Archive for November 23rd, 2009

Are we a bioregion yet?

By David Parkinson

A bioregional collage of hopes and dreams

What I really want is for people to think for themselves and feel for themselves and to listen to their own land base and to ask that land base, “What must we do?” Start a relationship with the land where you live. Ask that land what it needs from you. Because the truth is the land is the basis for everything. It’s embarrassing to even have to say that, but — and this is something else I think is really important — the only measure by which we will be judged by the people who come after is the health of the land base, because that is what is going to support them.
(Derrick Jensen)

Bioregionalism seems to be in the air lately. The theme of the BC Food Systems Network‘s annual gathering back in late September was bioregionalism, and this theme recurred just last week at an event that I helped to organize. So, what is bioregionalism, anyway? Wikipedia offers the following:

Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and environmental system based on naturally-defined areas called bioregions, or ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.

This sounds an awful lot like the kind of economic and social relocalization that various groups and initiatives are working towards (e.g., Transition Town Powell River, the 50-mile eat-local challenge, GreenSteps Solutions, Powell River Sustainability Stakeholders). But the concept of a bioregion really gets to the heart of the matter: how do we define the geographical area whose boundaries define what is ‘local’? Are we closer to Vancouver Island or to the Sunshine Coast? Are we our own bioregion? How can we answer these questions?

More from Wikipedia:

The bioregionalist perspective opposes a homogeneous economy and consumer culture with its lack of stewardship towards the environment. This perspective seeks to:

  • Ensure that political boundaries match ecological boundaries.
  • Highlight the unique ecology of the bioregion.
  • Encourage consumption of local foods where possible.
  • Encourage the use of local materials where possible.
  • Encourage the cultivation of native plants of the region.
  • Encourage sustainability in harmony with the bioregion.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s pretty clear that we’re going to have to let the concept of our bioregion emerge over time, as we learn more about the characteristics of this area which unite it with other places and the ones which set us apart. And how do we get started with that kind of work?

Well, last Thursday and Friday, a group of about 25 food-security activists, farmers and friends of the local food economy in the Powell River region and along the Sunshine Coast got together in Pender Harbour to talk about how we might collaborate better together across the Jervis Inlet. This mini-conference, titled “Lund to Langdale”, was funded by the BC Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA). I was one of the organizers, along with Stacia Leech from Roberts Creek.

Since the fall of 2008, the BCHLA has helped start projects in the various communities, such as the “Garden to Table” workshop series being offered through the Community Resource Centre in Powell River and the Sliammon Community Garden. The purpose of the “Lund to Langdale” conference was to take action on some of the things that the BCHLA folks were hearing as they carried out community consultations along the Sunshine Coast and up our way: specifically, they were hearing that people working in food security wanted more opportunities to learn about community engagement, better collaboration, and strategic planning for policy changes. So we planned a one-and-a-half-day event to bring us all together, get some work done, and make some connections to serve as a foundation for future collaboration.

The most interesting thing to see was the amount of information being shared. It’s amazing, given that we are so close to each other, that we are so ignorant of the work going on one ferry trip away. But as one person said, we Powell Riverites largely see the Sunshine Coast as something to race through on the way to the Langdale ferry terminal. There are a lot of common concerns, though, from the effect of the new meat inspection regulations, to the cost of farmland, to ALR removals, and beyond.

Towards the end of the second day, the group decided that this was a conversation worth continuing, so we are now hoping that we can find a way to hold a follow-up event over on this side of Jervis Inlet sometime before the next growing season. There are so many ways we can be sharing information better, learning from each other, and possibly starting to collaborate directly on food-security projects and policy work. We only scratched the surface of all the ways we could be working together for food security all the way up the Sunshine Coast as far as Lund… or beyond.

So watch this space for future news about more events to bring together some of the hard-working farmers, activists, and policy-makers. I believe that we have a real chance to create a bioregion on the basis of similar terrain, similar ecological systems, as well as a similar sense of isolation and independence from both the Lower Mainland and the island. We’re one baby step along that road now.


Post facto

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