Bioregional Urbanism is about improving the probability of success for everyone… If the twentieth century was about how to maximize the use of nonrenewable resources in an effort to stabilize, modernize, and develop nations, then the twenty first century is about how communities must find better ways to live within the limitations of ecosystems.
According to the Global Footprint Network (2009), the last time human beings consumed less resources than the planet could produce was 1975. Currently, people are using resources at a rate 1.5 times greater than (the rate at which) the earth can produce them. This book invites us all to think about how we can incrementally return to living at a rate of less than 1.0 on this planet again. The book proposes ways to help us do that, as practitioners, citizens, and researchers.
Individuals, organizations, and even state governments have to operate within budgets. As a society we need to learn how to operate within natural resource budgets. We need to acknowledge these limitations structurally and institutionally in our business plans, our production and manufacturing techniques, our government planning, and our agricultural practices.
Until we recognize the material and resource limits of our world, we will not be able to imagine and innovate solutions that will allow us to live in balance with the planet. We all know the age-old term “scarcity is the mother of invention.” The problem with this statement is that it implies waiting until scarcity forces us to invent. Instead, we must acknowledge scarcity before it becomes so acute that the ecosystems can no longer support humans. We have the knowledge and we have the tools, but we may lack the will, the desire, the political strength, or the heart to commit.
Accelerating climate change, rising ocean levels, decline of fossil oil and water reserves are all forcing us to rethink urban areas—new solutions and collaborations are needed to adapt or re-create cities in response to these challenges. Only in the last decade through new technology have scientists become able to calculate and map the global resource base and communicate those findings to an increasingly networked world. We carefully track how much renewable water falls on a region, or how much solar electricity a neighborhood could generate. People all over the globe are calculating these numbers daily. How do we start to translate them more intentionally into design practice? How do we do this in ways that are more just and equitable? How do we do this without being autocratic?
“Bioregional urbanism” offers decision making frameworks and practice methods linking the science of sustainability with those who are making design decisions about the built environment, including policy planners, urban designers, architects and community organizations among others. It is a methodology for helping bioregions and their human populations become more self sufficient within the global context. The methodology includes a process of 1) establishing bioregional boundaries 2) calculating available renewable resources for each region 3) determining minimum resource use per capita for well-being 5) creating a regional self sufficiency index for each region 4) understanding resource flows between regions, including how to optimize advantageous trade with other regions 5) processes for collaborations between communities and practitioners to innovate new solutions based on regional self sufficiency 6) iterative updating techniques to reflect changing metabolic realities and 7) creating an iterative regional self sufficiency index for each region. Bioregional urbanism builds on the base of bioregional inquiry and methods, just sustainability (Agyeman 2003) and environmental metrics such as the ecological footprint and environmental space.