Posts Tagged ‘bioregionalism’

The “Home” Revolution: Ecofeminism in “California, In-doors and Out”

To the modern mind, Eliza Burhans Farnham epitomizes an ideal ecofeminist in much the way that Judith Plant would outline in her essay on ecofeminism. Farnham espouses the interchangeability of roles for men and women, and that one should not dominate the other.

Farnham believes that for a real shift to occur – to from exploitation to harmony – there must be a shift in morality. She states that “The revolution in progress here at this hour will shortly have inaugurated a new and more hopeful state… the present is a war, not between parties or persons, but between principles of good and evil” (vi). Farnham deeply believes that a revolution in society must grow from the ground up, from deep inner principles out to purposeful action. She believes that a woman-centered society is at the core of this shift, which I will touch on a little later.

What interesting is that Judith Plant declares that ecofeminism “has very much to do with a shift in morality, in the attitudes and behaviors of human beings” (81). This means that the woman being the center of the family is more than a woman just taking a role as the leader of the household, but it is the fact that neither man nor woman dominates the other. It is a matter of a shift in morality, that is the revolution that Farnham is speaking about.

One may ask how to go from the abstract (“revolution in morality!”) to the concrete (“how does this work, right now?”). Both Farnham and Plant establish that the “home” is the nexus where the most change shall occur, and the home is the domain of the woman. Farnham states that “The home, holiest and purest nursery of what is good in the heart, springs up everywhere before woman” (285). Judith Plant echoes this principle: “The real work is at home” (82). Home is where core of a family resides – the principles of love and care and gentleness – and both Farnham and Plant imply that because a woman’s “natural” place is in the home, she has the most power to shift the direction of society.

What I find fascinating, though, is that Farnham glorifies the woman who can do everything a man can do – and a man traditionally does his work outside of the home. Farnham states that “it must not be forgotten that life in California is altogether anomalous, and that it is no more extraordinary for a woman to plough, dig, and hoe with her own hands, if she have the will and strength to do so, than for men to do all their household labor for months, never seeing the face of a woman during that time” (28).  Note that Farnham lists all of the backbreaking work that men traditionally do and juxtaposes this with the household labor of a woman coupled with loneliness – she does not say that one is easier than the other. I believe the emphasis here on Farnham’s ecofeminism is not so much the physical structure of the home, but the principle of “home” – that a family must be rooted in one place long enough to work the land and take care of the family unit.

Plant confirms that “the ecofeminist’s task is one of developing the ability to take the place of the other when considering the consequences of possible actions, and ensuring that we do not forget that we are all part of one another” (80). I find it fascinating that Farnham lives the deeper principle of ecofeminism by adhering to the principle that the man and the woman neither dominate one or the other. Feminism is not about the woman being higher than the man, it is about equality, in whatever role that might be. So yes, the woman is at the heart of the home, and she is still supported and protected by the man. And if the man and woman play musical chairs and switch roles, that is fine, as long as the principle of “home” remains the revolution of morality.

Farhham, Eliza W. California In-Doors and Out; On, How We Farm, Mine, and Live Generally in the Golden States. Ch./ Art: Excerpts p. 28-31, 91-94. Pub. Dix, Edwards & Co 1856

Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader.Ch./Art: REvaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground:
Evofeminism and Bioregionalism p. 21-23, 79-82. pub. New Society Publishers 1990

Bioregionalism Article

Hey AML 4453 Class, 

I found this interesting article. Hope you all enjoy! 

Bioregionalism (a definition)

From: Peter Berg
Date: 25 Apr 2002


Bioregionalism (Defined and Updated 2002)

By Peter Berg

[Peter Berg coined the term “bioregionalism” in the early 70s to define an environmental perspective that emphasizes action over protest, lifestyle over legislation. Here he brings us up to date on the definition as it currently is being acted out on the stage of the ecology crisis we all must confront. The original publication is located at]

The catastrophic effects on Earth’s biosphere due to human activities since the inception of the industrial era have become imperiling to all life. A transformation of fundamental aspects of consciousness is urgently required to halt and reverse this destructive process. Conservation of resources and environmentalism alone are not adequate to the task. The concept of a bioregion as the basic location where people live, and the practice of reinhabitation of that life-place by its residents, are necessary to rejoin human beings into the overall web of life. Harmonizing with the natural systems of each bioregion is a necessary step toward preserving the whole biosphere.

