Sunday, May 01, 2011

Quotes from Toward a Bioregional State, the Book


This post summarizes some of the book, in quotes. I use the third person to describe myself below.

In his 2005 book Toward a Bioregional State: A Series of Letters About Political Theory and Formal Institutional Design in the Era of Sustainability, Mark D. Whitaker argues for another version of the green state. This version of the green state is a slow strategic and institutional means toward greater sustainability starting from our lack of sustainability presently.

This is different from other ideas of a green state for three rationales: first, other green state ideas start at the artificial point of an already achieved sustainability so they are mere philosophical conjectures of what a state might look like from the point of view of some mental conjectures about a non-existent situation; and second, therefore, other green state ideas ignore the most important issues: they are lifeless and without pragmatic strategies to move from unsustainability to sustainability; third, other forms of the green state only analyze state institutions in an artificial isolation from the rest of the political economy and the material world. Because of this third point, there seems to be a strange construct in others' view of the green state as if the state is some magical creation that can force change of the politics of society instead of seeing the state as merely being a reflection of the wider distribution of systemic power in other areas and in itself. Therefore, in the bioregional state, the green state is related to environmental capacity building in the real world in steady, slow, pragmatic steps from unsustainability to sustainability.

Toward a Bioregional State offers many strategic ways to move from unsustainability to sustainability by adjusting the wider political dynamics of state institutions, other institutions, and commodity choices as a means toward sustainability. Thus, the model for both unsustainability and sustainability are based on the same dynamics between formal politics, informal politics, and the environmental context, though a sustainable society has a more representative form of dynamics in its material choices, and an unsustainable society has a more unrepresentative dynamics in its material choices. A fully representative society is sustainable and uses sustainable materials. An unsustainable society is corrupt, and corruption creates unsustainability that locks in unsustainable materials from any removal or critique.

Therefore, bioregional democracy (or the Bioregional State) is a set of electoral reforms*, green constitutional engineering additions**, and larger Ecological Reformation like commodity reforms*** designed to force the political process in a democracy to better represent majority concerns about the economy, the body, and environmental concerns (e.g., water quality), toward developmental paths that are locally prioritized and tailored to different areas for their own specific interests of sustainability and durability. This movement is variously called bioregional democracy, watershed cooperation, or bioregional representation, or one of various other similar names--all of which denote democratic control of a natural commons [2] and local jurisdictional dominance in any economic developmental path decisions--while not removing more generalized civil rights protections and other conflict resolutions of a larger national state.
* - This is the informal level of politics that requires greater checks and balances to create a competitive party system that competes for 100% of the vote instead of competes to exclude the electorate. This is achievable with proportional representation with majoritarian allotment (PRMA), and watershed based election districts [2] (among other things), described in the book. A truly competitive party system creates sustainability by creating representative elites. An unrepresentative-elite-biased, gatekeeping party system creates unsustainability by rejecting such concerns by building a formal institutional arrangement and materials policy that is designed to be degradative and unrepresentative.

** - This is the formal level of politics that requires greater numbers of checks and balances to avoid an unsustainable, unrepresentative state developmental policy; in an unrepresentative, unsustainable society, the state becomes formally structured to serve informal gatekeeping interests and forms of gatekept clientelism instead of to serve multiple real locations within its territory. This means green constitutional engineering: the phrase exclusively for the additions to the formal state apparatus. Plus, this means Ecological Reformation: the phrase for taking into account more than the state in how to improve the representation of a state elite's larger dynamic interactions with other power interests in society like the sciences/research institutions, consumption institutions [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8], and financial institutions. In this way, 'green politics' is hardly a special category of politics, and it is hardly best served by an ideological party since environmental concern and support for health, ecology, and local economics comes from across the political spectrum for green politics. Green politics is a natural form of politics in that it merely means fully representative democracy, where elites are representative instead of gatekeeping on development policy concerns.

