The Department of Bioregion is dedicated to placing bioregionalism into mainstream thought as a viable alternative to capitalism and the nation state. We seek to deepen our understanding and connection to our home places, and grow an interconnected network of bioregions and bioregional movements around North America and the world.
We take inspiration from the thousands of years in which people lived in place, and the decades of groundbreaking work by organizers and community leaders who have laid the foundation that we are now trying to grow, especially the work of Planet Drum, Peter Berg, Raymond Dasmann, David Haenke, Judy Goldhaft, Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, Stephanie Mills, and the dozens of amazing activists that help give rise to the philosophy and ethics of bioregionalism, as well as those such as David McCloskey, Doug Aberley, Carolyn Estes, Peter Moulton, Lansing Scott, Alexander Baretich, and so many others who gave definition of our own home bioregion here in Cascadia.
This type of our organizing structure was also inspired by early organizers like that of Donella Meadows, who in the 1960’s envisioned bioregional departments that would:
“Help people and cultures all over the world develop and express their own capacity to solve their own problems, consistent with their own needs and with the ecosystems around them. And doing that through enhancing the power within all cultures and peoples to combine intellectual knowing and intuitive knowing, reasoning about the earth and living in consonance with it.”
And to do so by creating:
“… a number of centers where information and models about resources and the environment are housed. There would need to be many of these centers, all over the world, each one responsible for a discrete bioregion. They would contain people with excellent minds and tools, but they would not be walled off, as scientific centers so often are, either from the lives of ordinary people or from the realities of political processes. The people in these centers would be at home with farmers, miners, planners, and heads of state and they would be able both to listen to, and talk to, all of them.”
The Department of Bioregion
The Department of Bioregion is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2017. Playing with reclaiming symbols and mythologies of power, we chose the Department of Bioregion as a fun idea modeled loosely on the United States and Canadian state departments, but instead which promotes Bioregional Movements, and Bioregionalism. The state department does everything that we want to do. Their goal is to advance the interests of the state (in our case bioregions). They train and run diplomats, who promote this goal. They develop policies that help reflect these issues. They issue passports. And ultimately — institutions have their own power, traditions and language — and by subverting them, and infusing it with bioregionalism and our own principles — we begin our own shift towards those ends.
Using the principles of Bioregionalism — what would a Department of Bioregion look like? How would we respond to different issues? How do we work with indigenous organizers to create a movement or government? What are the volcanoes of Cascadia, what are the statistics? What is the population or GDP? What are the rivers, watersheds, forests, etc? We’re compiling these now — and it’s incredible that they simply don’t exist in any one document because of the US/Canadian border. As we grow these numbers — they can be used, and grows the reality of bioregions, as a place based alternative to existing examples, many which further a national or corporate interest.
For a movement and philosophy of several decades — there are a lot of holes that we want to fill, and we want to do it while trying to flush out what a unified vision for a realistic and attainable goal of bioregions in a perfect world would look like.
What exactly is bioregionalism? What does it look like in practice? What are the principles and values that we always talk about? What is, or isn’t Bioregional? Aside from informational resources, and teaching classes, what we really needed was a trained cadre of well informed individuals able to represent the idea, talk about — and train others to do exactly the same.
Ultimately, one reason that bioregions are such a powerful tool, and the reason is that the Department of Bioregion will be successful, is that it is the most efficient scale and framework for our regions to make decisions and coordinate together. As local leaders have figured out, because they are forced to work within the confines of the US / Canadian systems they are, and always will be hampered. As we continue to work in the framework of bioregions — we will build our own tools and resources, and build in our own value as we grow them.
Every map we see is an imagined geography. What reality, what vision, do you want to share?
Communities build these connections and affinities through shared language and cultural values — music, sports, work, hobbies, interests, activities, gatherings, fun, grief — transmitted through common media and events that build perceived connections. Just as Nations are imagined communities, they replicate themselves through maps, symbols, visual mediums and shared stories. Those shared values — the American & Canadian identities of consumerism, growth, manifest destiny — are all embedded within those models. By seizing and creating our own symbols, our own narratives — we can begin a process of deconstructing these harmful and colonialism, and envisioning what true & just alternatives might look like.
Rather than a State — we promote the Bioregion and it’s inhabitants. We believe in George Orwell’s description of devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. This attitude allows bioregionalists, visionaries & change makers to connect with other change makers and shared goals.
By shifting the framework in this direction, and using a healthy dose of humor to ensure we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we are able to have conversations, and occupy spaces in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. In addition, for ourselves — it changes how we think, how we act and how we respond.
Most importantly, we are excited to train place based ambassadors who have gone through our programs and are seeding whatever other groups, projects or ideas they might have, all around the same common vocabulary and operating principles. Down the road — this includes building other bioregional movements. We want every person to be an Ambassador that can represent what they care about in a real way, and have the tools they need to be supported and successful.
The Dept of Bioregion isn’t meant to be the be all end all — rather, it’s about the movement building — hopefully together it will help create an ecosystem of actors & groups all working towards the same goal.
We hope you join us!