The forested, stream-dissected hills of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas form a distinct bioregion known as the Ozarks. Clearly different from surrounding areas in topography, watershed characteristics, plant distribution and wildlife populations, the natural qualities of this area have affected the development of human culture within it.
Every year since 1980, a group of ecology-minded folks has gathered to discuss, celebrate, and learn about all things Ozark. The Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC) was originally organized to offer a forum for Ozarkers working in various fields considered “alternative” at that time, and to encourage them to consider themselves as part of the emerging bioregional movement.
Early proponents of that movement asked congress participants to envision a future in which the economy of their bioregion was based on local goods that were produced in a manner that did not exploit or defile natural resources. In the early years, the Congress created and adopted a set of resolutions with which it was hoped Ozark residents might create a regionally-oriented culture. The resolutions were grounded in ecological principles and were intended to foster an economy and land use practices that might sustain our children and their children.
OACC was the first bioregional congress ever established, and it inspired the formation of other such congresses. In 1984, OACC participants played a big role in the convening of the first continental bioregional congress. These continental gatherings have been held approximately every two years since.
OACC is not a formal organization nor is it an advocacy group that promotes an agenda. Rather, it is more of an ecological network; individual participants work in their own respective fields, but meet annually to share ideas.
Decision-making for OACC is made by consensus during a whole-group plenary session held annually. Typically the OACC body does not state positions on current issues, but sticks to the job of providing an annual forum for idea exchange.
The structure of OACC – or more precisely, the lack of structure – means no one person can officially represent OACC, beyond carrying out a specific task assigned during the plenary session, such as coordinating the next year’s congress or serving as webmaster.
At OACC 32, Oct. 2, 2011, during the Plenary/Planning Session, the following set of Agreements, proposed by David Haenke, was adopted by Consensus:
- OACC is founded and based on ecological laws and principles, and their application, in the context of the Ozarks Bioregion, as is the content of its agreements and assemblies.
- Its goal is, through the use of ecological design principles, the implementation of an ecological economy for the bioregion.
- The manner of acting of OACC is consensus, defined as “consensus minus one,” whereby after all good faith attempts to resolve a block of consensus by one individual have not succeeded, a decision may be taken as consensus.
- The ownership, foundational agreements, control and direction of OACC belong to the assembly of those who attend its Plenary session at each meeting of OACC as a whole.
- Beginning with its founding assembly, October 1-3, 1980, its resolutions and other consensus agreements stand unless modified or revoked by its Plenary.
- Only the Plenary can formulate and make statements about OACC — its nature, beliefs, intent, recommendations — and take or commission actions in representation of it outside of OACC. That is, only OACC can speak and act for OACC. Any other statements or actions made or taken in the name of OACC are misrepresentations, and invalid.