Globalization is creating economic insecurity and increasing the gap between rich and poor. At the same time, it is undermining cultural diversity and turning complex ecosystems into streams of standardized commodities.
Bioregional economies reflect the capacities and limitations of their particular ecosystems, honor the diversity and history of local cultures, and meet human needs as locally as possible. Bioregional economies are diverse, resilient, and decentralized. They minimize dependence on imports while focusing on high value-added exports. Paradoxically, this gives them an important competitive advantage in a global economy, allowing them to trade on favorable terms without sacrificing their economic sovereignty in the process.
Bioregional economies recognize the need for fair trade, refraining from importing or exporting goods produced unfairly or in an ecologically destructive manner. They make a transition to true cost pricing, building actual social and environmental costs into market prices. In order to provide independent certification of product attributes (e.g. sustainably harvested, fair trade, organic, shade grown, green power), they promote product labeling.
Bioregional economies do not deplete their own society, nature, or capital. They export only their sustainable surplus, most often taking the form of intellectual property or high-value products and services rather than bulk commodities. Their sense of place becomes the key component of their brand identity. In the coastal temperate rainforest, products evocative of place include Copper River salmon, Tillamook cheese, Willamette Valley wine, and Walla Walla onions.
Bioregional economies can have vastly different mixes of local foods, energy sources, building materials, land-uses — all responding to the possibilities of place. However, their underlying design principles are remarkably consistent. Together they form an interdependent, mutually beneficial reliable prosperity at the global scale.
Bioregions need to reclaim a strong measure of economic sovereignty by becoming more self-sufficient and trading on their own terms. They can create economies that celebrate and mirror local ecosystems and cultures.
Examples of this pattern in action:
Our goal is to transform an economy that has been based on industrial scale resource extraction to reliable prosperity, one with equitable and sustainable resource use. We work in several communities along the coast. Our strategy is to act as a catalyst and broker to create the institutions needed to envision, inform, and finance reliable prosperity; support conservation entrepreneurs; and conserve and restore the landscapes and waterways needed for its health. Through our Information Services and Economic Development programs we offer tools and resources to those who promote positive change at the intersection of ecosystem conservation, economic opportunity and community vitality. In partnership with Ecotrust, based in Portland, Oregon, we work in the entire rainforest region that stretches from southern Alaska to northern California.
Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:
Korten, David. The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. San Francisco, CA. 1999.