeconomic theory
  10. Whole system design and facilitation

In today’s post, we will discuss Pillar 6: Bioregionalism.¬† Conserv is now in the early stages of working with two regions (and discussing a project with a third) that have both identified the river basins they function within as a keystone environmental asset. Keystone environmental assets can be identified in many ways usually involving studies and consensus-based programs involving local, state, and sometimes federal agency involvement, working with non-profit organizations, and concerned citizens. River basins or watersheds with chartered commissions are a great fit for a bioregional project because of the rich social capital that is a prerequisite¬† to their formation. Other options for keystone assets include national parks and parkways. Just as communities within a drainage basin can come to see themselves as part of river basin culture, so can the jurisdictions surrounding a park or parkway. This notion of a culture forming around the keystone asset is likely a critical dimension of future marketplace success. Mere identification of boundaries, lands, areas, through local, state, or federal action is far from adequate, rather the communities around and within these assets must see themselves as interdependent and interwoven with its (the keystone environmental asset) health and long-term prosperity.

How critical is this cultural buy-in? It is the sine qua non of any commercially viable bioregional marketplace. Without it, not only would a marketplace not be used, but sellers and buyers would likely be hostile to it. As Wendell Berry says, economy is “management of our household”, the stewardship of that which we care about and hold dear. For an environmental asset to be a keystone asset, humans must see themselves as living within it, not outside or along it (see the Conserv November, 2008 post Landscope, Freedom to Roam, Humans in Nature, and The City).

A keystone environmental asset culture can also be called a “bioregion”. More than earlier biology-based definitions, here it also includes social and economic zones of contribution. It is a region in which energy and material flows of the human and natural world are seamlessly integrated through a mechanism such as a bioregional marketplace.

Thanks to NASA for the Columbia River Basin Image.

- Michael Collins


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