Speaking for Douglas Fir

by Gary Snyder

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 bioregional movement is an educational exercise, first of all. Next, when you really get down to brass tacks, what it really means is that you have people who say: I’m not going to move. That’s where it gets new. People say I’m going to stay here, and you could count on me being here 20 years from now. What that immediately does is make a politically-empowered community possible. Bioregionalism has this concrete base that it builds from: human beings that live in place together for the long run. In North America that’s a new thing!

Human beings who are planning on living together in the same place will wish to include the non-human in their sense of community. This also is new, to say our community does not end at the human boundaries, we are in a community with certain trees, plants, birds, animals. The conversation is with the whole thing. That’s community political life.

The next step might be that you have an issue, and you testify at a hearing. You say: I speak as a local, a local who is committed to being here the rest of my life, and who fully expects my children and my grandchildren to be living here. Consequently, my view of the issue is a long-range view, and I request that you have a long-range view in mind. I’m not here to talk about a 20 year logging plan. I’m here to talk about a 500 year logging plan. Does your logging plan address 500 years? If not, you are not meeting your responsibility to local people.

Another person by this time takes the stand, from your same group, and says: I’m a member of this community who also intends to live here in the long run, and one of my friends, Douglas Fir, can’t be here tonight. So I’m speaking for Douglas Fir. That point of view has come to me by spending time out in the hills, and walking with the trees, and sitting underneath the trees, and seeing how it seems with them. Then speak a sensitive and ecologically-sound long-range position from the standpoint of the tree side of the community. We’ve done this in Northern California, in particular a character who always calls himself “Ponderosa Pine.” You can see how it goes from there. It’s so simple. Such common sense. And so easily grasped by children.

Excerpted from Regenerate Culture!”, first published in The New Catalyst, No. 2, Jan./Feb. 1986.


Gary Snyder (b. 1930) is a poet with a career that includes reading a poem at the legendary, San Francisco Renaissance-defining Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955 and winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 1975 collection Turtle Island. His recognition of the value of bioregionalism began with his rural Washington childhood, and was strengthened by his anthropological study of Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes and their folklore while a student at Reed College. He currently lives in eastern Shasta Nation, in the Yuba River drainage.

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