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How Hylo gets us to thriving, resilient bioregions.
The bioregion is an emergent membrane expressed by the land herself--a palimpsest of topography, watersheds, human activity, and the territories of the more-than-human world. Because these membranes emerge from the landscape, and are the way that human communities organized themselves for generations, they form an organic polity that places humans in solidarity with each other through the terrain they share.
We are crafting Hylo to support the development of thriving and resilient bioregions. This requires a cultural shift towards identifying with the land we live on, and stepping into responsibility and stewardship of that land. It requires that each of us learn to collaborate with folks who might be very different from us, but who depend equally on the resilience of our shared landscape. It requires thoughtful tools to surface information about our landscape, the governance capabilities to make shared decisions to care for that land, and the coordination power to take action.
This is our theory of change: We are designing Hylo to build relationships and strengthen trust, which are keys to unlocking collective sensemaking, choice-making, and action.
For example, the home bioregion of Hylo's stewards is the Bay Area of California. The counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay are some of the most abundant agricultural areas in the United States, but wildfire and drought are features of the landscape at this time. We are using Hylo to connect folks in this bioregion who care about regeneration and ecosystem restoration. Our plan is to provide education about the bioregion, including land management techniques like fire management, while building relationships among land stewards and urban dwellers alike who recognize our shared dependence on the living health of the land.
We envision a future where relationships based on trust allow neighboring land stewards to make collective land management decisions, and people from all over the bioregion come together to help implement them. Wildfires don't care whether a person is a Republican or a Democrat or something else - we're all equally at catastrophic risk. And we're equally served by learning as one united people to be in proper relationship with fire and manage the land accordingly. For this we must elevate and restore the leadership of Indigenous relatives and attend to the wisdom of Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Care for the land and her people crosses the arbitrary political boundaries of county, state, and border. It crosses the identities and polarities that are used to divide us. When we have the cultural will and proper tools to coordinate beyond these boundaries, then we have a foundation for resilience amidst climate chaos and a pathway for every bioregion to thrive.
This is the suite of features we're designing to meet this vision. Some of these are currently being co-created with our partners at OpenTEAM and Regen Foundation. We are seeking additional partnership and resources to implement the complete vision.
Bioregions are subjective. They overlap. They are messy. People have their own ideas about the outlines of their community. We won't impose our own ideas for bioregional boundaries on the participants of Hylo, because to do so would perpetuate the colonialism we seek liberation from. What we will do is invite folks into default bioregions based on their location, or provide the option to outline your own.
Groups and individuals will be invited to join bioregional groups based on their location.
To be good stewards, we need high quality information about the land we live on. The best information comes from direct contact with the land and an ongoing relationship with the more-than-human world. This relational knowledge can be supported by geospatial data at the landscape level: soil type, flora and fauna populations, hydrology, fire data, carrying capacity, Indigenous territory. We plan to incorporate these layers into the Hylo map to add dimension to our understanding of the land we call home.
We intend to give bioregional groups the same governance and finance tools that we are designing for groups of land stewards. We want to conduct a pilot program with a bioregion to see if these tools can advance bioregional regeneration. Here’s what we envision:
- The residents of a bioregion make proposals for restoration and regeneration projects, with other residents collaborating and voting to allocate resources.
- The residents of a bioregion make governance decisions together about how to steward shared resources, like forests and bodies of water.
The high-level goal is to create an economic engine where each bioregion has a funding pool to invest in regenerative projects, which then generate ecological, social, and financial returns. This funding could come at first from philanthropy, but later be generated by staking rewards from public blockchains (like Regen Ledger), or even bioregional currencies backed by the living health of the land.
Ultimately, we recognize the land is our kin and should be honored with legal protections, not treated as a commodity. We intend to introduce the idea of land having personhood on Hylo, just like human persons do. We’ll want to involve our partners, including Indigenous leaders and Rights of Nature advocates, in discussing what this may entail. Here are our inquiries:
- How might we give land a voice through technology?
- How does land participate in governance?
- How does governance of a place-based group happen?
- How might we handle the complexities of land tenure and honoring Indigenous stewardship?
The Hylo stewardship team is based on Ohlone land in the Bay Area bioregion of Northern California, and on the lands of the Nooksack people in the Cascadia / Salmon Nation bioregion of NW Washington. Our organization Terran Collective conducts experiments in bioregional organizing. As we test these features in our own bioregional communities, we will share our findings with the global community of bioregional practitioners.