A bioregion is defined in terms of the unique overall pattern of natural characteristics that are found in a specific place. The main features are generally found throughout a continuous geographic terrain and include a particular climate, local aspects of seasons, landforms, watersheds, soils, and native plants and animals. People are also counted as an integral aspect of a place’s life, as can be seen in the ecologically adaptive cultures of early inhabitants, and in the activities of present day reinhabitants who attempt to harmonize in a sustainable way with the place where they live.

Because it is a cultural idea, the description of a specific bioregion is drawn using information from not only the natural sciences but also many other sources. It is a geographic terrain and a terrain of consciousness. Anthropological studies, historical accounts, social developments, customs, traditions, and arts can all play a part. Bioregionalism utilizes them to accomplish three main goals: 1) restore and maintain local natural systems; 2) practice sustainable ways to satisfy basic human needs such as food, water, energy, housing, and materials; and 3) support the work of reinhabitation. The latter is accomplished through proactive projects, employment and education, as well as by engaging in protests against the destruction of natural elements in a life-place.

Bioregional goals play out in a spectrum of different ways for different places. In North America, for example, restoring native prairie grasses is a basic ecosystem-rebuilding activity for reinhabitants of the Kansas Area Watershed Bioregion in the Midwest, whereas bringing back salmon runs has a high priority for Shasta Bioregion in northern California. Using biomass as a renewable energy source fits Cascadia Bioregion in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Less cloudy skies in the Southwest’s sparsely vegetated Sonoran Desert Bioregion make direct solar energy a more plentiful alternative there. Education about local natural characteristics and conditions varies diversely from place to place, along with bioregionally significant social and political issues

In the early 1970s, the contemporary vision of bioregionalism began to be formed through collaboration between natural scientists, social and environmental activists, artists and writers, community leaders, and back-to-the-landers who worked directly with natural resources. They wanted to do “more than just save what’s left” in regard to nature, wildness and the biosphere. Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco became a voice for this sentiment through its publications about applying place-based ideas to environmental practices, society, cultural expressions, philosophy, politics, and other subjects. By the late 70s, bioregional organizations such as the Frisco Bay Mussel Group in northern California and Ozark Area Community Congress on the Kansas-Missouri border were founded to articulate local economic, social, political, and cultural agendas. The Mussel Group eventually played a pivotal role in persuading the public to vote down a bioregionally lethal Peripheral Canal proposal to divert fresh water away from San Francisco Bay. The Ozarks group has held continuous annual gatherings to promote and support place-based activities. At present there are hundreds of similar groups (and publications) in North and South America, Europe, Japan, and Australia.

There is a strong affinity for bioregional thinking in many fields that relate to ecological sustainability. Restoration ecology practitioners readily grasp the importance of an appreciative local culture for their efforts to revive native plants and animals. Urban ecology advocates use bioregions for “nesting” their redesigned cities in a broad natural context. Permaculturalists and most organic farmers employ techniques that are appropriate to their particular locales and insist on maintaining soils, water sources, and native species. Poets, painters, theater groups, and other artists have embraced bioregional themes in their works. Grade school teachers introduce bioregional concepts, and graduate schools recognize theses and dissertations based on them. Followers of Deep Ecology claim bioregionalists as a social manifestation of their biocentric philosophy. Even traditional conservation and environmental groups including the Sierra Club have subsequent to the inception of bioregionalism adopted a system of “ecoregions” to address members’ problems in home areas.

