The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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A farmer's market in downtown Portland.
Image by Katy Langstaff.

Bioregional Economies

Globalization is creating economic insecurity and increasing the gap between rich and poor. At the same time, it is undermining cultural diversity and turning complex ecosystems into streams of standardized commodities.

Bioregional economies reflect the capacities and limitations of their particular ecosystems, honor the diversity and history of local cultures, and meet human needs as locally as possible. Bioregional economies are diverse, resilient, and decentralized. They minimize dependence on imports while focusing on high value-added exports. Paradoxically, this gives them an important competitive advantage in a global economy, allowing them to trade on favorable terms without sacrificing their economic sovereignty in the process.

Bioregional economies recognize the need for Fair Trade, refraining from importing or exporting goods produced unfairly or in an ecologically destructive manner. They make a transition to True Cost Pricing, building actual social and environmental costs into market prices. In order to provide independent certification of product attributes (e.g. sustainably harvested, fair trade, organic, shade grown, green power), they promote Product Labeling.

Bioregional economies do not deplete their own Social Capital, Natural Capital, or Economic Capital. They export only their sustainable surplus, most often taking the form of intellectual property or high-value products and services rather than bulk commodities. Their Sense of Place becomes the key component of their brand identity. In the coastal temperate rainforest, products evocative of place include Copper River salmon, Tillamook cheese, Willamette Valley wine, and Walla Walla onions.

Bioregional economies are physically constrained by the network of Connected Wildlands, the availability of Productive Rural Areas, and the distribution of . This allows them to substitute Ecosystem Services for more expensive imported alternatives. It also makes them attractive destinations for Ecotourism.

Bioregional economies can have vastly different mixes of local foods, energy sources, building materials, land-uses – all responding to the possibilities of place. However, their underlying design principles are remarkably consistent. Together they form an interdependent, mutually beneficial Conservation Economy at the global scale.

Bioregions need to reclaim a strong measure of economic sovereignty by becoming more self-sufficient and trading on their own terms. They can create economies that celebrate and mirror local ecosystems and cultures.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Ecotrust Canada
Our goal is to transform an economy that has been based on industrial scale resource extraction to a conservation economy, one with equitable and sustainable resource use. We work in several communities along the coast. Our strategy is to act as a catalyst and broker to create the institutions needed to envision, inform, and finance the conservation economy; support conservation entrepreneurs; and conserve and restore the landscapes and waterways needed for its health. Through our Information Services and Economic Development programs we offer tools and resources to those who promote positive change at the intersection of ecosystem conservation, economic opportunity and community vitality. In partnership with Ecotrust, based in Portland, Oregon, we work in the entire rainforest region that stretches from southern Alaska to northern California.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:


Planet Drum

Columbiana Magazine


Korten, David. The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. San Francisco, CA. 1999.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling