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I stumbled on a reference to the map below while thinking about EProf's ideas on how the U.S. might more effectively handle our presidential primary elections. In that post, he posited dividing up our nation into voting regions, which caused me to wonder exactly where those boundaries might be.
The Nine Nations of North America is a book written in 1981 by Joel Garreau. In it, Garreau argues that North America can be divided into nine regions, or "nations", which each have distinctive economic and cultural features. He argues that conventional national and state borders are largely artificial and irrelevant, and that his "nations" provide a more accurate way of understanding the true nature of North American society.
Book Intro (in italics):
"Forget the pious wisdom you've been handed about North America.
Forget the borders dividing the United States, Canada, and Mexico, those pale barriers so thoroughly porous to money, immigrants, and ideas.
Forget the bilge you were taught in sixth-grade geography about East and West, North and South, faint echoes of glorious pasts that never really existed save in sanitized textbooks.
Forget the maze of state and provincial boundaries, those historical accidents and surveyors' mistakes. The reason no one except a trivia expert can name all fifty of the United States is that they hardly matter.
Forget the political almanacs full of useless data on local elections rendered meaningless by strangely carved districts and precincts.
Consider, instead, the way North America really works. It is Nine Nations. Each with its capital and distinctive web of power and influence.... These nations look different, feel different, and sound different from each other, and few of their boundaries match the political lines drawn on current maps....
Most importantly, each nation has a distinctive prism through which it views the world."
Click here to read more of Mr. Garreau's views. "Nine Nations" grew out of his much debated article written in 1979 when he was an assistant national editor for The Washington Post.
Rather interestingly, the “Nine Nations” line up with pre-Columbian culture groups. One critic notes this was probably accidental on Mr. Garreau's part since it is not addressed in his book. Accident or not, isn't it fascinating that his nine regions follow pretty closely what we know about various American Indian regional patterns? Well, maybe it's true that there is nothing new in the world, that we are constantly reliving the past. If so, is there a Columbus in our future ... who will arrive carrying life-altering culture shock to us as well as life-killing disease and mass death? Hmmm ....
For an excellent discussion of the natural cultural bioregions of North America, see The Anthropik Network.
Here are some snips from that site (in italics): There is a curious similarity between Joel Garreau’s “Nine Nations” and the distribution of Native American cultural groups. For instance ...
1. Mexamerica includes not only much of Mexico (Northern Mexico and the Baja penninsula), but also the territories conquered from Mexico by the United States in one of its most blatant imperialist adventures, the Mexican-American War. Today, the “immigration crisis” on the U.S. side of Mexamerica highlights the folly of trying to drive an artificial border through a bioregion. Garreau pointed to Los Angeles as the “capital” of this “nation,” though Mexico City—built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan and today home to 8.7 million people—is clearly the stronger choice. [DK note: this will make perfect sense to Border Explorer, Dada, and others who might wish to further pursue Anthropik's discussion of the mesoamerican topic here]
2. The Longhouse is what Garreau called “the Foundry,” including the “Rust Belt,” and much of the decaying, post-industrial northeast U.S. around the Great Lakes. These lands were once home to the Iroquoian-speaking confederacies, complex political structures that tried to bring large groups together and respect individual freedom at the same time. Is it any surprise that this region also produced so many of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States, who espoused the same aspirations? Garreau named Detroit as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: Enigma will appreciate the description of her area as "decaying", but also note that both Obama and Biden represent this region that is known for providing great leaders -- yikes, politics rears its head]
3. Atlantica corresponds to Garreau’s “New England.” Atlantica is notable as one of the “Nine Nations” that has made efforts towards regional integration. Garreau named Boston as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: perhaps Jim, the Average Patriot, can explain what regional integration this area has attempted; e.g., do they vote as a bloc?]
4. Dixie is one of the two “Nine Nations” that has ever seriously pursued secession. The old Confederate States of America was put down in the Civil War. While the people of the Longhouse (Foundry) still see that war as a question of freeing slaves, in Dixie, it’s still often seen as a failed struggle for independence from a foreign country. Garreau named Atlanta as the “capital” of this “nation.”
5. The Breadbasket takes up the Great Plains, and produces a huge percentage of the world’s food. Garreau named Kansas City as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: maybe we should rename this area The Ethanol Basket in recognition of our current fixation on using corn for machine fuel rather than human body fuel]
6. The Islands include the Caribbean islands, parts of Venezuela, and southern Florida. Garreau identified Miami as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: it's about time someone realized south Florida has more in common with the caribbean islands than the mainland U.S.]
7. Cascadia aligns well with what Garreau called “Ecotopia.” Cascadia has a strong sense of itself and has done more to align itself bioregionally than any of the others. The long, thin, coastal corridor of Cascadia is very much defined by salmon, both now and in its past. Today's bioregionalists call their land “Salmon Nation.” Garreau named San Francisco as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: Fran will like to know she is part of The Salmon Nation]
8. The Empty Quarter was named for Rub’ al Khali, the “Empty Quarter” in Saudi Arabia. It covers most of the Rockies, and holds huge energy reserves. Garreau named Denver as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: there is much similarity in the native tribal culture of this "empty" area, such as the Utes, Paiutes, Shoshone and Nez Perce, all of whom lived a marginal existence on mostly non-productive land, thus necessitating small populations and a nomadic hunter lifestyle]
9. Québec is the other “nation” that has actively pursued secession, though it has yet to press the matter to the point of civil war. Garreau named Québec City, obviously enough, as the “capital” of this “nation.” [DK note: to me, growing up in "The Empty Quarter", Quebec seems more foreign than Mexico; same for Dixie, which had dreams of secession in common with Quebec]
I find it fascinating that 400+ years after first contact with Europeans, our current culture is still following the same regional patterns established by the original native inhabitants. It seems to validate the concept of bioregionalism and natural boundaries. A certain commonality develops within a bioregion, where people who are facing many of the same problems tend to adopt many of the same solutions.
To impose artifical boundaries, like state and national lines, across a natural bioregion does not seem sustainable in the long term. Today, we are seeing the fallout of this kind of folly around our artificially imposed borders. When we fought for or purchased or stole this or that latitude and longitude without any consideration of natural borders, we created a legal division which we are attempting to rule with an iron, blood-stained, and inherently racist, fist. Suddenly people who were all part of a similar culture found themselves on one side or the other. Perhaps if our borders more accurately reflected these concerns, we would not be having so many border problems today.
Wow, all that just from wondering about how our presidential primaries might work better if we divided up into voting regions vs the current state-by-state silliness!
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