Toward Resource Self-sufficiency – One Region at a Time
by Philip Norton Loheed
As president of Earthos Institute, I have helped to create Bioregional Urbanism, a process to encourage changes away from over-consumption of resources back to “One Planet Living.” This is the first of ten installments describing Bioregional Design principles, which we hope will generate discussion and creative thought.
In my lifetime I have seen the population of Earth more than double. Our technical development has resulted in continuous change at an accelerating pace. It has become fashionable to denigrate the survival skills and spiritual humility of our ancestors. Poisons have been excavated from the Earth’s crust, and spread to contaminate every living cell in the biosphere. Our remote sensing and communications systems inform us of the, often dire, realities of the present – continuously.
In my half century of architectural work, and as we have developed Bioregional Urbanism, I have experienced Earth very broadly through travel and design work with its far-flung people. As a former partner of AIA gold medalist, Benjamin Thompson, I worked on hundreds of planning and urban mixed-use projects from 1968 to 1990 or so, and continued to the present as principal of DP+.
According to Paul Hawken in “Blessed Unrest,” millions of our fellow humans around the world believe we must learn new ways to balance our demands with responsible husbandry of our living planet.
But life has taught me that sustainability of living systems for humans has only one actionable meaning: Over-consumption, poisoning, and waste of resources must stop. This is a metabolic imperative that drives the logic and intent of Bioregional Urbanism. Systems analysis, systematic teamwork, and iterative evaluation drive its detailed methodology. Information sharing, and courage to face the truth, are its path to leadership and effective actions. However, like all complex and redundant systems, both the science and the design interactions that result are art-forms of a self-sufficient and resilient future. Success with this venture will make our bioregion compatible with our regenerated and sustainable planetary “space ship.”
OK, but what is a bioregion? For Boston, it is quickly identified as Red Sox Nation, which includes most of New England, with its 11.3 million generally cooperative people. It is a population living in its resource base…
In the past the region was fully self-reliant – so much so, that it became a world trading power. Anything needed in the way of water, energy, food, developed land, biodiversity, capable people, or waste management was locally available. Before the Yankee era, environmental management by Native Americans, over 10,000 years, resulted in an incredible abundance of resources.
Sadly, the current “snap shot” of our self-sufficiency “index” hovers around 30%, reflecting our 70% reliance on imports from other regions.
Next in this series: More about the Boston Bioregion – Can it become entirely self-sufficient through design and action strategies? How has the Bioregional Urbanism “Lens” contributed to design of projects so far? How would the ideal just and exciting Bioregional Urbanist “Science to Design” process work?
Please tune in next month…!
Philip Norton Loheed, AIA, NCARB, Assoc. ASLA, is principal at Design Partnership Plus.