Cascadia: The Thin Green Line

Reverence of our lands, mountains, rivers, forests, and seas is in our civic DNA as Cascadians. They sustain us and give us our sense of shared identity. We get to wake up each morning and veer out to the mountain peaks in the distance knowing we’re privileged to live in a special place. We’re inspired by temperate sunny days and gray rainy skies alike. We thrive in the evergreen forests, in the high desert, on the banks of the river gorge, on the plateaus and in the valleys.

It should come as no surprise then that sustainability and conservation are pillars of our shared civic religion as Cascadians. Regardless of political party or location, there’s a significant and noticeable bias toward protecting our wondrous home region:

  • Oregon enacted the first of its kind bottle recycling law in the US more than 40 years ago to reduce pollution.
  • British Columbia leads Canada with a carbon tax policy that has drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions per capita since its implementation in 2008.
  • Oregon, Washington, and Idaho consistently rank in the top 10 in terms of states which have lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita.
  • Idaho has led the US in percent of electricity produced from renewable sources in recent years.

Despite these examples, Cascadia stands at a crossroads—both metaphorically and literally—when it comes to the integrity of our home region. Right now, there are oil pipelines, fossil fuel trains, and export facilities transporting dangerous and dirty fuel sources from the Prairies to the Pacific through Cascadia, all so large energy corporations can sell to markets in Asia. Furthermore, there are several similar projects being pushed for expansion right now by these same companies.

The existing fossil fuel infrastructure already puts us at risk of permanent damage to our home and our livelihood; expansion would increase these risks exponentially. Many of our region’s inhabitants are understandably angry at this prospect and want to do something about it. Indeed, some already have. What many people don’t yet realize, however, is that we have an opportunity as a region to unite as Cascadians and overturn this trend.

A few years ago, the Sightline Institute—a non-profit think tank devoted to environmental issues and sustainability in the Pacific Northwest—came up with this concept of the “thin green line.” It states that Cascadia has the opportunity act as a barrier to the furthering of climate change and to the increased risks to our region. They created this short video to explain how:

While the video focuses on British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington, we’re already seeing examples of unity and action across all of Cascadia:

  • British Columbia’s provincial government has formally opposed both major oil pipeline projects.
  • First Nation tribes in British Columbia have exerted their legal rights to block expansion of new oil pipelines.
  • Some permits have already been denied in the state of Washington for coal and oil terminal expansions.
  • Several councils and similar public bodies in Oregon and Washington have opposed expansion of fossil fuel traffic through their cities and towns.
  • Protests and vocal opposition have grown in eastern Cascadia—places like Sandpoint, Idaho, Missoula, Montana, Boardman, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington—to further coal-by-rail and oil-by-rail traffic.

Cascadia is beginning to unite in defense of our home, our livelihood, and our planet. More importantly, it’s working. To quote Sightline’s policy director Eric de Place, “There is not one single [fossil fuel] project that has faced an opposition movement that has been able to proceed so far.”

There’s every reason to believe that this unity in Cascadia will not only strengthen, but result in victory over current and future exploitation. You can be a part of this movement too.

I’d like to extend a very special thank you to the Sightline Institute for all they do and providing a wealth of great information. For more on their current efforts, visit the links below:

List of cities, governments, and organizations the oppose oil trains

Initial victories achieved in the Thin Green Line effort

Recent interview with Sightline on KBOO radio

How coal and oil trains will block traffic in eastern WA

Video: overview on coal and oil trains in Spokane


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