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Bioregions and future state visioning: a visually integrative approach to the presentation of information for environmental policy and management.

Ball, Jonathan


Jonathan Ball


Seaton Baxter

David Miller

John Berry


This thesis explores the comparatively new philosophy of bioregionalism to see what it might have to offer the environmental management process. The foundations of bioregional philosophy stretch back into the early part of last century with roots in the thinking of the early 'anarchist geographers' such as Peter Kropotkin. Input also comes from contemporaneous regionalist planners such as Patrick Geddes and Lewis Mumford. However, it was not until the early 1970s that Alan van Newkirk coined the phrase 'Bioregion'. Since then there has been steady growth in bioregional literature that clearly aligns it to ecocentric philosophies that are embraced by social movements like Deep Ecology. However, the most important part of bioregionalism is the bioregions construct. Whatever the philosophical inclinations of bioregionalist authors, the bioregion is presented as an identifiable entity, which is suited to be the basis for the formulation of strategy and planning and it is this that is of interest to this thesis. The basis for the study is the hypothesis that the need for a holistic approach to environmental management and planning requires more than the incremental approaches currently used, if tragedies like Easter Island are not to be repeated on a larger scale. The idea of future state visioning is taken from industry and commerce and given an environmental perspective to provide the visionary dimension required by such a holistic process. However, a visionary process is best served by a visualization tool, particularly where non-expert, community participation is deemed essential. The process of mapping bioregions is just such a tool. The proposal that bioregional mapping is suitable as a tool requires that bioregions, as a construct, are demonstrable entities, as claimed by the literature. Tberefore, a mapping exercise that allowed the testing of this principle was undertaken for Scotland as the test area. A methodology was developed, using a Geographical Information System to assist in the mapping and analysis. Statistical analysis of the resultant theoretical bioregional model showed that the bioregions had good agreement with other methods of dividing Scotland into regions. They also showed better agreement with these other regionalisations than politically defined regions. The notion that watersheds can be substituted for bioregions was rejected. Therefore, it was shown that bioregions are demonstrable entities,albeit sensitive to scale. The bioregions produced from first principles were compared to an independent qualitatively developed model, The results of this comparison reinforces a suggestion that a 'science of quantities' needs to be tempered by a 'science of qualities' when stakeholder participation and interpretation is important. The dramatic story of the social and environmental collapse of Easter Island is a metaphor for the situation facing the Earth, as a whole on the one hand, and to introduce the arguments of sustainability and regionality on the other. Easter Island is isolated, with almost no external inputs, like the Earth, but on a different scale. However, it is also a part of the Earth. From many sources, there is agreement that the natural environment of the Earth is under threat, not just on the local scale but on a global scale as well. Bioregions are proposed as a holistic way of mapping the environment to inform the future state visioning process, which is offered as a tool at the level of strategic management. Bioregional mapping and environmental future state visioning were proposed as vehicles for stakeholder participation and the recognition of cultural factors in environmental management and planning. Future work should include investigating future state visioning solutions to more localised and community focused environmental management problems. Scotland, as the subject for analysis, provides a manageable compromise between the extreme isolation and singularity of Easter Island and the multiplicity of the regions of the world. Scotland is an area that has good data on its various forms of regionality, including cultural and biogeographic regions.


BALL, J. 1999. Bioregions and future state visioning: a visually integrative approach to the presentation of information for environmental policy and management. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 1, 2010
Publicly Available Date Oct 1, 2010
Public URL
Award Date Nov 30, 1999


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