Bioregionalism/Living in Place

Critique That Bioregionalism May Be Limiting Culturally, Socially and Economically

Opponents of bioregionalism feel that small town settlement is limiting in that it is of a small scale and unsophisticated. This argument includes a number of perceived limitations such as: natural resources, economic opportunities, leisure pursuits, social opportunities, cultural variety, commodities, food supplies and variety of food types to name a few. The phrase, living in a one-horse town readily comes to mind.

Our modern culture tends to encourage people to live the urban sophisticated and high-tech lifestyle, engage in prolific consumption and seek all the creature comforts available to us. Small communities are often labeled with negative connotations such as being old-fashioned or provincial. A chief reason for these labels is that a smaller town or city doesn’t promote the high-tech industrial complex that is consuming our planet today. And we know that continued global expansion at our current rate is unsustainable from an ecological perspective.

A smaller scale living environment has many advantages if it is planned carefully to include the primary human needs and desires and the opportunity for self-actualization. It is obvious that there would be some limitations in goods and services but that condition is necessary if humanity is to continue to thrive on this planet. We cannot expect to expand indefinitely without serious consequences prevailing.

Although, the idea of an equal standard of living for all has been proposed, it could never be universally accomplished as the Earth’s finite resources would be diminished very quickly and everyone would ultimately suffer. It appears that all individuals will have to be willing to live with less if we are to survive and have some form of economic equity.

Comparing Traditional and Bioregional Economic Systems      

Typical economic systems are designed to provide a means for acquiring basic human needs as well as creature comforts and recreational items that provide pleasure and gratification. However, economic systems have not usually taken into-account the needs of the environment and that of all the living creatures of the Earth. Our technological industrial complex has exploited the planet’s natural resources such that they are being consumed much faster than they are being replenished. Pollution is a common by-product of many if not most human endeavors that are damaging to the environment and are causing ecosystem collapse at an alarming rate. At some time in the near future, natural resource depletion, in conjunction with pollution, will cause most if not all societies to falter and perish.

A bioregional approach to economics considers available resources in a given region, how to use them wisely via conservation, replenishment and restoration practices. This also means that not everything desired could be obtained or manufactured in any given habitat and economies and lifestyles would vary accordingly as well. Eco-friendly practices would be considered vitally important and pollution would be negated or minimized as much as possible. People would be willing to produce what is needed for human habitation but not use raw materials excessively and also be willing to live with fewer commodities as well. Economic systems would vary according to the needs of each bioregion and other forms of exchange besides money would be encouraged such as trading, sharing, borrowing, and purchasing items that could be mutually owned such as vehicles, appliances, tools, etc. Businesses would be of a small to moderate size without chains and large companies that monopolize a particular market. Local businesses would cater to the needs of the inhabitants of the region and be involved and invested in the community.

Political Considerations

Nature doesn’t operate the way humans do. It presents us with a diversity of life forms and inorganic elements, a variety of geographic features and climates, and an assortment of biomes and ecosystems that allow for the proliferation of life on this planet. All facets of wild nature are symbiotic. There is a decided absence of authoritarianism, domination and sovereignty in the natural world. The elements and the creatures of the Earth do not create governing bodies or try to rule each other. No species holds a disposition of superiority or tries to flaunt its attributes. Territorial claims are predicated for survival reasons and mating behavior is optimized to enhance the gene pool and produce healthy and vibrant offspring. Thus, male dominance does occur in the specific context of procreation but not as an overall behavior pattern. Females are aggressive and overly protective of their young but again this is a biological function that ensures the species survival and continuance. Mutual predation is a facet of nature and animals kill chiefly for nutritional needs. There are documented cases in which animals appear to desire to hurt each other for psychological reasons but these cases are not commonplace.

Humanity more often has operated in an opposite manner. Throughout history, people have aspired to rule, control or conquer each other as is evidenced by the extensive amount of violence and brutality that have been recorded in many types of human societies. We have witnessed a variety of governing bodies that range from informal tribal structures that have promoted personal freedom to dictatorships that have extinguished it.

Individuals have a sophisticated psychology that functions beyond the bounds of survival needs. People have needs and desires, make plans and carry them out. Sometimes, mutual needs are not fulfilled or are arrived at by limiting or negating those of others. Humans can act competitively as well as cooperatively. Humanity is the first species that can deliberate on just about anything, make secular and ethical choices and choose to behave in a particular manner. We are also the only species that are capable of destroying ourselves at a conscious level.

However, there is also the long early period of human history when hunters and gatherers lived in small tribes successfully with little structure and communal governance. There were also the partnership egalitarian cultures in South-Eastern Europe that thrived for over 5000 years, were advanced technologically, artistically and socially and rivaled modern civilizations. Why humanity has chosen domination and exploitive behaviors so frequently in our modern societies is still a topic of speculation and investigation.

Bioregionalism supports the scaling down of large bureaucracies to smaller functional agencies that can operate more economically, expediently and progressively. Governance would take on an atmosphere of cooperation, collaboration, inclusion, freedom of speech and ideas, lack of authoritarianism, acceptance of different values and lifestyles, willingness to work out differences and disagreements, and promote sexual equality and partnership values. Despite the fact that bioregionalism calls for a simpler, more humanistic and ecological lifestyle, it in no way negates that humanity is a global entity and that issues that affect people and nature on a planetary level should always be included in local political, social and ethical decisions.

Political systems might vary in different bioregions such that no one type of governing philosophy would prevail as a preferred political construct. Such diversity of governance would accommodate a variety of values and belief systems that people would be attracted to.

The close-knit community atmosphere would also promote decreased misconduct and unethical behavior as individual needs would likely be satisfied and behavioral problems would be noticeable and able to be dealt with quickly and effectively. A formal penal system might be avoided as well if the community encouraged rehabilitation at a local level instead of formal incarceration.

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