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The Next Political Movement

People are feeling more and more isolated from the political process. The result has been the growth of local political action. Some individuals and groups are even calling for their region to break from the U.S. This movement may well become the next major political movement.
There is a movement afoot. It is in its infancy, but it seems to touch something deep within many human hearts. Labeling where it fits in the political spectrum is difficult. There are elements of socialism, but it recoils at Big Government. There are elements of libertarianism, but it is opposed to Big Business. This movement feels deeply about "place". Where and how you live is the most important aspect of this movement. Some call themselves separatists, secessionists, decentralists, bioregional nationalists or bioregionalists. Bioregionalist is the name that will be ascribed in this article.

"A bioregion is a living region. We can think of this living region as a 'cell' with the land, sky, flora, fauna, and humans as being a part of this organism. A bioregion is essentially a contiguous living 'cell' which encompasses a geographic region and which can sustain all of its constituent elements (flora, fauna, land, air, humans, etc) in a manner which is self-regenerating, on a human scale or local scale, and consistent with a high standard of living for the entire living cell," says bioregionalist Bill Collier of Massachusetts.

The concept of bioregionalism is not new. The first arrangements of social organization were, of necessity, quite local. The modern Bioregional movement had its beginnings in the late 1800s, among the leftists who were quite frightened by the omnipotent power of the nation-state. This was filtered through the anti-Vietnam war and early environmental movements. Too, individuals began to recognize that social and ethnic minorities, particularly indigenous peoples, around the world were being exploited and decimated by the dominant society. Bioregionalists also draw on the modern mythology presented in the books by Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.

Bioregionalists don't agree on every topic. While most bioregionalists would identify themselves as left-of-center, people of many political persuasions are among their number and of these, from the more right of center to the more left of center, the vast majority are suspicious of any authoritarian-leaning movement (e.g. the hard right or the extreme socialist/statists). Bioregionalists believe there is room for plurality within the movement. Mr. Collier warns, "There are some organizations and movements that seem to share the bioregionalist vision of creating a 'homeland', but espouse bigotry and would utilize violent means to bring about the changes they desire. We are vehemently opposed to the violent and racist/ethnocentric nature of these movements; we view these as a betrayal of the true bioregionalist vision."

Individuals have come to this movement for a variety of reasons. The adherents of bioregionalism are serious, intelligent people. Some are college-educated people who see the "American Dream" as a nightmare unfolding on the world's poorest people. Some are working-class folks who have a feeling that the union bosses have more in common with the corporate bosses than with the workers. Many are veterans of traditional politics, feeling betrayed by the very parties and politicians they had supported.

Bioregionalists, in general, feel strongly about civil rights and liberties. Most are environmentalists. People matter to bioregionalists, their well being and their opportunity to live personally fulfilling lives. Democracy, in political and economic life, is vital to bioregionalists. The books Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging, by Ernest Callenbach are more than political fiction; they are a vision of a quite possible future.

Bioregionalists are not, in the main, isolationist. They realize that they cannot set themselves up in an ecologically balanced island amid a sea of self-destructing continents. As a rule, bioregionalists view themselves as part of a worldwide movement for environmental sanity, peace, equality, liberation and democracy. Bioregionalists support the self-determination of indigenous peoples. They heartily endorse various non-violent and democratic movements for sovereignty of people worldwide. The majority of bioregionalists would embrace a statement from the book A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, The progressive architect and city planner, "Do what you can to create a world government, with a thousand different regions, instead of countries." It should be understood that by "world government" they are not endorsing a super state, a global manifestation of the hierarchical nation-state, but rather a network of federations and leagues which endeavor to implement collective security protocols, areas of broad based agreement on rights and the global environment, and projects of great scale such as communications or scientific research which benefit all of humanity.

In the Pacific Northwest of North America is an active separatist movement described as Ecotopian, from the books by Ernest Callenbach. It is also called Cascadian, after the mountains that dominate the region. Cascadia is the name likely to stick. Here, there are people who seriously talk of south coastal Alaska, Washington. Oregon and Northern California seceding from the United States, and British Columbia, from Canada (Some would add part of Idaho) to form a new union, Cascadia. Cascadians in Eureka, on the north coast of California, find more in common with the people of Vancouver, British Columbia than they do the people of Pasadena, in southern California.

Cascadians feel deeply about their homeland. They seek to use all the resources available to them to conserve, preserve and restore the natural ecology. A large number of Cascadian advocate the re-introduction of grizzly bears and wolves; it is even rumored that there have been covert re-introductions of these predators. Cascadians believe that it is possible and vital for humans live in harmony with one another and the earth. Cascadians feel strongly that the indigenous peoples must have sovereignty, as a member of the Cascadian Confederacy if they wish. Cascadians have no doubt that their movement will succeed, they only wonder when.

In southern Cascadia, The Bioregional Research Collective is one group, among a number of groups, putting the Bioregional agenda forward. BRC is a group of individuals, world wide, with a common goal of decentralizing nation states into bioregional confederations. Its purpose is to research decentralization and community building. BRC utilizes its research to write articles and develop plans of action. The members collaborate via the Internet. The office of BRC is in Eureka, California. BRC can be reached by email at  bioregionresearch@yahoo.com or by postal service at P. O. Box3387, Eureka, CA 95502. More can be learned of the Cascadian movement at  http://www.geocities.com/ringfingers/cascadia.html; the web home of the Cascadia Confederacy.

With most political deliberation occurring far from the people (physically and figuratively), the people are getting frustrated. Many are feeling as Cascadians feel, increasingly isolated from the political process. The individual is empowered in the bioregional movement. Most groups are small and very democratic. If you feel deeply about where you live and want to make a real difference, you can get involved in a meaningful way. As more and more people become disillusioned by national and international politics, perhaps bioregionalism will become the next significant political and social movement.