A learning journey into contemporary bioregionalism.

Published online
16 Mar 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Wearne, S. & Hubbard, E. & Jónás, K. & Wilke, M.
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Bioregioning is a new wave of bioregional discourse that appears to be attracting interest among sustainability researchers and practitioners. Through interviews with contemporary leaders and a reflexive research process, we explored bioregioning experiences across seven countries. Our paper outlines the motivations, practices and narratives that we encountered and positions these observations against prior expressions of bioregional thought and broader themes in sustainability research. We found that in bioregioning, the concept of a bioregion remains important and seems to attract people to the discourse in three ways: It inspires visions of the future that encompass more-than-human thriving, it creates a conceptual container that enables a strategic narrative for change that connects places to larger scales, and it justifies the importance of everyday people exercising their right to 'do' something. The combination of these motivators shows bioregioning's relationship with earlier expressions of bioregional thought: Like early bioregional thinkers, regional scales carry cognitive and strategic appeal, and like critical bioregionalism, power and justice are foregrounded to ensure the process of change is ethical. We suggest that in the shift to bioregioning, the bioregion serves as a boundary device, justifying (for some) a focus on regional scale action which has made bioregional discourse unique, and for others, rationalising participatory or emotional priorities. This lets bioregioning enact a dialogic approach to change and enables practitioners to consider questions of scale in open dialogue with emotive place-based dynamics, bringing nature re-connection and social-ecological systems research into consideration and overlap with the practice of bioregioning. We observed parallels between our research process and the central features in bioregioning; both respond to ambitions and calls within sustainability to enact relational values and surface contextualised knowledge while also valuing generalisations and abstraction. Our study, we suggest, provides one example of how research into human-nature relationships in Western sustainability might be pursued in line with these ambitions.

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