Diversity

One principle of Kirkpatrick Sale's bioregional society has been held over because it is a point at which the wider green movement's notion of the sustainable society will begin to diverge from the bioregional project. The principle is diversity, and the point is that to talk of a generic 'bioregional society' (as I have been doing) is a misrepresentation. More accurately we have to speak of bioregional societies - not only in the obvious numerical sense, but also in terms of their informing political, social and economic characteristics.

Sale writes bluntly that it is not necessarily the case that each bioregional society 'will construct itself upon the values of democracy, equality, liberty, freedom, justice, and other suchlike desiderata' (1984, p. 233). This may seem peculiar, given Sale's commitment, expressed above, to the notions of equality and political participation, both derived (in contested fashion) from principles of the science of ecology, but there is evidently a tension between the demands of 'complementarity' and diversity. When diversity is privileged, one is obliged to admit to (and underwrite) the possibility that:

truly autonomous bioregions will likely go their own separate ways and end up with quite disparate political systems - some democracies, no doubt, some direct, some representative, some federative, but undoubtedly all kinds of aristocracies, oligarchies, theocracies, principalities, margravates, duchies and palatinates as well.

At this point the wider green movement is likely to lose its bioregional nerve. Its members will want to subscribe to Sale's declaration that 'Bioregionalism . . . not merely tolerates but thrives upon the diversities of human behaviour' (ibid., p. 234); but, as images of slavery and sexism come to mind, misty eyes will snap into focus and greens will remember that they are as much the heirs of the Enlightenment tradition as its committed critics. They most certainly believe that 'their model of postindustrialism will maximise democracy, freedom, tolerance, equality and other rationalist values which made their appearance in Europe a few hundred years ago' (Frankel, 1987, p. 180), and in this respect the bioregional imperative of diversity is tempered by the desire to universalize messages most often associated with liberal democracy.

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