*** - This is the level of material politics and potential conflicts between different commodities for the same positional use, where the outcome gets biased toward unsustainable, unrepresentative choices without a formal means to maintain multiple local choices of materials for the same social uses. This is an important material check and balance on power in corrupt materials domination. Demotion of local ecological self-interest, its ethnobotany, and the resulting natural bioregionalism worldwide leads to unsustainability. Different durable human uses of local commodities are a resourceful, material, and market-based check and balance against the collusion of corrupt state, science, finance, and consumptive powers actively demoting or passively gatekeeping against our many choices for sustainability we already have.
Instead of being as anti-market as Eckersley (2004), and instead of being as trusting of state elites as she is, Whitaker argues for concentration on constitutional engineering that will create a less corrupted state developmentalism and a more representative developmentalism instead. A politically biased market is seen as the origin of environmental degradation, instead of markets per se, so there are required checks and balances in both the state and in maintaining consumer choices in markets for different consumptive categories, to maintain sustainability. Many more durable and local regional commodities are required as material checks and balances against any potentials of larger unrepresentative versions of commodities in their categories. For example, oil, from once just a market choice, has become a corrupt unrepresentative regime of elites created by governmental corruption via the artificial removal of consumer choices more than markets. I suggest watching the film Who Killed the Electric Car (2005), as well as this:

Dirty Oil - A Documentary on The Alberta Tar Sands (2009)


The bioregional state is in the interest of long term sustainability of multiple ecoregions and bioregions as a check and balance against the materially consolidating effects of interaction between governmental corruption and consolidation with private economic consolidation and their equal responsibility for the reduction of market choices and destruction of real areas of the world. It's "environmental degradation without representation" that the bioregional state proposals solve.

Thus, Whitaker argues that the basis of environmental degradation is not capitalism or market relations. Environmental degradation is supremely caused by unrepresentative state elite decisions and how they manipulate markets to serve particular consolidated materials, so solutions should focus on additional formal checks and balances against these informal 'ecological tyrannies', via more green constitutional engineering. A poorly designed formal state apparatus in the past has led to unrepresentative, informal elite gatekeeping on state economic developmentalism. Such political corruption biases material choices of the whole society toward economic consolidation with the reduction of market choices per category of use. This process of unsustainability is political corruption. It is connected to market corruption and the expansion of environmental degradation and consumers being held captive within degradative choices of unrepresentative elites and the removal of more sustainable choices simultaneously. The political developmental power of the state has been captured by unrepresentative raw material regimes that gatekeep against political or material choices far more sustainable that we already have.

Two Levels of Changes: Larger and Smaller

The bioregional state proposals are for two levels of changes: a set of larger formal checks and balances on the state level [2] in interaction with other institutions as well as a set of two smaller, local grass roots organizations called commodity ecology and a civic democratic institution. The latter are to be implemented in all watersheds of the world as a material and cultural form of check and balance, respectively, against larger corrupt state developmentalism creating environmental degradation. Both larger and smaller levels work together in the bioregional state for a more representative state developmentalism.

Ecoregions as Political Feedback Against Unsustainable Developmentalism

Particularly within the proposals in the Bioregional State, ecoregions or watersheds aid in facilitation of the innate "ecological self-interest" of people. The "ecological self-interest" of peoples aim always to avoid externalities in human health, ecology, or economic relations that are impressed upon people living in a particular ecological area by potentially unrepresentative informal politics guided from larger state frameworks. Worldwide, one way to bring this type of ecological self-interest in sync with developmental policies would be to make watersheds/ecoregions as the mandated form for electoral districting and judicial dictricting, providing ecological based checks and balances in politics and the administration of law and lawsuits, respectively. This brings ecological self-interest in sync with state politics and courts instead of out of sync with it. A watershed based electoral districting and judicial districting provides feedback against unsustainable developmentalism policies in particular areas; provides for a more competitive informal party framework that removes the gerrymandered and uncompetitive districting that is key to how informal gatekeeping is involved in maintaining unsustainable development; as well provides an ongoing formal mechanism--legislative and judicial--for particular areas to participate in deliberations of developmental decisions within larger state levels for their own ecologically specific sustainable paths.

