Reinhabitation and Restoration

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.

“…the salmon were telling us, what was good for them was good for us. Both species benefit from healthy watersheds and an extended sense of commonality. Ladies and gentlemen, they were saying, please, let’s get serious about this business of coevolution.” — Freeman House

Engaging in the work of restoring the earth to good health, “removing the human-centered barriers to the earth healing herself,” in turn begins the process of reintegration of human and non-human life. To know one’s life-place in detail, the native plants and animals, creeks, rivers and seasonal changes, the healthy places and the not-so-healthy places, is to have a finger on the pulse of one’s own life.

“How can they not listen to a Green Cities Program?” asks Peter Berg in his inspiring and practical essay on how to go about reinhabiting the city. The contrast between what can be done, as is shown in the article on Maxworks—the revitalization of an abandoned slum area in Chicago— and the gray reality of most urban areas is astonishing. Activities like recycling, permaculture, neighborhood struggles, industrial reclamation, organic gardening, housing, recycling research, neighborhood economics, parks, alternative energy, tree planting, and graywater use, bring together nature, culture and community in urban spaces. And a coalition of 18 local groups in New York point the way in lobbying for a Green City program that could be adopted by groups in other cities, towns and smaller municipalities.

The significance of water is poetically relayed by David McCloskey. This is followed by “To Learn The Things We Need To Know” in which Freeman House shares his community’s experiences with watershed restoration. While this article can be used as a preliminary guide to salmon enhancement, what is equally important is the emphasis on the need for local people to be involved in such work. To do the work of rehabilitating the ecosystem in which one lives is to actually transform our social and economic systems.

Preservation and restoration are inseparable, says Jamie Sayen in “Taking Steps Toward A Restoration Ethic.” This essay stresses the need to “re-wild” damaged land, and that there is no alternative if we want to prevent the collapse of the biosphere. He calls for a social, economic and political culture that brings together human and ecological values. Bill Mollison reiterates the call for the formation of small, responsible communities involved in permaculture and appropriate technology. He feels that “the only response is to gather together a few friends and commence to build the alternative, on a philosophy of individual responsibility for community survival.”

Providing more of a vision of what is being called for, Starhawk finally takes the reader into a world of cooperation and harmony with place, testing the idea of bioregionalism as it might actually be realized.

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