Bioregionalism in 7 Easy Steps


“Our relationship with the earth, mother-father of all living things, is a foundational factor influencing our overall wellness and the wholeness of our identity.” Ecotherapy by Howard Clinebell



When you think of the word home, what first comes to your mind? Is it an image of the childhood house that you grew up in? Is it a feeling of comfort? Is it being surrounded by family members or sharing a good meal?


Home means many things to many people, and yet we all can relate to the existential longing to belong, and of wanting to find home. So much so that we have dedicated our life to engaging and living these questions. What does it means to belong? To whom do I belong?


Ultimately, we believe that home is as much about place as it is about the relationships that make up a place. A place is a network of relationships that form an interdependent community of beings who rely upon one another for mutual thriving. The quality of connection between entities and elements determines the strength of the community and so there is an inherent responsibility that each individual entity carries on behalf of the community.


Therefore, belonging is not a destination that one eventually arrives at, but rather is an ongoing cultivation of relationality in the context of place, a kind of dance of giving and receiving, that deepens intimacy and accountability with all the living entities and systems that allow that place to thrive.



What is Bioregionalism?


Bioregionalism, put simply, is the practice of belonging to place… and “place” being the literal ground upon which you stand. In the words of Judith Plant, bioregionalism is…


...remembering and reclaiming the ways of our species where people and place are delicately interwoven in a web of life -human community finding its particular place within the living and dying that marks the interdependence of life in an integrated ecosystem…It is the practice of coming to terms with our ecological home. [1]


Bioregionalism is all about coming back into relationship with the more-than-human world and expanding our awareness, sense of self, and community identity to include the naturally occurring elements of life that inform our everyday lived experience. It is a vision of the world in which human culture is grounded in natural systems and is informed by the relationships that make up those systems.


Bioregionalism involves reclaiming ways of being that once were practiced the world over; things like knowing the names of birds by the songs they sing, or the medicinal uses of plants growing in your backyard, or knowing the migration patterns of certain animals throughout the seasons. Being attuned to such things brings us into a deeper relationship with the places we call home and expands our awareness and sense of self to include the more-than-human world.


It’s like going for a walk in your local neighborhood... Knowing the names of your neighbors, taking the time to get to know their stories, extending kindness and generosity by helping each other out, and recognizing their struggle as your own are all ways that naturally strengthen a sense of community and belonging. It’s the same thing with your relationship to the natural world.



Turn Off to Turn On


In this techno-savvy culture, we have become so reliant on (and addicted to) things like social media that it takes a certain kind of discipline and conscious effort to unplug and step away from what has become the new normal - living behind screens. Taking the time to turn off is really an opportunity to TURN ON all of your senses, and awakens parts of the brain that turn off when we are constantly engaging with screens.


Reconnecting with Earth is a deeply centering practice that recalibrates the nervous system and ultimately, is a necessary part of our collective journey toward co-liberation and planetary healing. Grounding in your WHY will keep you motivated to stick with the practice of coming back to nature again and again, and soon enough, you’ll wonder how you ever existed without it!


Now is the time to participate in a healthy, regenerative way of relating to people and the planet. Your presence, engagement, and awareness is critical for the health of our only home: Earth. Place-based learning invites you to be more intentionally engaged with nature, to be more conscious of the particular elements of your life-place, and to interact with your environment in a way that restores and harmonizes the relationships that make up the place you call home.


Empire thrives when we are disconnected from the source of life, when we are isolated from nurturing connections, and when we are cut off from traditional ways of being that teach us how to be in relationship with the land that is reciprocal and regenerative. We are disconnected from our roots, to place, and to the soils beneath us. We have been conditioned to ignore, extract, consume, and capitalize on Earth's limited, precious gifts for the sake of individual greed and political power.


Creating space in your life to engage with Earth in meaningful ways is an active pathway toward remembering your true home - the place that feeds you, nurtures you, loves you, and gives to you unconditionally. Your ecological home is waiting for your return with arms open wide.


