The Permacultivator - Journal of Cool Climate Permaculture
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Bioregional Development

by Erica Abotomey

A sense of belonging

The term "Bioregion" is as old as the rocks, water catchment, indigenous trees, plants and animals. Weather patterns and after that, the people who first inhabited and cared for that particular place.

The concept, in spite of our destructive ways, is here to stay and be developed both conceptually and physically. There are many people in this area who knew this place before rapid development and populating took and is taking place now. Some mourn the loss of open areas, the anonymity that comes with many newcomers to an area, whilst others are delighted when asked about the history and geography of particular places and houses and the interest in such. These people have a true sense of place but that is not to say the newcomers do not feel that this could become home to them. How many people search for years for a piece of land and or house in one particular region rather than another. It is often because they feel a belongingness.

Local perspectives

I have heard two W.A. politicians in this election campaign mention the word "bioregion" in regard to reclamation of land following severe degradation from ill use. However, environmentalists, permaculture people and others have been using the word and understanding the concept for years.

Bioregional concerns are with sustainability, community and self determination, with regional self reliance first. State and Commonwealth concerns should be second in our efforts to care for our land and its local inhabitants. Regional boundaries are of necessity vague and ill-defined as is nature and the weather rather than pen drawn boundaries for political use and advantage.

There are many locally based groups already involved in a bioregional perspective. Sometimes council takes the initiative as in recycling and mulching our green waste but too often it is a desperate solution to an overfilled polluting dump rather than a green sustainable solution and plan.

Local issues

Bioregional political struggles are off and running. In our region take the example of the mega tip proposal. A large group of like minded people with great concerns for our local environment have succeeded in getting a cessation to the negotiations of setting up a mega tip in our local region. Right now we should be acting politically on a very important environmental concern - Wingecarribee Swamp at Robertson. Sydney Water, overseer of the area, need our support to stop peat-mining of the swamp. This is a good example of a government department showing concern for the destruction of a valuable wetland. Now is the time to join in with Canopy and show our community muscle. It gives one a sense of empowerment to be able to write to Sydney Water supporting them and thereby acting in an environmentally responsible manner.

Establishing our identity

Of course we could do it by our water catchment, soil landform, natives and our climate (and that’s saying something of this region) and geophysically this is correct. However, when people outside our region ask where I come from and mention the Southern Highlands or Bowral, identification of the place for them is always ‘tulips’ - the tourist draw card. Many of us dread the influx of tourists in springtime which coincides with what is called Tulip Time. There is more a feeling of invasion rather than wanting to show people what a unique area in which we live. We need more tours of natural bushland, lots of street theatre and music, public picnics, local markets with our own produce and craft and publicizing all over our bioregion, our particular history.

Seasons of change

However Tulip Time is not "us" or why we are living here. We must develop and celebrate the special elements of this region. For instance, every autumn as we gather our falling leaves for composting we should be having an autumn celebration of the glorious colours of changing leaves. We, perhaps, should be seeing that our older citizens have a warm place inside to spend the winter - that they have sufficient firewood and draught proofing of their houses and that their gutters are free from leaves.

An October festival of planting in our region could be a celebration time. After all, we only have a limited growing period in this area. Perhaps we could develop public food gardens and encourage those with ground room to grow some fresh food rather than buying food transported long distances. Surpluses of freshly grown local food could be sold at local markets or bartered especially with a neighbour. How many of us have excess fruit on the ground or vegies going to seed. This surplus could have been picked and given to charity or people, perhaps, invited in to do that for us. Ways and means can always be worked out using community willingness and spirit.

LETS work it out

Our LETS system is also a form of identity in that is used by our bioregional community and has its special tokens for the exchange of labour and goods.

Encouraging others to use the system furthers the community spirit of interdependence and often gives people ideas for setting up their own businesses locally using their unique skills.

So what can we all do?

1. Right now we should be supporting Canopy and Sydney Water in preventing further peat mining.

Contact: Mr Kevin Shanahan, Environmental Scientist,

Sydney Water Corporation, P.O. Box 365 GUILDFORD 2161

2. Saying "NO" to the Bedminster system of composting and insisting on a less expensive more holistic method of producing quality compost from our waste.

Contact: Wingecarribee Council

3. Reading the local newspapers and noting the developments in our region. If you like and agree with the happenings write and say so to the newspapers and relevant bodies. If you don’t agree - you must write and say so. Community empowerment is the name of the game.

4. Discuss and write of any workable schemes that would provide employment for those without meaningful work at the moment.