The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Fishing practices which are less dangerous to sea turtles have been at the center of recent trade disputes.
Image by Ursula Keuper-Bennett.

Fair Trade

Regions are often coerced to trade raw commodities like timber and food, even at the expense of local people and ecosystems. This further diminishes local economic diversity and security, which only makes regions more vulnerable to poor terms of trade.

In Bioregional Economies, the terms of trade are mutually beneficial. Producing goods for export does not result in the systematic degradation of natural resources, poor labor practices, or the unnecessary loss of wealth that could otherwise be maintained by the region. Prices reflect true social and ecological costs. Goods and services for trade are value-added, rather than low-priced basic commodities. They should reflect rich regional cultures and characteristic ecosystems, possessing a unique identity and special appeal.

The extent and type of trade should be dictated by long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits, rather than short-term necessity. Trade should enhance the well-being of the bioregion, adding a rich mix of goods and ideas while allowing the bioregion to meet more of its needs locally. This is equally true under scenarios of both rapid globalization and relative economic isolation. In either case, bioregions that are largely self-sufficient will flourish by selling on favorable terms when opportunities present themselves. They will avoid being dependent on massive imports on unfavorable terms.

Likewise, dependence on imports that are produced destructively should be diminished through Green Procurement efforts. Such imports do not reflect Fair Trade. They exploit historical imbalances in rates of development and diminish opportunities for people and ecosystems. Since these imports are being produced unsustainably, it is impossible to depend on them over the long-run in any case.

There are a number of Product Labeling schemes which verify the conditions under which products are produced. For instance, Forest Stewardship Council certified timber must be produced without destructive impacts to ecosystems, and profits should benefit the local community. This allows consumers and businesses to promote Fair Trade through purchasing decisions.

The environmental costs of transportation systems used for trade should also be accounted for and appropriately mitigated, perhaps through purchase of carbon emissions credits. Trains and ships are extremely energy efficient compared to trucks and planes. Over time, all transportation systems will make a transition to Renewable Energy.

By building diverse local economies, encourage only those exports which are value-added and healthy reflections of local cultures and ecosystems. Avoid dependence on imports that are produced with destructive consequences to people and ecosystems. Mitigate the environmental impacts of transportation for trade.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Business for Social Responsibility


Lang, Tim. The New Protectionism: Protecting the Future Against Free Trade. The New Press. New York, NY. 1993.

Littrell, Mary Ann and Marsha Ann Dickson. Social Responsibility in the Global Market: Fair Trade of Cultural Products. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, CA. 1999.

Mander, Jerry and Edward Goldsmith. The Case Against the Global Economy and for a Turn to the Local. Sierra Club Books. San Francisco, CA. 1996.

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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