Bioregionalists are primarily concerned with their own local areas. There are a surprisingly large number of opportunities to address everyday living conditions for the benefit of local sustainability; as wide-ranging as resident-based reforestation projects in rural areas and community gardens in cities. Their influence is felt most strongly on county and city levels because this is where they take place and are most visible. Watershed-based organizations with bioregional priorities for basins as small as a creek or as large as the Great Lakes are a steadily growing phenomenon. Their recommendations to boards, councils, and other agencies aren’t limited to creek restoration, water conservation, and other obvious issues, but may also include redrawing political borders to fit watershed lines and adopting ecological urban plans.

On a broader level, representatives of the bioregional movement from far- flung places have held gatherings and congresses in Canada, Italy, Mexico, and the US that resulted in the formulation of general principles and statements of intent like the often-reprinted proclamation “Welcome Home”. The defense of bioregions from globalist intrusions is a persistent issue that requires especially creative responses. When the town of Tepoztlan in Mexico was threatened with loss of traditional water rights and political autonomy by multinational land developers, bioregionalists from throughout North America assisted in mounting a resistance that was eventually approved by the Mexican government. Most recently, the destructive ecological impact and official “greenwashing” of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake Bioregion was investigated and successfully exposed to international media coverage through Guard Fox Watch, a monitoring group made up of bioregional activists from Japan and the US. More bioregional alliances to defend particularly threatened places can be expected in the future.


Plant’s Bioregionalism Quote

“Bioregionalism means learning to become native to place, fitting ourselves to a particular place, not fitting a place to our pre-determined tastes. It is living within the limits and the gifts provided by a place, creating a way of life that can be passed on to future generations,” (81).

I found this quote interesting because, it appears, that bioregionalism gives ultimate dominion to “place”. I also like to think of humans appreciating nature in a greater sense. Instead of destroying nature, or manipulating nature to fit our wants and desires, bioregionalism pushes people to find their own place within nature. Becoming “native to place” is pivotal in preserving nature. We must accept nature, and understand that we have all that we need from the landscape. There is no reason to destroy what we have, to attempt to create an environment that fits our desires because we cannot always create what we perceive.

I also like how Plant states how we need to create this brand of living in order to pass on the lifestyle. If we want to preserve the beauty in the world, we must encourage future generations to believe in “bioregionalism”. Obviously, this idea has not been a long-standing theory. I say this because of previous readings and discussions that we have covered so far this semester. During the first stages of colonialism, nature was seen as a never-ending supply of resources. We may have never specifically read those words, but we have definitely seen a trend of overuse. This includes the destruction of the plains and forests, along with the overhunting of buffaloes, among other animals.

I do not believe Plant wants the idea of bioregionalism to localize itself in America. As Earth’s population continues to rise, we must all take responsibility for our actions. This idea does not confine individuals to a particular part of the world, but it causes awareness among people. If we leave our native country, we do not have the right to change another place on what we originally perceived it to be. Plant’s argument is for existing within nature. We cannot consistently fall back on the idea that we have dominion over nature and squeeze out all the “necessities”. We have to accept the natural order of nature, and appreciate “the gifts provided by a place”.

Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader. Ch./Art: Revaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground: Ecofeminism and Bioregionalism p.21-23, New Society Publishers 1990

