Equity and local economy

Operationalizing a Bioregion

Alonim Field 2
How to "operationalize" a bioregional approach is an intriguing question to ask.

The response to this question starts from the premise that a bioregional approach is a framework - it is an orientation, a way of seeing things. In this regard, we can say that a bioregion aligns with the ecology of place. We can surmise that this is how Nature sees itself. This becomes the defining litmus test rather than saying that one is part of a city or a political region. It is not the politics that defines the existence of the region, but rather its own local ecology.

In taking this ecological perspective, we are asking the question what does it take for this bioregion to thrive as any ecosystem might thrive.

One "operational" step on this developmental pathway is to map the bioregion in which one exists. This will be in line with recognizing the multiple capitals of the bioregion and also to assess whether the bioregion being considered is congruent with any political, geographical jurisdictional lines which currently exist.

For the purposes of this, we can set out the multiple capitals with which the region is endowed:

  1. Financial capital
  2. Manufactured capital
  3. Human capital
  4. Social and relationship capital
  5. Intellectual capital
  6. Natural capital (renewable and non-renewable environmental resources)

Here we are asking the question: what are the different types of resources which endow the region. We are looking at the past, the present and the future potential.

Specifically, we can look at the plants indigenous to the region, the climate, the terrain of the land, the watershed, the animal life. We can look at the cycles of life that happen in this region: the length of seasons, the growth seasons of plants, the habits of animals (seasonal pollination activities of bees), the relationships among species, even the migratory habits of humans (is there a seasonal migrant work force). We are looking to have a deep ecological knowledge of the region.

We can look at the existence of renewable and non-renewable natural resources which includes minerals, rich soil, clean air and water.

We can look at the history of the people resident in the area. What traditions do they have, food they are noted for, well-known cultural attributes? Are they rich in historical skills, intellectual abilities, technical knowledge? The list can be a long one as each area of capital is explored and mapped. This is done on multiple scales: nano (individual), micro (enterprise), meso (portfolio) and macro (national) if applicable.

As part of this, we can ask questions about who are we as a community. What are our values, our vision for the future, our assets- both historical and current and our culture. Are we indigenous, homogeneous or diverse? Where are we on the path towards recognizing and articulating values and in developing a common culture?

Finally, one has to assess the carrying capacity of the bioregion from both a local and global perspective. (See: Kate Raworth, "Doughnut Economics") For example, what kinds of industry or agriculture will be within the carrying capacity of the region without having a negative impact on the surrounding elements of the environment? What will be the impact of activities within the region on the global carrying capacity? As part of this one must look at issues of equity within the bioregion and the impact in contributing to inequities on a global scale.

This type of mapping process helps to create attunement with the local ecology and also positions the residents of the bioregion to think about strategic actions that will enable the overall bioregion to thrive.