The Big Here: an education in place

Bioregionalist Kevin Kelly writes about The Big Here.

"You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital."

The bioregional vision stresses the importance of watersheds. We all live within one. A watershed carries water "shed" from the land after rain falls and snow melts. Drop by drop, water is channeled into soils, groundwaters, creeks, and streams, making its way to larger rivers and eventually the sea. Water is a universal solvent, affected by all that it comes in contact with: the land it traverses, and the soils through which it travels. The important thing about watersheds is: What we do on the land affects water quality for all communities living downstream. It's an important way to understand our connection with the planet. And it's a meaningful way to divide and understand regions -- in contrast to the political divides of counties or states and nations.

We can't heal the whole planet but we can actively and effectively work to repair damage within our watersheds and live in ways that allow their life and human communities to endure. I have lived on three or four different watersheds in my life, and have gotten better at knowing about them. How many have you lived on? Which watershed to you live on now?

Along with figuring out one’s ecological footprint,the bioregional quiz is a helpful tool for developing a concept of one’s connections with nature’s resources. We ran a short version of it on this Eco Catholic blog last December. The advantage of the quiz is that it focuses on “place,” that is, a local or regional context. This awareness can support better local choices. And, as Kelly suggests, places are interconnected.

-- Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available.
-- From what direction do storms generally come?
-- Where does your garbage go?
-- Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood?
-- Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?
-- Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?
-- Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?
-- Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?
-- How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?
-- Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?
-- What was the total rainfall here last year?
-- What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here?
-- Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years.
-- What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable?
-- Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated?
-- After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go?
-- Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it?
-- How many days till the moon is full?

The Bigger Here bonus questions:
-- What species once found here are known to have gone extinct?
-- What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude?
-- What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago?
-- Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.

For recommendations on how to find answers to each of the questions, see Kelly's post.