Everywhere we go, the elements of life, of magic, are present. Long before we had microscopes and models of the atom, the ancients of many cultures distilled the world down to what they felt were its most essential components. For the (pre-Aristotle) Greeks, this was Air, Earth, Water, and Fire (Aristotle added aether, or spirit). While we now know that the elements aren’t scientifically accurate constructs, they are still enormously useful tools for separating out the different aspects of ourselves and our environment. This is particularly true when it comes to learning more about our bioregion.
How much do you really know about where you live?
Getting to know Water: What watershed do you live in? How much area does it cover? Where does your watershed start? Where does it end? How much precipitation do you get where you live? What time of year gets the most precipitation? What wildlife lives in the water part of your watershed (lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands)? How do you interact with those species? How many people reside in your watershed area? What species are native? Non-native? Are any of them economically or culturally important? How many can you identify by sight? What do people in your watershed use water for (agriculture, industry, residential)? If you live somewhere where water is plenty, is there a dam or mill, is the economy dependent on commercial fishing or recreation such as boating or fishing, is there a naval base or coast guard station, or a port? If you live somewhere where water is scarce, how is water use managed? Where does your water come from, and how is it treated? In your home, what do you use water for? How much water do you use? Where does it go after you flush or pull the plug in the drain? Historically speaking, how were the waterways of your watershed used by earlier in habitants? Are there folktales or myths associated with them? How do they impact the culture that lives there now?
Getting to know Earth: What geologic province do you live in? What is the soil order of your bioregion? What is your biome? Your ecoregion? What are the geological processes that shaped where you live? What fossils can be found in your area? Was your land once a mountain, a desert, an inland sea? What rocks and minerals are prevalent? Where do you live in comparison to sea level? What’s your latitude and longitude? When does your growing season begin? When do the first trees change color? When does it end? How has this changed over the years? What wildlife lives predominantly on the land portion of your bioregion? What species are native? Non-native? How many of them can you identify? Who are the historical inhabitants of the land where you live? Are any of them economically or culturally important? What did their homes and towns look like? How did they live in relationship to the land? Where there battles fought where you live? What stories and myths are told about the land where you live? Do you get forest fires? Earthquakes? What sort of land was your modern home, neighborhood, and town built upon? How many people live there now? How does the local population impact the land? What is consumed by humans from your area–food, livestock, minerals, coal, something else? What is the biggest environmental challenge that the land you live on faces?
Getting to know Air: What is the prevailing climate where you live? What is your climate zone? What is the coldest month of the year by average temperature? What is the hottest? What is the coldest historical temperature? The hottest? What birds in your area are invasive? Where are you in relation to the jet stream? What is the major driver of weather in your bioregion? What direction does your weather come from? If you live in the same area as your family, how has the weather changed since your parents or grandparents were children? When do birds in your region begin to nest? When do they leave on migration? What birds in your area are threatened or endangered? Where is the best place to fly a kite? What wildlife lives predominantly on the land portion of your bioregion? What species are native? Non-native? How many of them can you identify? Who are the historical inhabitants of the land where you live? Are any of them economically or culturally important?? How are bees doing in your region? Do you get tornados? Hurricanes? Do you live at an unusual altitude? What sort of interaction do people in your area have with air–is there a local airport, a military base with jets?
Getting to know Fire: What is your latitude? At the Summer solstice, how much daylight do you get? At the Winter solstice, how much daylight to you get? Can you see the aurora from where you live? What constellations can you see on a summer night? In the Winter? How has fire traditionally played a role in the health of your ecosystem? How have humans changed the role of fire in the health of your ecosystem? How do you use fire–directly, or indirectly in your home? If you have a fire pit or fire place, where do you get your fuel from? Where does your electricity come from? What do you use your electricity for? Where else do you use fire (or a byproduct of fire, like electricity or an engine that relies on combustion) in your daily life? What products do you use that require fire (or “fire”) in its manufacturing? Do you live somewhere that the fuels for fire (such as coal, oil, natural gas, uranium) is extracted or produced? How is your bioregion effected by these processes? How much air pollution in your community comes from the byproducts of combustive processes–cars, factories, etc?