What Is The Upper New?

Perhaps the simplest answer to the question “what is The Upper New?” is: The Upper New is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, EIN 99-0733916.

The mission of The Upper New is to seek out and foster place-based creative work in the watersheds of the world as an avenue for humans’ continued individual and collective growth toward ecological literacy and increased practice of environmental stewardship.

To be even more specific, we’re classified as a 509(a)(2), which is sometimes referred to as the “museums and zoos” classification.  We’re not exactly a museum or a zoo, but we’ve certainly got elements of both in our intentions for where we’d like to be, and what we’d like to do, as an organization.

However, let’s take a step back.  Or maybe a step forward:  The name we’ve chosen for the company is The Upper New.

Our company logo is a simple outline map of our home basin, our bioregion, The Upper New River basin.

Why have we chosen this name, The Upper New, for our company?  It’s based partly on the fact that our home basin, our home bioregion, is the Upper New River basin, which is located in the area of the North American continent currently named North Carolina and Virginia.

If you’d like to skip straight to the end, feel free to read the rest of our take on the concept of the “upper new”.  Just click or tap to jump down the page.

Upper?  New?

We certainly appreciate the double entendre that is inherent in the combination of these two words, “upper” and “new”.  First, let’s look at each one separately in order to understand their relativity.  What do upper and new mean?


Merriam-Webster defines “upper” as an adjective and a noun.  Let’s discuss a few of these definitions in terms of our ideals for the intentions of The Upper New.

The first adjective definition is “higher in physical position, rank, or order”.  A higher ranking?  New…what?  Perhaps a “higher order” is more accurate.  A rather aspirational mindset for The Upper New.  What sort of “higher order” should the Upper New seek to foster amongst humans in the biosphere?  We certainly think we have elements of this in our mission, and as we pursue each of our creative and curated endeavors, we intend to be purposed and highly selective along appropriate spectra.

The second adjective definition is “farther inland”.  Geographically speaking, of course, this seems to be the most obvious definition of The Upper New.  Within the Kanawha (HUC 0505), we have the Upper New (HUC 05050001), the Middle New (HUC 05050002), and the Lower New (HUC 05050004).  The astute reader might be wondering what happened to HUC 05050003.  That is the Greenbrier, bordering the Middle and Lower New basins. More information about the Kanawha basin can be found here and here.

Another adjective definition is “capitalized : being a later epoch or series of the period or system named”.  Are we here at The Upper New helping to write the latest chapter of the ongoing story of the ancient New River?  Is this a later epoch?  Definitely a later series.

There are several noun definitions of upper, but most of them have to do with stimulant drugs and parts of shoes, so we’ll pass.  Let’s move on to the new!


Merriam-Webster defines “new” as an adjective.  Let’s discuss a few of these definitions in terms of our ideals for the intentions of The Upper New.

The first adjective definition of new is “having recently come into existence”.  Ironically, The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world.  One explanation for this naming discrepancy is that, apparently, The New River was one of the last to be “discovered” and named by European explorers.  Perhaps one of the confusing elements leading to its later “discovery” is the fact that it flows north.  In any case, ironically, we’re old.  When we say we, in this case we are identifying as the river.  We are VERY old.  We are definitely older than human existence, by a long shot.

“The origins of the name are unclear. Possibilities include being a new river that was not on the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia, an Indian name meaning “new waters”, or the surname of an early settler.[5] It was once called Wood’s River for Colonel Abraham Wood, an English explorer from Virginia, who explored the river in the mid-17th century.”

Wikipedia: New River (Kanawha River tributary) – link

If you’re looking for some inspiration, perhaps consider doing some followup research about why such an old river is called the New, and maybe what some of its previous names were.  If you could choose a name for this ancient river, what would it be?

Two other adjective definitions of new are “having been seen, used, or known for a short time : NOVEL” and “having been in a relationship or condition but a short time”.  As an organization, The Upper New is brand new.  In the grand scheme of things (especially beyond human scales) we’ll always be brand new.

Another adjective definition of new is “being other than the former or old”.  Here at The Upper New, we strive to embody this point by fostering relevant paradigm shifts, forging new mindsets that honor, respect, and learn from old pathways, existing before and since humans have existed in the biosphere.

Yet another adjective definition of new is “made or become fresh”.  Here at The Upper New, we are building a fresh perspective, especially concerning ecocentric foundations such as bioregionalism and the general human relationship with the biosphere, including critical analysis of human exceptionalism and all its perils.

Another adjective definition of new is “different from one of the same category that has existed previously (new realism)”.  The Upper New is certainly different from “business as usual”…we’d like to think that we’re  a WHOLE LOT different.  What if we can be so different that eventually there’s no longer any relevance to the term “business as usual”?  We’re hoping we can prove this over and over throughout our existence and growth as an organization.

Finally, one other adjective definition of new is “of dissimilar origin and usually of superior quality”.  This inspires us to hold high standards for all our endeavors here at The Upper New.  Our elevated ecocentric responsibility is in service of the entire biosphere.  Forever.

What Is The Upper New?

Switching gears: when we place these two words together, how does this change what those two words mean?  

What is the upper new?  

An upper new mindset?  

An upper new trajectory?  

An upper new paradigm?  

An upper new philosophy?

Again.  We are called The Upper New because our headquarters are in the headwaters of The Upper New River basin (USGS HUC 05050001).  We are headwaters headquarters.

We like the ring of that.  Let’s say it again: We are headwaters headquarters.

Upper New Logo: HeadWaters Headquarters

We like the ring of that.  Let’s say it again: We are headwaters headquarters.

We are called The Upper New because we are embracing an “upper new” philosophy and series of systemic mind shifts about our place in the biosphere, including bioregionalism, ecocentrism, and consilience.  We are practicing systems wisdom in service of improving our ecological literacy for the purpose of ecological justice for all species in the biosphere.

“We the people” are all humans, members of one species, groups of neighboring human populations across the surface of the planet sharing the biosphere with all other species, which are also our neighbors.  All of them, including the “pests” we think we can “control”… 

We believe that all endeavors outside this purview are most likely divisive and distracting from the greater cause of biodiversity and the continued habitability of the biosphere for all species.

Through our local focus and global view, we embody the double entendre of our name as an example of reciprocal reasoning across internal and external perspectives as we continue to understand and appreciate the complex nonlinearity of life continuing to unfold in the biosphere.

To understand all facets of an upper new “anything”, we must reason reciprocally.

We seek leverage points for intervening in these complex systems, but we recognize that there is no such thing as control, there is merely disturbance.  

Perturbations.  Disturbances in systems.  

Hence, our feature series given the same title.  Perturbations.

We expand our time horizons, forward and backward.

We defy the disciplines.

We believe that paradigm shifts such as Half-Earth via continental conservation and rewilding programs are not just possible but likely.  

Hopefully we humans, “we the people” will be able to manage ourselves well enough to get there by choice.  

Do we need a new Constitution?

An Upper New Constitution across the biosphere?


Can we find the Upper New?  

Will we find it in time?  

Will we change for the better as a result?

What is your take?

Consider this concept: the upper new and everything we’ve written above.  What is your take on this concept?

What is the upper new? 

Is it a concept? 

Is it an idea?

Is it a perspective?

A purview?  (An upper new purview…hmm…also has a nice ring to it.) 

Is it a state of being?

If you had to create a foundational narrative to replace (or complement) what we’ve provided above, what would it look like?

If you’re so inclined, consider submitting your ideas and we might just publish the narrative you come up with!

Upper New Logo: What Is The Upper New