LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice by Robert L. Thayer, Jr. (University of California Press, 2003).
This book is both a memoir of a professor who embraced a new community, and a guidebook for a new way of looking at where you live. You don’t just live in a city or town, you live in a bioregion. Thayer defines a bioregion as “a unique region definable by natural (rather than political) boundaries with a geographic, climatic, hydrological and ecological character capable of supporting unique human and nonhuman living communities.” From Colorado originally, Thayer settled in the Sacramento Valley of northern California as a young professor and raised a family in that bioregion, primarily known for the food that ends up in our grocery stores. Bioregionalism, first named by Allen Van Newkirk in 1975, is a perspective which emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions. “Bioregionalism opposes a globalized, homogeneous economy and consumer culture, preferring consumption of local foods and use of local materials.” In addition to the sustainability angle, bioregional thought and practice also includes understanding the original inhabitants of the place (human and animal) and how they fit into their environment. This can mean embracing local art, poetry and music, and even spiritual practices of native inhabitants. Bioregionalism is better known in the western part of North America, with many adherents in California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Columbia. Thayer is a wonderful guide into a different way of seeing and appreciating your everyday surroundings.