The wider argument of the Bioregional State is that much of unsustainable developmentalism comes from how exclusionary and undemocratic political, judicial, and material gatekeeping is organized and maintained in ostensibly "formal democracies."

The wider argument of the Bioregional State is that its frameworks are an improvement on democracy in general, that removes many different levels of elitist, exclusionary political gatekeeping which promotes unsustainable abuses in these three areas. Watersheds as electoral districts or judicial districts are only some of the more "charismatic" examples in the Bioregional State for how to operationalize local ecological self-interest as an ecological check and balance solution on the level of districting, against this wider potential issue of gatekeeping.
"The United States is used as the running example in Toward a Bioregional State, though the book argues "general structural requirements for all states as they move towards sustainability....Structurally, the state in general requires changing, instead of only a change on the level of political party ideas for instance." [Foreword, p. v]

Quotes from the Book

Other selected quotes about the green formal state in the bioregional state:

"A formal green political framework--sustainable and durable instead of unsustainable and self-destructive--innately comes about once further checks and balances are in operation that change the incentive contexts of informal power to be more fluid, more competitive, and more representative. Presently, informal power is a form of gatekeeping: collusive and unrepresentative. Enlightenment democratic theory and democratic institutional design require an update in order to check and balance against the corruptions of informal power and the part it plays in warping state developmentalism [influenced by biases in politics, judicial decisions, and material gatekeeping and market demotion choice for consumers] towards unsustainable goals. So, onward: toward the bioregional state." [p. x]

"State structures are far from the only aspect of importance [see, Ecological Reformation], though they are a formal requirement. I am working on other issues beside the state--the institutional interactions between science, finance, and consumption are equally important in sustainability because the ‘state’ influences consumptive politics in these four issues." [p. v]

"A strong 'civil society' based on representative and inclusive institutions and districts that allow for a registering of geographic bailiwicks, instead of quarantining voters in uncompetitive clientelistic districts. State policies matter, and state policies will either make, break, create, or demote bioregionalism. Without the formal architecture, a sustainable politics from whatever party will always be marginalized, because the structures are organized to marginalize 'that type of voting:' environmental feedback on the state." [p. 18]

"If anything greens should support four different changes, four criteria and requirements for a democracy in practice: (1) geographically inclusive districts, (2) proportional representation with majoritarian allotment clause [PRMA] that sets up a context for 100% maximization of voting, (3) lack of 'special' legislation marginalizing third parties, and (4) 'clean elections.'" [p. 55]

"Simply because the political districts are drawn in a certain way, it only looks like Green issues are in a 'minority' everywhere. The polls show otherwise." [p. 87]

"Under proportional representation with a majoritarian allotment, then the Greens and Libertarian statutory rights for recounts in states where they were listed can be used as a real incentive to them directly under the potential for proportional allotment." [p. 115]

"In a nutshell I see the bioregional state as keeping the social and legal centralized around human rights discourses and keeping the economics decentralized [as a form of check and balance materially for consumer options and bioregions to be maintained economically, without environmental degradation from corrupt, consolidated frameworks; this encourages only forms of economic consolidation that are democratically accepted as well as environmentally sustainable, in league with multiple local areas of bioregional sustainability]. That to me is a bioregionalist green perspective on "what is to be done." It embraces what I feel has been the best of 'modernism' and democratic frameworks of nation-states while rejecting what has been the worst: its support for subsidizes for privatized centralized corporations presently swarming and destroying it because it still has the institutional capacity of being a jurisdictional route for checking and balancing against corporate power. This is hardly to say that the nation-state frameworks by themselves can regulate what has become a degradative transnational corporate framework. For that, other methods will have to be addressed. However, this bioregional letter discusses how to adapt the best of the nation-state to a process of [maintaining] economic decentralization [as a check and balance against materially on larger material corruption and state/corporate consolidation and as a check and balance to maintain consumer choices] instead of using it as a framework for protection of privatized monopolies that subsidize themselves toward environmental degradation." [p. 210]

"What particular issues do I see worthy of decentralizing, and other issues worthy of 'keeping' consolidated? What changes am I talking about for a Green platform that would facilitate 'structural bioregionalism'? If sustainability is to be institutionalized, then many frameworks in existence are illegitimate and sustaining only environmental degradation.

