The term ‘bioregionalism’ was first adopted in the 1970s by Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann. Gary Snyder later wrote extensively about bioregionalism and expanded the concept further. The initial bioregional movement arose in California as a product of an intermingling between biogeography and the California counter-culture. Bioregionalism’s ideas, values and lifestyles have been around for millennia, and in the early 1970s the time was right for us to be reminded of the inherent advantages of a bioregional approach. Bioregionalism was based on the idea that the growth of socially and ecologically just societies requires a deep understanding of place. In fact, bioregionalism has been called the ‘politics of place’.
The bioregionalism movement gained momentum quickly and in 1973 the Planet Drum Foundation was established. This organization is still the main bioregionalism organization in North America.
By the 1980s the movement had spread to Europe where it complemented and strengthened the Slow Food Movement that originated in Italy.
In 2003 Thayer argued that ‘the bioregional approach suggests a means of living by deep understanding of, and respect for, and, ultimately, care of a naturally bounded region or territory.’ This deepens the concept of understanding place.
One of the main reasons for the continued and increasing interest in, and acceptance of, bioregionalism is because it has evolved as an alternative to the present predominantly consumer-driven alienated sense of place. For much of the world, the ever-expanding urban centres epitomise this consumer-driven existence. Bioregionalism offers us hope and provides us with a clear direction of how we can turn around the current situation, and live connected to our ‘place’. Bioregionalism provides a context for sustainable, decentralised regenerative communities. Community food systems work to support and strengthen bioregionalism.
It can be difficult to delineate our own individual bioregion because it is in a constant state of flux depending on what criteria we use – different criteria for different purposes. We may define our bioregion from; a cultural and spiritual resonance perspective, a foodshed perspective; a political acceptance standpoint or any other we choose. With different perspectives or standpoints our bioregion will be smaller or larger.