Bioregionalism: An Ethics of Loyalty to Place

Michoacan, Mexico. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)
Michoacan, Mexico. Ernesto Valero Thomas (EVTh)

The concept Bioregionalism is an amalgamation of diverse cultural systems. It takes ideas about ‘regionalism’ from the ecological sciences, about political decentralization, and about spirituality from a variety of experiences, perceptions, and traditions. This idea stimulates a reinterpretation about how to design and connect biospheres reserves in the midst of landscapes dominated by extensive human use.

‘Bioregionalism’ is from the Greek bios (life) and the French region, itself from the Latin regia (territory), and earlier, regere (to rule or govern). So bioregion means ‘life territory’ or ‘place of life’, or perhaps by reckless extension, ‘governments by life’

In the text called Bioregionalism: An Ethics of Loyalty to Place, Taylor comments that Bioregionalism is a creative collage, an amalgamation of many bits and pieces of diverse cultural systems. It appropriates ideas about ‘regionalism’ from the ecological sciences, about political decentralization from certain political ideologies, and about spirituality from a variety of experiences, perceptions, and traditions.[1]

Regarding the formation of Bioregions, three fundamental ideas are considered as the foundations of this ‘land delimitation’[2]:

  1. Regionalism based on ecological science. The influence of scientific ecology on the bioregional movement has long been an important bioregional strategy for ‘learning the land’ and setting its  boundaries
  2. Decentralization. Bioregionalism challenges the legitimacy of centralized state governance and existing political boundaries, envisioning decentralized political self-rule within units demarcated according to one or another concept of bioregional boundaries.
  3. Loyalty to the place or the perception of a Sacred Earth. A spiritual epistemology that reinforces the bioregional commitment to place. It thereby challenges directly the hyper-mobility promoted by today’s increasingly global economy.

In an effort to construct a methodology in order to identify Bioregions, Jim Dodge selected six criterions for making bioregional distinctions, these are:[3]

  1. Biotic Shift. The percentage change in plant/animal species composition from one place to another –that is, if 15% to 25% of the species change, it is probably a different biological region.
  2. Watersheds. River drainages that can be analyzed through topographical mapping. Some drainages are so vast that they pass through a number of regions with very different biota.
  3. Geomorphology. Land forms can provide helpful bioregional markers.
  4. Cultural perceptions of geography. Cultural markers where people perceive their homes and regions to be can also be important. It is an anthropocentric criterion.
  5. ‘Spirit places’ or ‘psyche tuning power-presences’. Places that exercise ‘psychophysical influences’ on people and their sense of place.
  6. Elevation. Is used by people to demarcate different areas, as reflected in distinctions such as those between hill people and flat landers.

Biophysical and bio-geographical worlds are brought as elements of delimitation, accepting the fact that biotic components confine and contain territorial networks. Also, geomorphologic delineations such as systems of mountains and watersheds (oceans, rivers, lakes) define Ecological Constellations.


[1] Bioregionalism: An Ethics of Loyalty to Place

[2] Bioregionalism: An Ethics of Loyalty to Place

[3] Method taken from Bioregionalism: An Ethics of Loyalty to Place

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