You can begin to reorient your life towards Earth through place-based learning with 6 easy steps outlined below.




Bioregionalism in 7 Easy Steps


"If nature were to draw a map of the world what would it look like? We’ve grown accustomed to seeing the world divided into countries but there is another way to see, and better understand, the planet we call home." - Karl Burkart


Step 1: Know Your Bioregion


As you begin to orient yourself to the natural community that surrounds you, you’ll begin to notice that there are general similarities in the many different ecosystems that you find yourself occupying within a given area. Common characteristics will include things like the types of trees, native plant species, soils, wildlife, flora, fauna, and other cycles and patterns that are unique to the region.


These ecosystems and groupings of organisms that share a common evolutionary history are known as bioregions and can be further subdivided into smaller ecoregions. Bioregionalism invites us to see the places we inhabit as part of living systems nested within even larger systems.


A bioregion can be seen as a special body of earth who carries and expresses unique shapes, features, personalities, textures, and miraculous networks of intelligence - kind of like YOU! You can learn more about your bioregion by researching the characteristics that make it so unique.


You can start by exploring One Earth which features bioregional maps spanning the globe.


Bioregionalism at a glance:


In general, bioregional maps outline spatial patterns and the composition of biotic and abiotic phenomena that affect or reflect differences in ecosystem quality and integrity. This includes geology, physiography, vegetation, climate, soils, land use, wildlife, and hydrology.


In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlines four different bioregional levels highlighting variation in greater detail.

  • Level I is the broadest level, dividing North America into 15 ecological regions.

  • Level II divides the continent into 50 regions intended to provide a more detailed description of the large ecological areas nested within the level I regions

  • Level III highlights 105 bioregions, which are smaller ecological areas nested within level II regions.

  • Level IV consists of 867 ecoregions, which are smaller ecological areas within level III regions.

For our Canadian comrades, this website offers a lot of amazing information pertaining to the marine bioregions across the nation.




As you begin to study your Bioregion through these different maps, you will begin to orient yourself to the natural area in which you walk, breath, play, sleep and work. This will allow you to learn, sense, and feel into the personality and characteristics of the body of Earth that you are touch everyday.


Step 2: Learn about the Traditional Territories that You Occupy

- and why it matters.


“When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current, and our future. We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us.” - Mary Lyons (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe)


Taking the time to learn about the Indigenous Traditional Territories that you reside within and occupy is a first step toward situating yourself within a historical context of settler colonialism and acknowledges (makes visible) Indigenous presence and their ongoing struggle against settler occupation.


This is important because western education strategically frameds history from the vantage point of white settler europeans (obviously casting them as the protagonist heroes) and erased (made invisible) the voices and history of Indigenous peoples, not to mention the history of slavery. Unlearning the history we were spoon-fed in colonial education as children is a part of becoming a mature adult today. Knowing and accepting the truth of our history calls us into greater integrity and relational accountability.



Sure, it might feel uncomfortable for white folks at first, but staying comfortable doesn't get us anywhere. In fact, staying in our comfort zone creates stagnancy and complacency. Learning how to be with and appreciate the growth that comes from discomfort is a critical aspect of becoming a mature adult. Finding spaces to do develop this capacity with other folks is an important part of our individual and collective healing journey. If you're interested in this, check out our co-healing circle Belonging In Practice.


As you work to cultivate your relationship to place, to Land and Waters, it is important for you to connect to the memories, stories, and imprints that the land carries within the roots, rocks, soils, and waters. Your personal relationship to land will deepen as you contemplate the cultural narratives that have shaped you and unearth the longstanding history that has brought you to reside on the land you find yourself as you seek to understand your place within that history.


Coming into sacred relationship with place is inherently connected to the work of unsettling and decolonization since Indigenous presence, culture, and histories are tied to Land and Waters. Violence to the land was (and is) interwoven with ongoing violence against Indigenous Peoples across the world. They cannot be separated. Knowing your personal identity within culture and the impacts that your cultural identity carries allows you to be more ecologically attuned.


