Step 1: Learning from nature in Northeast Ohio
Until you know this place and the natural systems that support life here, it’s hard to know how to take care of it. So the first step is to explore the bioregion, root yourself here, learn to love your home territory.
Where do you live?
It seems like a simple question. You live in Cleveland—or Shaker Heights, Lakewood, Lorain, Medina, Mentor, Akron, Kent. And you live on a particular street in a building with a particular address.
But what if you tried to describe where you live without using the names of cities or streets? What if you couldn't refer to any of the artificial lines which humans have drawn on a map? What then? What reference points would be left?
Well, if you couldn't use the geographical boundaries which humans have imposed on the landscape, you would be forced to look at the landscape itself. You might, for example, say your home is near a river or a lake. Or you might live in an area characterized by a beech-maple forest or outcroppings of a certain erosion-resistant sandstone. Or the dominant feature in your life might be an urban landscape of concrete and asphalt. In any case, you would have to look about your home with fresh eyes and find new landmarks. And, ultimately, your new way of defining your home territory—your new "address"— would tell a lot about what you value in your surroundings.
This creative act of redefining your home territory in terms of patterns in the landscape is the essence of bioregionalism. A bioregion, or life-place, is a geographic area of interconnected natural systems and their characteristic watersheds, landforms, species and human cultures. It's a place that "hangs together" in ecological and human terms.
The first step in living a sustainable life is to discover your bioregion—come to know it deeply. It starts with understanding the natural systems that support life in a place. As the writer Wendell Berry has said, there are three essential questions: "What is here? What will nature permit us to do here? What will nature help us do here?" Until you have answered these questions, you can’t take care of a place -- and you won’t live successfully in a place for long.
This Explore section of the website offers a guide to the bioregion of Northeast Ohio. It’s an invitation to slow down, look around, and learn about this amazing place on the shore of a Great Lake.
And the more you explore and learn to love this place, the more this place will nurture you.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
— T.S. Eliot
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