Gary Snyder (1990) comments, “There are millions of people in North America who were physically born here but who are not actively living here intellectually, imaginatively or morally” (p. 40).


Bioregionalism has been defined by Judith Plant (1990) as “the practice of coming to terms with our ecological home” (p. ix). In contrast to the citizenship model of allegiance to jurisdictional boundaries described by various levels of government, bioregionalism suggests allegiance to the species, process, and natural systems that inhere to a specific place. Plant explains: “Bioregionalism…involves becoming native to a place through becoming aware of the particular ecological relationships that operate within and around it. It means understanding activities and evolving social behaviour that will enrich the life of that place, restore its life-supporting systems, and establish an ecologically and socially sustainable pattern of existence within it. Simply stated, it involves becoming fully alive in and with a place. It involves applying for membership in a biotic community and ceasing to be its exploiter” (p. 81).

Practically speaking, bioregionalism might mean:

• eating local food;

• getting to know the birds, animals, trees, plants and weather patterns of your home place;

• learning the cultural and natural history of your home place;

• supporting local artists, musicians, theater companies, storytellers instead of watching TV;

• shopping at locally-owned stores instead of big chain stores;

• withdrawing money from the global money market and investing in local people and businesses;

• knowing where your garbage goes, reducing and reusing waste;

• knowing where your water comes from, and where your electricity is generated;

• reducing your Ecological Footprint;

• telling stories of and for your home community.

According to the Great River Earth Institute, “Bioregionalism is a fancy name for living a rooted life. Sometimes called ‘living in place,’ bioregionalism means you are aware of the ecology, economy and culture of the place where you live, and are committed to making choices that enhance them.”



Salish Sea is a name for the inland waterway stretching from Puget Sound to Johnstone Strait, and including the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. This area can be described as a bioregion that shares a cultural and natural history along with many environmental and social concerns, as explored in the Islands in the Salish Sea Community Mapping Project. The Atlas which documents this project is one of the textbooks in the Islands Institute foundation course, “Envisioning Islands.”







The boundaries of bioregions can be explained in various ways. The term can be used to describe a watershed, or a region characterized by specific plant and animal communities. Indigenous cultural boundaries have been used to delineate bioregions. But like natural systems, bioregions are not distinct. Bioregional boundaries are vague and permeable, even though they are real and inarguable. A lack of verifiability does not invalidate the concept of bioregionalism, but simply points to the fact that bioregional boundaries are the dynamic result of an ongoing interaction between culture and nature (see Alexander, 1996).


Map of Cascadia Bioregion:




Bioregionalism is intimately related to issues of Agriculture and Food


“The decentralised management of agricultural biodiversity by farmers and their communities is increasingly seen as a prerequisite for sustaining food systems, livelihoods and environments. (The term “farmers” is used here to include people who grow crops and harvest tree products as well as those who work with livestock such as pastoralists and fisher people.)”





Alexander, C. (1996) “Bioregionalism: the need for a firmer theoretical foundation.” Trumpeter.


J. Plant (1990), in Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant and Eleanor Wright, eds., Home: A Bioregional Reader, Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.


G. Synder. (1990) The Practice of the Wild, San Francisco: North Point Press.