Start by learning the names of the Indigenous lands that you occupy by visiting Native Land. Consider integrating this practice when you travel. The more you do this, overtime you will begin to develop a critical consciousness about place and your relationship to it. Keep in mind that this map is only a starting place. Consider contacting the tribal nations in which you live or are visiting; ask questions about the lands you occupy and begin to build relationships with them.



Step 3: Grow Plants & Learn Your Hardiness Zone


Another amazing way to begin establishing a relationship with your place is to start planting - anything! There are so many wonderful plant friends to fall in love with... maybe you are a big foodie - grow food! Perhaps you love the smell of flowers - grow flowers! Have you always wanted to learn the names of trees? Starting planting them! The possibilities are truly endless.


Growing plants not only gets you outside, but it requires that you become attuned to the needs of your plants which takes patience and time. Caring for plant life invites you to slow down, listen deeply, and learn to pay attention to the subtleties of plant life and all of the factors that contribute to making them either flourish or perish.



To start, take some time to research what hardiness or growing/planting zone you’re in. This is the geographic area that defines the range of climate conditions in order for plants to survive and grow. The term hardiness refers to a plant's likeliness to survive the coldest time of year. For example, if a plant is said to be "hardy to zone 5," it means it can likely survive in temperatures down to -20 degrees F, the minimum annual temperature in zone -5 climates. Your hardiness is based on a temperature scale from the average lowest recorded temperature in the winter months to the average highest temperature in the summer months.


Keep in mind that hardiness zones are intended to be taken as advice since what matters most is the precise microclimate where a plant lives. Just because your area may exist within zone 5, doesn't mean that your microclimate produces variation. In fact, there may be areas within your microclimate that stay warmer than the average temperatures, allowing for the possibility of zone 6 plants to exist there. It all comes down to getting to know your land and listening to your plants and what they need.


You can find your hardiness zone labeled on the seed packets for the vegetables, flowers, bushes, and trees that you want to plant. Knowing what growing zones you’re in will guide you to becoming an attuned earth tender.


Check out this website to learn about hardiness zones around the world. For American readers, you can go directly here, for Canadians, check out this website.



Step 4: Learn The Native Plant Species Of Your Area


In the same way that you begin to learn about Indigenous history and the nations of people that originally occupied the lands before invasive people stole it, you can also learn to identify and actively restore the native (or Indigenous) plant species who are home to your area.


Native species are plants and animals who are intimate to your bioregion or ecosystem as a result of natural processes, without any human intervention. The biggest part of considering whether or not a species is native is considering how it fits into the natural community and food web. Native species that have been in a place or ecosystem for thousands of years have evolved with and against their “allies” and “enemies.” There is a circle of long lasting relationships between native species that make up your particular ecozone.


Native species, especially native plants can be tricky to identify. You can begin by exploring what native species occupy your area through your zip code by visiting these sites:

  1. Native plants & Birds: Audubon

  2. Native plants & Butterflies

  3. Native Fauna: Google search native fauna or wildlife or animals in your state.

  4. For example, here is the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Under the "Conserving" tab, you’ll find a list of species.


Step 5: Attune to the Seasons & Moon Tides


Everywhere we look, we see that life moves in a circle motion, often portrayed by the symbol of the spiral. Take for example the snail shell or a sunflower. Heck, even down to the invisible coils of our own DNA and all the way out into the vast expanse of the whirling galaxies, life unfolds as a spiral. As gifted storyteller, Mara Freeman, puts it:


This simple patterns holds the secret to the whole universe, for within its forms lies the feminine circle and the masculine line. Without these two movements, there would be no motion and consequently no life in this world of opposites.


How we perceive time shapes our consciousness (aka how we move through the world), whether we are aware of it or not. All of life moves in a circular formation which is contrary to what we have learned under capitalism which likes to portray time in a linear fashion (with some arbitrary starting and ending point). When we perceive life in this way, much of how we live is end-oriented with a strong focus on striving for a certain goal, outcome or what we can gain. This can manifest in myriad ways but generally people who are oriented to linear time tend to live either in the past or the future, completely missing the juicy richness of the here and now. Under linear time, what we long for is always just out of reach. An inner narrative that reflects this way of thinking goes something like this, "I will be happy when..."



