Environmental sociologist Mark D. Whitaker is a comparative historical researcher on the politics of environmental degradation and sustainability. Toward A Bioregional State is his novel approach to development and to sustainability. He proposes that instead of sustainability being an issue of population scale, managerial economics, or technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically "out of sync". He argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here-only waiting to be formally organized.
FOREWORD This is a series of letters similar to the Federalist Papers, though it is written by a bioregional “Publius.” Publius was the pen name adopted by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, as they made their arguments in popular newspapers for their popularizing of the United States Constitution, in the 1780s. However, unlike them, this is a bioregional Publius who wants democracy in practice instead of democracy in the abstract, and one who wants sustainability instead of unsustainability. We are facing a similar project presently, I am arguing—how can we achieve a democracy that is environmentally sustainable, when the present frameworks of democracy are what are leading us into environmental degradation? The following is a list of requirements, as well as arguments for why these requirements should be adopted, and why the present forms of government in the United States are leading us toward environmental degradation, low voter turnouts, and unrepresentative parties. However, what I am arguing is that these are general structural requirements for all states as they move towards sustainability, instead of talking only about the United States. The United States can be considered the running example in these letters though. Structurally, the state in general requires changing, instead of only a change on the level of political party ideas for instance. These bioregional letters propose how existing unsustainable states could be ‘made over’ into sustainable states: typically, a different topic is addressed in each letter. There are 26 bioregional letters—so far. State structures are far from the only aspect of importance, 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. You can browse the bioregional letters by looking at the table of contents. However, I suggest reading them in the order they were created by following the letters for continuity, since they build upon themselves instead of represent separate topics. The 20th letter is a petition that ‘ecologizes’ the U.S. Constitution, compiling into a single document all the formal framework ideas for working towards sustainability. This book is devoted to the formal state, and to what kind of formal state is required for sustainability. .... INTRODUCTION: POLITICAL THEORY AND INSTITUTIONAL DESIGN IN THE ERA OF SUSTAINABILITY; AND A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE BIOREGIONAL STATE ---------- This is a wholly novel ecological approach to democratic political theory and the purposes and responsibilities of democratic states. It is a wholly novel formal institutional design concept for how to achieve sustainability. It involves asking what was unfortunately left out of Enlightenment democratic theorizations, and it involves asking what are the other formal prerequisites for an age of sustainability. It means joining our sense of formal institutions and environmentalism as interrelated instead of unrelated topics. The significance of the bioregional state is that it is the first attempt to analyze sustainability or unsustainability as the outcome of the way formal democratic institutions are organized. Most environmentalists and academics entirely lack the vocabulary to discuss this. First, in terms of what Enlightenment theorists neglected, different formal institutions of democracy always are involved in different informal political and environmental contexts which have been left under-theorized as to their interactions with the formal institutional frameworks. These three factors of formal institutions, informal politics, and environmental contexts should instead be considered holistically as one piece in the bioregional state, instead of simply concentrating on a biased approach that only analyzes formal institutions by themselves. Otherwise, only formally degradative states which facilitate and underwrite informal politics of environmental degradation can result because existing formal institutions are based on ignoring and denying these innate interconnections. Second, following from this, I would argue that on these informal political and environmental factors that influence all formal states, existing democracies are innately biased on levels of formal design by informal political interests toward expanding environmental degradation and ignoring citizen input from particular geographic areas that aim to re-prioritize state politics toward more sustainable developmental paths. Formal institutional biases are what are maintaining an informal politics of environmental degradation. It is a gatekept arrangement of informal frameworks of power that receive little formal feedback as to their degradative organization itself. Instead, at present, formal institutions are seen only as something by informal groups to enhance environmental degradation instead of provide a feedback against such depredations. This “appropriation” of formal institutional frameworks— whether state, science, finance, or consumption—to organize only environmental degradation will keep occurring unless additional formal checks and balances are introduced to check and balance on the level of informal politics in the name of geo-specific localities. To move toward sustainability is to organize formal institutional frameworks to check and balance informally biased political interests that only serve to promote environmental degradation. As mentioned above, there is a complete lack of ecologically sound political economic developmental models as we slouch towards sustainability. It is required to join our sense of formal institutions, environmentalism, and development as interrelated instead of unrelated topics. The goal of this book is to establish the terms of the debate for a formal democratic theory of sustainability: sustainability as a different formal democratic governmental framework. In the process of discussing why these formal state changes are required, I offer many critiques of the developmental and environmental effects of existing formal political institutions, and I discuss the developmental and environmental oversights that were left out when they were instituted which have led to environmental degradation. Throughout, I offer how unsustainable states can be made over piece by piece into sustainable states that support durable localized consumption and fair trade, now. The bioregional state is organized through formal changes by creating ungerrymandered political districts based on watersheds and multiple novel checks and balances that assure that informal parties act as representative institutions in a competitive marketplace of ideas, instead of in practice acting as divide and conquer ideological tools funded by the same corporations with the aim of gatekeeping against citizenship pressure. In short, its worth is that it is a political theory of the origins of unsustainability as caused by multiple and identified types of informal corruptions in practice that have passed as ‘democracy’ so far, due to willing oversights of required formal checks and balances in three additional areas: one, assuring a competitive marketplace of ideas in informal party politics before elections instead of informal gatekeeping on debate and divide and conquer politics funded by the same corporations; two, assuring formal state frameworks provide a context after elections for checking or balancing informal parties’ desire while they are the governmental incumbents to exclude other parties; and three, assuring permanent stable geographic expression of citizenship risk, instead of at present, informal parties being allowed to create and constantly manipulate voters into pocket boroughs which rig vote totals and demote voter choices.
Environmental sociologist Dr. Mark D. Whitaker has puzzled over comparative political dynamics of environmental degradation for 10 years. Toward a Bioregional State shows how state institutional change is a requirement for environmental sustainability. He lives in the Upper Rock watershed, Madison, Wisconsin, and enjoys the changing seasons at the UW-Arboretum.