1. ON THE STATE AND NATIONAL LEVEL FRAMEWORK formal voting representation changes are required for structuring bioregionalism. The majoritarian voting procedure is a big mistake, when durable 40% or more are kept out of formal politics." [toward PRMA] [p. 214]

"2. GET TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS OUT OF UNIVERSITIES OR THE SCIENCE DEPARTMENTS THERE or make universities less attractive to them. All the mobilizations against the food services industries and prison service industry complicity are a start, particularly in campus recycling movements. If the schools in question are public land grant colleges, they should be questioned why they are destroying the land, air, and water, (and human nutrition and expanding pollution based diseases) in the service of unsustainable corporations. The practice of unsustainability is tangibly breeding in American universities, and this is exported worldwide [while some Universities are already moving toward sustainability with departments of Permaculture and Agroforestry, for example] [p. 219]

"3. GENDER, ETHNIC, SEXUALITY, HANDICAP, AGE, RELIGION EQUALITY issues. This is what I mentioned above: keeping social and legal recourses available on the national level against the parochial localisms that demote them, as a sort of legal check and balances of the social against the economic. I know very well that the inverse can happen--a corrupting, socially biased, centralized state supporting social inequality as well. That is why I suggest the CDI (Civic Democratic Institution--in other bioregional letters) on the local level as well. it is important to maintain both the local and the national as means of checking and balancing each other's biases, so those living under social inequality and discrimination have multiple outlets for their political input--instead of only one easily co-opted [gatekept] recourse of action." [p. 219]

"4. CONSUMPTION. Invest in local food infrastructures, in sustainable organics [and in sustainable interactions in the 92 material choices for local regions--see Commodity Ecology.] This brings in tow sustainable nutrition, sustainable jobs, sustainable farmers, sustainable markets. Two states already have established state level committees/plans on hunger and food security issues and for facilitating 'buy local' sourcing of state governments. These states are Connecticut and Iowa. That they are both very rural and very urbanized states shows that it is possible to work for sustainable localism in both urban and rural contexts. Plus, the number of farmers markets has skyrocketed in the past 10 years according to USDA data. People know they are being lied to by voluntary or misleading corporate labeling and consolidated supermarkets. Supermarkets typically only make about 1% profit markup, are thus are very sensitive to changing consumer demand and can easily be forced to change their sourcing practices for food items.

Frame bioregionalist green policies and institutions as a decided mix of national and localist polices. I consider the mantra here as widening citizen and consumer choice to include the local and sustainable (which is demoted by a corporatist degradative political framework), as well as stabilizing local economies, instead of as a reduction of choice. People, sure, can (and will) still shop at Walmart if they want. However, the point is stepping up ways and policies for creating more choices, for institutionalizing locality. Exposing the biased [corruptible and degradative] subsidies (road extensions, tax breaks, etc.) that support such Walmart[-style] operations is another strategy. This can go hand in hand with supporting more local choice.

5. URBAN PLANNING AND LAND USE. Sprawl is ecocide. Real estate speculators are the enemy: they overbuild for the rich and underbuild for the middle income or (the expanding) poor." [p. 220]

