by Kirkpatrick Sale

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

If I begin this discussion of the bioregional paradigm with the concept of scale it is because I believe it to be, at bottom, the single critical and decisive dominant of all human constructs, be they buildings, systems, or societies. No work of human ingenuity, however perfect otherwise, can possibly be successful if it is too small or, more to the usual point, too big, just as a door fails if it is too small to get through, a doorknob if it is too large to grasp; just as an economy fails if it is too small to provide shelter as well as food, a government if it is too large to let all its citizens know about and regularly influence its actions. At the right scale human potential is unleashed, human comprehension magnified, human accomplishment multiplied. I would argue that the optimum scale is the bioregional, not so small as to be powerless and impoverished, not so large as to be ponderous and impervious, a scale at which, at last, human potential can match ecological reality.

Excerpted from Dwellers in the Land. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985.

Kirkpatrick Sale (b. 1937) was born in Ithaca, New York, attended Cornell University, where he served as editor-in-chief of the newspaper and participated in student activism, and still lives in the area. His career as a journalist began with the socialist-founded magazine New Leader and in the ensuing decades has included contributions to multiple progressive magazines and radio stations, as well as his own books on topics including history and bioregionalism.

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