Goddard's IMA program helped sponsor the Continental Bioregional Congress, held Oct. 3-10 in Summertown, Tenn. at the Farm, an ecovillage that began as an intentional community over 40 years when Stephen and Ina Mae Gaskin led a caravan of buses from San Francisco around the country. The original caravan began after a group of interdenominational ministers set up a tour for Stephen to speak to churches around the country to create between understanding between small communities and their young people, who were becoming increasingly involved in social protest. What started as a speaking tour ended up as a vibrant community with over 3,000 acres of land, and approximately 500 residents, plenty of ecologically-designed homes and energy systems, and a variety of businesses (including publishing, chocolate manufacturing, tofu, solar panel, and midwifery through the work and writings of Ina Mae Gaskin, who wrote Spiritual Midwifery).
The Continental Bioregional Congress, founded in 1984, brings together people from throughout the Americas to explore ecologically-informed ways of living, including housing, energy, health, community and eco-community awareness, and the arts. Bioregionalism, which focuses on learning how to live from where we live, and then crafting lives in concert with our ecosystems, is well-described by bioregional writer Stephanie Mills:
"Bioregionalism recognizes, nurtures, sustains and celebrates our local connections with: Land, Plants and Animals, Springs, Rivers, Lakes, Groundwater & Oceans, Air, Families, Friends, Neighbors, Community, Native Traditions and Indigenous Systems of Production & Trade. It is taking the time to learn the possibilities of place. It is a mindfulness of local environment, history, and community aspirations that leads to a sustainable future. It relies on safe and renewable sources of food and energy. It ensures employment by supplying a rich diversity of services within the community, by recycling our resources, and by exchanging prudent surpluses with other regions. Bioregionalism is working to satisfy basic needs locally, such as education, health care and self-governance."
What bioregional offers is also very congruent with the IMA's place-based studies in its Environmental Studies concentration: "The work of the concentration bridges nature, culture, community, sustainability, restoration, justice, and action as areas of inquiry, art, and practice. By looking particularly at the concept of place as an integrating bridge between these areas, students can conduct interdisciplinary, individualized studies that bring greater meaning and a sense of wholeness to themselves and their communities."
The congress itself is a bioregional model in action, or according to many, a ceremonial village of learning about ecology as it relates to our home communities. Coming together in congress, participants educate themselves, share resources, celebrate bioregional arts, and represent ecologically-focused communities from north of Toronto to deep in Venezuela. Because of Goddard's support, which was ear-marked for scholarships for people from south of the Border, along with other support, close to 80% of the 162 participants came from Mexico, Central America and South America, where bioregionalism has particularly taken hold and launched many centers, ecovillages, traveling arts troupes and political, economic and social projects.
Pictures (from top): Stephen Gaskin between Fabio Manzini, ecological architect from Mexico, and Laura Kuri, the key organizer of bioregionalism in Mexico; a participant hanging around at the Farm; writer Stephanie Mills with IMA faculty member, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; Leonor Fuguet, Venezuelan activist and eco-troubadour; some participants at the All Species Pageant and Ball; tending the fire after the congress was called together by Native American elders from the area.