"6. FINANCE. Consolidated finance is the enemy and is a major driver of environmental degradation, destruction of localism, and political exclusion in the overall process. When the United States allowed interstate banking franchises, the ensuing consolidation was a huge policy mistake if the point of democratic government is to be to insure social, fiscal, democratic, and ecological accountability. Break up financial conglomerates, for they are the funders of ecological degradation 'big projects' almost exclusively. [Money, as one of the 92 material choices, requires checks and balances as well: local and state level currencies are required to be allowed as legal tender for all debts, public and private, to check and balance against the corrupt clientelism of dependence based on only having a consumer option of one national level currency with its potential manipulations against store of value in ongoing inflation and deflation.] That is only one of the connections I see to the 'anti-corporate globalization' movement I feel here, with green bioregionalism. In conclusion, I see these type of strategic points as getting people thinking synergistically about local changes for sustainability as an institutional changes, as a sustainability facilitation movement. Sustainability requires a particular plan for widening voter and consumer choices on the local level, for removing the gatekept clientelism--whether as consumers or as citizens--that simply frame human beings as support networks for environmental degradation inducing organizations. These institutional changes for sustainability are both concerned with informal party competition facilitation for voter choice and for more biophilic formal institutional frameworks whether they be the state, the sciences, finance, or consumption. Inversely, the point about environmental degradation is that it is a facilitation network of formal institutional and political endeavor that involves a great deal of informal corruption in how consumption is organized by political interests to remove choice and to force large scale, consolidated, clientelistic relationships upon people and the planet at large--instead of to allow a sustainable, more direct experience of people in the local places in which they all live. Removing the consolidated informal clientelism that arches across the state, the sciences, the finances, and in consumption is key to removing environmental degradation. There should be additional checks and balances formally instituted that guard against their interlocks in society at large. To facilitate more direct localism in these institutions is to facilitate the expansion of choice in local consumptive options. This is key to moving toward sustainability." [p. 221]

Chapter 20 rewrites the U.S. Constitution (without removing anything) by adding the ecological checks and balances, with an additional Ecological Bill of Rights.

"[T]his is a Constitutional blueprint for sustainability, regardless of geography or epoch, as it represents general requirements of governments in administrating and creating the conditions of sustainability, and maintaining the process of sustainability." [p. 222]

"We the People of the world, removing the burdens of unsustainability imposed on us by unrepresentative frameworks of government, science, finance, and consumption, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common social and ecological defense with the political inclusion of trading arrangements, promote the general Welfare therein, and do engrain ourselves and direct our governments to move towards [the freedom of] sustainability and away from the tyranny of unsustainability to secure the Blessings of Sustainability and its Liberties to ourselves and our Posterity. We ordain and establish this Constitution of Sustainability." [p. 224]

Additional wording in the Ecological Bill of Rights are as follows:

"Article 16. A well regulated Militia, jurisdictionally being based on watersheds, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." [p. 262]

"Article 17. Section 1. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Section 2. Military shall be prohibited from conducting or participating in civil police work." [p. 262]

"Article 24. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the people inhabiting particular watersheds and States respectively, in that order, or to the people as a whole." [p. 263]

"Article 27. Section 1. In the interest of a competitive party environment for democratic elections, where candidates are potentially independent of private capital for the launching and maintaining of campaigns or their content, all Local, State, and Federal Elections shall be publicly funded. Additionally, see Article II, Section 18.

Section 2. No where are private public relations personnel or advertising personnel to be employed by the local, state, or federal governments, or funded by the local, state, or federal governments. The government itself is already public relations incarnate and can speak for itself to the people.

Section 3. In all political party campaigns for office, political parties shall be prohibited from appointing personnel to their informal party administration of an election campaign from any simultaneously incumbent personnel in power in a state.

Section 4. Complete transparency and paper-based auditability of the entire voting infrastructure in local, state, and federal elections shall be maintained as a public jurisdictional issue.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation [for national elections; other local bodies will have regulatory jurisdictions on their requisite elections infrastructure, checkable on larger levels of jurisdiction.]" [p. 264-5]

"Article 29 Section 1. The Constitution of Sustainability shall support bodily integrity of all citizens and species. There are bodily rights beyond which all government shall keep from challenging and instead shall maintain them, running the gamut from environmental pollution issues that impinge on bodily integrity, to food issues, to commodity monitoring, to surveillance, and to abortion. The Constitution of Sustainability is based on bodily rights and bodily integrity assured through these rights. Government is limited to a social operation regulating only spaces and activities between individuals for sustainability and for human rights instead of regulating or having any jurisdiction on internal bodily activities or personal decisions about one’s own body. Attempts of some to pressure government to enforce certain moralities to regulate internal bodily issues are forms of bodily tyranny that break the skin barrier that government shall not pass. The Constitution of Sustainability shall assure bodily integrity through upholding bodily rights, instead of demoting them.