Question 3: Plant’s Searching for Common Ground

      One quote that I found surprising from Judith Plant’s essay “Searching For Common Ground: Eco-feminism And Bio-regionalism” was “Just as ecologists have paid critical attention to the attitudes, social structures and rationalizations that have allowed the rape of the earth, so have feminists dug deeply to understand why society has rendered them second class citizens, at best.” (258) The use of the word “rape” I found surprising and somewhat out of place. The action of rape in my opinion is very human oriented. I have never heard the word used towards anything else except someone taking advantage of another person sexually. I do understand the implications of the word regarding human’s actions towards the earth though. Many people do have a superior attitude towards nature, which is often characterized as the innocent, helpless victim of mankind’s abuse that is slowly withering away. Many people are negligent towards nature by taking all of its resources without any concern about the damage they are doing to the different spheres of the earth such as the biosphere, atmosphere, or hydrosphere. Plant’s use of the word rape does embody the poor management of nature by certain people. The humans do what they want without regard of consequences and as long as they get what they want they are satisfied. The use of the word rape also captures her resentment and anger towards those who abuse the earth. She describes the many injustices humans have done to earth such as the change of the perspective of earth. “The earth was seen to be alive, sensitive; it was considered unethical to do violence toward her.” (259) Also, Plant states that “the new image of mastery allowed clearing of forests and the damming and poisoning of rivers.(259) The same injustice, pain, and suffering women undergo when they are taken advantage of sexually, Plant believes the earth suffers too. I understand her point of view, but the use of the word rape to refer to human’s abuse of earth was surprising.

Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader. Ch./Art: Revaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground: Ecofeminism and Bioregionalism p.21-23, New Society Publishers 1990

Group 1’s Third Blog Post

Lydia Sigourney. Library of Congress descripti...

L.H. Sigourney; Image via Wikipedia

For this blog response, you have a few different writing options. Choose only ONE of these topics to write your response. Be sure to make it clear which question you chose in the subject line of your post. Remember, this blog response is for Group 1 only!

  1. Write an ecocritical analysis of L.H. Sigourney’s poem “Fallen Forests.” What is the argument of this poem?  Besides applying some of the ecocritical interpretative techniques you’ve learned in this course in answering this question, be sure to also consider the specific elements of poetry as a form, like speaker and listener, imagery, patterns of sound, form, meter, lineation, etc. Some questions to consider regarding these elements of poetry include: Who is the speaker, where is s/he, and what is the speaker’s state of mind? Does the poem have an implied listener and to what effect? What images are most striking in this poem? Do they seem conventional, familiar, surprising, experimental? Why?What patterns of sound to you find in this poem and what effect do they give? How are the poem’s lines structured?
  2. Both Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours And L.H. Sigourney’s Scenes in My Native Land are particularly interested in the ecology of home, focusing on their local environments rather than uncharted wilderness. How do either (or both) of these writers define home, and how is nature valued within this context? If you are writing about both Cooper and Sigourney, do they have similar or different views of nature and/or the New England environment? To what extent does Coopers’/Sigourney’s valuation of nature and/or home agree with/diverge from other authors we’ve read this semester? Do these texts have a clear environmental message, and if so, what is it?
  3. Choose one quote from the Judith Plant essays that you find interesting, confusing, problematic, surprising, or otherwise compelling. In your response, work closely with the quote. Why did it stand out to you? If you chose a quote that you found confusing, use the response to work through your confusion. If you found it interesting, compelling, or problematic, explain why. If you choose this option, choose a long quote (a few sentences). Type your quote at the top of your post, then follow with your 300-word response (the quote is NOT considered part of the minimum word count). Be sure to give the page number for your quote in parentheses. You are not required to bring in additional quotes for the response if you choose this topic.

Remember, your posts should follow these requirements and guidelines:

  • Posts must be at least 300 words.
  • Posts must include at least one quote from the text. If you are writing about more than one text, then you’ll need at least one quote from each as support.
  • Stay focused on answering the prompt question above. Avoid repeating the question and be as specific as possible in your answer.
  • Please note that you do not need to answer every “thinking question” I have posted (the questions after the bold directive). These are just options, so you could focus on one or a few. Avoid writing a response that looks like a Q & A or laundry list of answers to these smaller questions; make sure your response flows smoothly and has unity.
  • Your response should make an argument, not summarize the text.
  • Use specific moments from the text(s) to support and illustrate your argument.
  • Be sure to introduce, quote, cite, and comment on all quotes.
  • Don’t forget to tag your posts! Before adding a new tag, check the “choose from the most used tabs” menu to make sure it is not already listed.

Group 1, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, October 4.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 6.