12/09/2016

The Bioregions : the New Territories of Degrowth

Seminar by Julie Celnik, December 9th, 2016

Although the “degrowth movement” is still marginal in the United States, it shares values and principles with a diversity of environmental movements more prominent in the US, such as bioregionalism. The bioregionalist movement emerged in the 60s-70s in San Francisco, before expanding to the West Coast.

Bioregionalism is a school of thought based on the idea that societies should be organized in territories delimited by natural frontiers, i.e., bioregions. Thanks to the work carried out by the Italian Territorialist school, and to the urban planner Alberto Magnaghi in particular, the concept of bioregion emerged in France in 2014.  However, it differs from its North-American counterpart in a few aspects. American bioregionalism is ecocentric and similar to deep ecology. Moreover, bioregionalist ideas are embodied by activists who have identified the bioregions in which they live and that aim at applying, at the local scale, the principles of bioregionalism, as is the case in the bioregion of Cascadia.

Cascadia is located in the north-west of the North-American pacific coast. It overlaps both on some parts of Canada and of the United States. Cascadia is only represented on hydro-biogeographical maps and its frontiers are not yet clearly delineated. However, Cascadia has a flag (which has a pine tree on it), a bioregional anthem, a football tournament (the Cascadia Cup) and is home to numerous associations such as Cascadia Now!, which aims at raising public awareness of Cascadia. De facto, a substantial percentage of Cascadia’s 15 million inhabitants are claiming their regional, or rather bioregional, membership. Some see in this political project the opportunity of initiating an environmental transition and creating a resilient territory, others believe it will inevitably lead to the secession of the region from the United States and Canada so as to form an independent, self-sustained and environmental nation. The election of Trump, a climate-skeptic, at the head of the American government has led to the intensification of the secessionist rhetoric in Cascadia.

To learn more read Gouverner la décroissance. Politiques de l’Anthropocène, tome III, published by the Presses de Sciences Po, edited by Mathilde Szuba and Agnès Sinaï.

Julie Celnik is a PHD student at the Centre d’études sur la mondialisation, les conflits, les territoires et les vulnérabilités (CEMOTEV, Université de Versailles). She graduated from the Université Toulouse II with a masters in Environmental Geography and from the EHESS with a masters in Comparative Development Studies. She is currently working on the american bioregionalist movement, with an emphasis on Cascadia.  She also wrote chapters in several academic books on the United States : Amérique du Nord au XXXème siècle : enjeux, défis et perspectives (Ellipses, 2012) and Les Etats-Unis : Géographie d’une grande puissance (Armand Colin, 2016).