Section 2. State or private mandated implants or collars of various sorts for tracking humans shall be prohibited.

Section 3. State forced medication and external electro-magnetic manipulation of mental or bodily states shall be prohibited.

Section 4. In the interest of female bodily integrity, the female bodily right to choose abortion or birth control technologies or medications shall not be infringed.

Section 5. All peaceable citizens shall have the right to anonymous, publicly unmonitored outdoor civic spaces as to be free of intimidation as part of the proper redress of grievances against Government.

Section 6. Citizens have the right to unadulterated, healthful, organic foods. Citizens have the right to unadulterated environment, air, water, and earth.

Section 7. Citizens have the right to complete information on the path a commodity takes to their purchase.

Section 8. The Constitution of Sustainability shall preserve the unmonitorability and anonymity of citizens, extending to any commodities once they are purchased, in the interests of checking against undue state or corporate power against the individual. The bodily right to be unmonitored shall extend to post purchasing behavior.

Section 9. On the contrary, for public elected officials and appointees, live camera monitoring shall occur in all of their publicly funded office spaces, courtrooms, fully viewable and recordable by the public at large on demand..." [p. 265-6]

Chapter 26, the concluding chapter, is an index summarizing 37 additional formal checks and balances for a bioregional green state:

"[This chapter] pieces together all the issues mentioned in the Constitution of Sustainability and discusses them separately in terms of the four different types of checks and balances that are the additional requirements for linking democracy and sustainability. These additional checks and balances are missing in existing democratic frameworks which leads to state corruption from which follows environmental degradation...As of this writing, there are 37 institutional design points with 45 different checks and balances issues--since many of the 37 points have multiple checks and balances taken into account.

To get a general picture of these 45 considerations that have gone into additional checks and balances issues of the bioregional state, they are...grouped as concentrating on adding checks and balances above in this manner: formal-to-formal: 21; informal-to-informal: 5; informal-to-formal: 19." [p. 315, 335]

All of them are conceived of as ecological checks and balances, due to their effects on creating a political process without elite gatekeeping in elections, courts, and materials that has maintained and expanded environmental degradation.

So to get to sustainability:

"In the past 20 years, European sociologist Ulrich Beck has noted our whole political outlook has moved into a 'risk society' framework. He describes a nexus of politics that has moved from merely fighting for a distribution of material goods, into one more and more fighting to get rid of 'environmental bads.' Even though from comparative historical analysis, I would disagree that there is something novel or modern about this type of citizen pressure for environmental amelioration, I believe I am the first to take these ideas and apply them to formal institutional democratic theory by asking what kinds of additions to democracy would be required to facilitate an ecologically sound democracy, in order to let democracy as a process get rid of these 'environmental bads' through facilitating an ecologically sound democratic politics.

"In conclusion, I believe I have described something worthy of consideration--both because it is a novel idea and because it has a prescriptive intent even to the level of offering ideas for slow strategic implementation. I believe this will be a gauntlet for the next millennium that will define the existing issues of formal democratic political theory as innately flawed and totally politically illegitimate without addressing the main issues raised in the bioregional state: how to establish checks and balances on the competitive informal gatekeeping organizational contexts of parties, how to create a competitive marketplace of ideas in the party context, how to make parties compete for the full electorate instead of collude for the partial electorate, and how to align the state with the innately geographic specific issues of citizenship expression [to remove material gatekeeping as well]." [p. xxi]


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2/02/2012 5:02 AM  

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