[Reprinted from the CEC’s TREE Magazine August 1993. Some minor editing has been done to correct some typo’s after article was scanned. Ed.]
“ If local government areas were amalgamated, we could have areas like Swiss Cantons, English Counties, or German Lands, and dispense with States, which are a colonial anachronism. Removing one level of government should produce considerable savings for all Australians. “
by Paul Hopkins
It has become clear that economic rationalism, the privatisation of government enterprises, and the deregulation of trade, the money market and banking, has not resulted in any significant improvement in the current financial status of Australia. Any short term advantages gained from influxes of speculative investment capital are likely to be lost when profits are sent back home and when the political and financial power of the multinational corporations becomes manifest.
Like a shot of caffeine, there may be some short term stimulus , but there is ultimately a debt or cost to the organism that must be repaid. Large mega units of production and the international trading of commodities may advantage dominant political parties and the big players, but the little guys, especially the environment generally, and our resources of oil, become rapidly diminished.
The bigger the units of production and the more synthetic the processes, the greater the pollution and the environmental damage. Costs are excreted downstream to become the community’s problem and debt. Greater reliance on too few primary resources can spell disaster for our society when there is a downturn in demand. Imports have become more necessary because of our diminished manufacturing base, caused largely by economic rationalism and de-regulation. Our balance of payment deficit and overseas debt is steadily growing.
Bioregionalism attempts to define eco-systems and communities on a rational, geographic basis, on a scale which is human rather than machine oriented.
The principals of bioregionalism can be used when considering natural as well as human systems. Water catchments, separated from one another by upland “dividers”, form themselves into natural bioregions. Obviously there is overlap and interrelationships, but a catchment of (say) 100 kms radius may be convenient.
The Mt. Warning Caldera forms a convenient area which has been recognised as a unit of local government, the Tweed Shire, and recently as a resource management tool, the Tweed Total Catchment Management Committee. A larger unit comprising the Tweed & Richmond River valleys may be more suitable for some functions such as ecosystem management, education, health and welfare administration, and economic production.
If local government areas were amalgamated, we could have areas like Swiss Cantons, English Counties, or German Lands, and dispense with States, which are a colonial anachronism. Removing one level of government should produce considerable savings for all Australians.
Implicit with a bioregional focus would be a move towards self-sufficiency. Householders know that we can save by minimising external leakages. By manufacturing and trading within a bioregion, we should become wealthier. Because there would also be more accountability, we should also become healthier.
Improved communications and less alienation within the bioregional unit should result in a happier and more socially responsible/responsive community. Less emphasis on television and long distance communications and transport could result in more real time and a more down to earth lifestyle.
Less dependence on the motor car and high-tech solutions should also result in savings to the whole community. For example, local nut, fruit and vegetable growing and processing; local beverage production; local light engineering and constructions; and local eco-tourism, are some industries which are already flourishing successully.
More emphasis on local tertiary education would help provide a better skilled local workforce and hopefully stimulate more local enterprises. Economic performance (the production and distribution of goods and services) has a profound effect on social linkages, organisation and function.
A society which is functioning effectively is likely to be organised on a bioregional basis, governed by geographical constraints. Modern telecommunications and automobiles tend to distort these traditional patterns and organisation with resultant social costs and negative side effects, such as alienation, mental and physical disease; depression, drug reliance and increasing emphasis on synthetic machine oriented and expensive diversions. Bread and circuses becomes McDonalds and movies. The more man-made, mega, and hectic the environment, the greater the need to recreate in the great outdoors. Trips to Bali and Fiji become “de rigueur” to counter-balance metropolitan madness. The more polluted and alienating the city, the greater the need for the simple, quiet and “primitive” paradise.
Bioregions and ecosystem units should, by definition, be a neat fit. All ecosystems interface and overlap endlessly, but divides do exist to define boundaries.
The greater the human impacts, the greater the need for proper ecological management. Local knowledge and monitoring is needed to detect eco-system dysfunction. Unfortunately, large corporations can often afford to pollute and degrade because of their economic power.
Local landholders may also be immune to responsible management practices because of parochial attitudes and local dependency on harmful mono-cultural techniques (eg. in areas such as Eden and Wee Waa etc.). Diversity of income and polycultures are likely to encourage biodiversity. Local economic self-sufficiency should help to maintain local biodiversity.
Bioregionalism implies small, friendly and fulfilling units of production, a simpler, cheaper lifestyle, less liable to breakdown. and a better environment with more biodiversity. Less reliance on the dollar could mean good health with sufficient wealth.
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