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Environmental Ethics

Volume 12, Issue 2, Summer 1990

Donald Alexander
Pages 161-173

Bioregionalism: Science or Sensibility?

The current interest in bioregionalism, stimulated in part by Kirkpatrick Sale’s Dwellers in the Land, shows that people are looking for a form of political praxis which addresses the importance of region. In this paper, I argue that much of the bioregional literature written to date mystifies the concept of region, discounting the role of subjectivity and culture in shaping regional boundaries and veers toward a simplistic view of “nature knows best.” Bioregionalism can be rehabilitated, provided we treat it not as a “revealed wisdom” for the reconstruction of human society, but as a sensibility and environmental ethic that can infuse our work even as we make use of the functional regionalisms that increasingly shape people’s consciousness. I conclude by citing Lewis Mumford’s concept of a region as capturing the dialectical interplay of natural and cultural elements.

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