But it wasn't that long ago when our ancestors lived in closer in relationship to nature, and as such their inner orientation to time was circular. Nature reflected back to them life as a journey through seasons of polarity: from light to darkness, birth to death, ebbing and flowing. Life was constantly in a state of flux, change, and never staying the same. There was birth, growth, fruition, and finally death. These cycles were honored as sacred thresholds of consciousness, and mirrored the initiations of their own lives, which included a spectrum of experiences from great wonder and joy to deep pain and sorrow.


This orientation to time for our ancestors (the Celts) was depicted as a wheel, today referred to as the Wheel of the Year. You too can deepen your relationship to place by reclaiming your own indigenous wisdom by uncovering the past and attuning to the cycles of the seasons and moon tides.


A simple way to begin doing this is by checking out our self-guided "moonthly" offering, Embodied Nature. Embodied Nature is a love offering from our heart to yours, designed to unlock and awaken the natural wisdom and wellspring already present within you. The more familiar you become with nature's seasons and cycles, the more you will come to know yourself. You are what the whole universe is doing... unfolding, unfurling, and becoming.




Step 6: Engage in Local Environmental Justice Issues


As you pursue your quests for greater ecological awareness, your eyes will open to the earthly impacts of living and engaging in a system that oppresses. Most of you are already experiencing eco-anxiety and fear for our planet’s health. Within your body, you carry transmitted traumas from learning racism, patriarchy, militarism, corporate greed, capitalism, violence and Earth degradation, and other causes of immense social and environmental harm.


Environmental Justice bridges anti-racism with environmentalism and is rooted in the principle that all people are entitled to equal environmental protection regardless of race, color, or national origin. It’s the right to live, work and play in a clean and healthy environment.


As Greenpeace states, “When we recognize who is most at risk, we find institutional harm is interwoven with the impact of the climate catastrophe. Understanding this, fighting oppression, and centering those most marginalized help us create an environmentally just future for all.”


Environmental Justice requires that you incorporate racial and socioeconomic justice into the steps you take to live an ecological aware life, and to center the voices of those most impacted by environmental harm in the stand for the protection of our planet.




WAYS TO ENGAGE:

  1. Research Environmental Justice issues in your area (and folks organizing around them):

  2. Check out the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

  3. Explore the Environmental Protection Agency in your Region

  4. Join a movement

  5. Sunrise Movement

  6. LandBack Movement

  7. Educate

  8. Attend an anti-racist training (You are welcome to join our next Belonging in Practice)

  9. Start a book club, or join a caucus space

  10. Learn about whose traditional territories and lands you currently occupy and the colonial history of that place (see step 2)

  11. Identify local BIPOC-led organizations who are doing this work and see how you can support


Step 7: Observe


The last and easiest way for you to cultivate ecological awareness by getting to know your place is to immerse yourself in nature and observe! This is as simple as it sounds. Begin by slowing down and creating more space in your life to sit, listen, watch, explore and JUST BE with nature. You will learn so much in a very short period of time if you create a consistent practice that gets you outside and engaging with the natural world.


Find yourself a cozy, quiet spot nestled within a nearby landscape that will inspire you to keep coming back for more. Simply observe, be in the moment, and marvel at the beauty of Earth! Perhaps most importantly, always pay close attention to how you feel afterward... nature truly does heal. If you feel inspired, try out our free Nature Connection Wellness Guide to begin tracking your experiences in nature!


NatureConnection-WellnessGuide
.pdf
Download PDF • 4.11MB


Conclusion


Bioregionalism is all about becoming intimate with the place we call home, living into our Earthly belonging. We invite you to get to know the place you live and to make friends with the more-than-human folks around you.


We invite you to make yourself at home.

Sit and stay awhile... and let us know what you discover <3



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References

  • [1] Judith Plant in HOME! Bioregionalism


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