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,