Paradoxically, we can only fully manifest this planetary era in time to avoid biospheric collapse if we come home to place and region again. We need to fit our now-globalized human patterns of meeting our needs into the life-sustaining, abundance-generating, scale-linking complexity of life….” (Daniel Christian Wahl)
The most useful place to start building more-regenerative societies, bioregions, and place,s is right here — in the local communities, the natural bioregion, watersheds, and ecoregions. Watersheds are especially important because they impact where our drinking water comes from — and where our wastewater goes.
We call our place “The Greater Lehigh Valley’’, but what does that mean? We are in the Lehigh River watershed, and perhaps also in, or next to, the Schuylkill River watershed just to the west. Yet the true headwaters of both watersheds, arise near each other some distance to the north of Blue Mountain, of the long Kittatinny Ridge. They run southward through the mountain gaps to us, and ultimately they join the Delaware River. Considering this, we inhabit a biological region of both ‘Appalachian mountain ridge and fertile valley’, shaped and enriched by ancient glaciation. We are truly the beneficiaries of the Appalachian “edge” in the beautiful Lehigh Valley,
The most useful place to start building more-regenerative societies and bioregions is right in our local communities. The truth today is that our version of “sustainability” is no longer enough. We need to be practicing regeneration and restoration, because in our bioregion with its abundant natural resources we have been extracting, ignoring, and even abusing our beautiful rich landscape, with its rich soil, air, and waters, as if it will always be here. As in most regions, we are here now on the “edge”. This is what “Bioregional Regeneration” is all about: joining together to sustain and restore, to regenerate this local ridge and valley landscape that we love. No outside magic savior or super new universal technology will do this for us,. That’s why it’s now on all of us to see and to work, to volunteer, pitch in and act.
This is the “How” of local bioregional regeneration:
1) It’s connecting us all the way up, and all the way down.
In the modern world, we can be separate in a multitude of ways. In a bioregional world, everything is connected. All of the tensions we experience become part of “the work.” We will no longer be able to objectify work, as it will be dynamically connected to all other parts of life.
This lets us form much deeper networks of trust, allowing new, more important, and more dynamic relationships to form. This is what allows us to take care of each other through the challenging times ahead.
2) People connect in different ways, the land holds it all
In the relationship-building process, we must continually come back to the landscape that holds it all. Everyone sees the world differently and builds relationships differently. However, in many ways, getting to know the landscapes that people inhabit is a way of getting to know the people themselves. Understanding the landscape’s characteristics and functions helps us to see its people.
3) The fruit at the edge
A good rule of thumb is to follow the permaculture design principle of working at the edges. There is true richness in the edge space between people’s personal lives and stepping fully into this work. Ask What are the opportunities to be less compartmentalized in our lives, to “stack functions” together?
We can speed up many of these processes by turning to the people who can actually carry them.
4) Resourcing processes first
Given the complexity and depth necessary to be capable of carrying out the formation of landscape partnerships, first explore the possibilities in resourcing the process itself. For example, commit as a community to certain bioregional learning activities occurring regularly. If there is not a core team ready to carry out the process, consider if essential support can be provided for a capable person(s) to dedicate the initial time needed.
Over time, this creates opportunities for people to build community capacities to distribute resources, and create the conditions for a “core” team to eventually form.
5) Systemic view of “core team” roles
Explore the value of thinking of roles on a core team systemically rather than as individual roles. This allows for greater flexibility and adaptability, as it opens up the opportunity for people to try on roles and adapt as time moves on.
6) The power of story and connecting local and global stories
Stories provide inspiration and a powerful grounding force that connects us to a deep sense of home that can be linked to the broader planetary scale through the story, helping us see and live into how it all fits together; this can inspire continued action, continued adaptation.
7) The subtle yet profound importance of “showing up”, of consistency
When it comes to holding regular meetings, which are essential for cultural scaffolding, it is important to support the organic flows of people. It also depends on their connective flow to deeply explore together the actual ongoing process of developing a “living” consistency by meeting in person. “Showing up” is essential to successfully build a vibrant community regenerative base for the bioregion.
It is possible — and the time is now. Let’s regenerate the Lehigh Valley!
Dick is Co-Director of Stonehedge Holistic Learning Center near Tamaqua and was the founding President of Stonehedge Gardens, the non-profit that developed holistic programming there since 1998. Dick has several decades of prior work in Human Services and is an advocate of permaculture, natural building, land preservation, and bioregional regeneration. He is also the author of three novellas and is an amateur poet.
- SLV 2023 Table of Contents
- Voices of the Valley – Alphabetic List of Authors
- Sustainable Lehigh Valley booklet