Cascadia & Bioregionalism: A Rejection of Exclusionary Identity Politics

north cascade mountains

Cascadia is not a liberal idea. Cascadia is not a conservative idea. Cascadia is not a capitalist idea. Cascadia is not an anti-capitalist idea. When it comes to political ideology, Cascadia is not a partisan idea. Cascadia is a bioregional idea.

So long as you embrace that Cascadia and being Cascadian is inherently tied to, and a result of, the natural essence of this region itself, then personal political ideology is not a qualifier which either precludes or excludes authenticity to being Cascadian. You can be liberal and be Cascadian. You can be conservative and be Cascadian. You can be libertarian, socialist, anarchist, or almost any other political affinity and be as legitimate of a Cascadian as any other.

I say “almost any other” because there are some elements of political affinities, and a select few ideologies in and of themselves, which fundamentally reject the premise of bioregionalism and, thereby, the very idea of Cascadia. These elements are attributed to a subset of identity politics which argues that auxiliary human characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, religion, or personal political affiliation have essential power in defining a civic community or civic belonging in general. When such elements are embraced, the result is a tendency for groups of persons to form exclusive political alliances based on such characteristics. A given race or ethnicity, for example, is used to preclude or exclude other people from being a member of that community; “we” is exclusive and “the others” don’t belong.

One key component of bioregionalism is recognizing and acknowledging that our societal identity—our shared sense of civic belonging—is shaped from the bioregion itself. Our shared traits and values as one common civic community comes in part from our shared geography, climate, flora, fauna, et cetera. Place shapes identity. This is why the shared culture and values of our region exist as they do and are recognized as they are.

By accepting this, you inherently reject this exclusionary subset of identity politics. By accepting this, you affirm that auxiliary human characteristics do not define who belongs in Cascadia and who doesn’t. Bioregionalism intrinsically affirms that characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, or personal political affiliation are irrelevant when defining our common sense of civic belonging. Thereby, when Cascadia is embraced as a bioregional idea, it cannot be limited or preferential to any person or group(s) of people based solely on auxiliary human characteristics. I would argue that any ideology which pushes for Cascadia and the Cascadian identity to be exclusive based on these traits is inherently “un-Cascadian”.

Bioregionalism, in its essence, is an inclusive idea. Anyone from any background can come to Cascadia and “be Cascadian” should they choose to embrace the region and share in the ways which allow society to thrive here. The individual whose ancestors have lived here since time immemorial and the individual with ancestral roots half a world away can both be as equally “Cascadian” as each other. The native-born and the immigrant can both “belong.”

This does not mean everyone who identifies as Cascadian sheds all individuality to think the same things and behave in the same ways. Rejecting the form of identity politics I’m talking about results in any individual, from any ethnic or cultural background, being fully accepted as their true authentic self and being acknowledged as fully equal member of the same civic or national community. Furthermore, the vast array of differences in individuals’ race, ethnicity, cultural background, family history, religious beliefs, political affiliations, and so forth are not cause for any to claim differentiation in civic or national identity.

Using myself as an example: I, as a white male with western European ancestry who identifies as Cascadian, must fully accept the immigrant born in South America, and the black woman whose ancestors were brought to this continent as slaves, and the First Nation member whose ancestors have been buried here for 50 generations, and the gender non-conforming person, and the devout Muslim who worships five times per day, and the white man whose political beliefs are very different from my own, and all other Cascadians as being as legitimately Cascadian as myself. We are all Cascadians because we call this region home.

There’s one clarification I want to make to avoid confusion around this “hot button” term: not all forms of identity politics are inherently bad. For example, when individuals of a specific marginalized community are treated unjustly and unequally, because of a given auxiliary characteristic (i.e. skin color), by society, or when society tolerates their mistreatment by other individuals-at-large, then forming a political alliance based on such a trait to empower members of this community and arguing for their equal treatment can be a positive form of identity politics. There’s a difference between using identity politics to empower those oppressed and using identity politics to define and exclude communities; my argument is solely against the latter.

The goal of all those in the Cascadian movement should be to reject exclusionary identity politics and affirm Cascadia is open to all. If we are to succeed in affirming bioregionalism and establishing Cascadian unity, to quote a paragraph in my book, Towards Cascadia:

“[The Cascadia movement] will not be based in ideology or focused on the exclusion of others. It will be based on affirming the reality of our regional ethos and including everyone in this region. Radical acceptance of different viewpoints will be needed in order for this movement to grow and succeed…Even if someone does not realize it yet, anyone living in this region has the potential to embody the Cascadian ethos and identify as Cascadian, through and through. A movement that tries to promote only a ‘certain type’ of Cascadian or exclude those who ‘aren’t Cascadian enough’ will maintain division in this region and play favor to the status quo.” –Page 173

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

The Cascadia Independence Movement Must Be Greater Than Politics

douglas fir tree cascadia, cascadia doug flag nature

Since the Presidential election last Tuesday, intrigue in the idea of Cascadia has spiked. Predictably, much of this spike in interest originates from partisan political frustration rather than a general interest in the existing movement or its keystone principles. As I wrote last week, no significant change is likely to come as a direct result of this phenomenon, nor should we expect it to.

As predictable as this spike in interest has been, so too have the common reactions from the majority of people who’ve never heard of Cascadia before. The theme of such feedback can be summed up as follows: the idea of Cascadia is foolish and worthless because liberals and conservatives in different areas of the region would, of course, never be able to form a consensus with one another, let alone that any actual attempt to secede would result in conflict and disaster.

Setting aside the logistics of secession for now (which is an entirely different discussion for another day), this type of kneejerk reaction falls into the same trap as some of the politically-motivated advocacy has been for a one-sided, left-wing separatist movement calling for the states of California, Washington, and Oregon to secede (Pacifica); because certain states and/or counties voted Democrat and lost means they’re no longer compatible with those that voted Republican. I have just one rhetorical question in response to this argumentative framework: since when did any single partisan political ideology or party become the foundation for nationhood? Spoiler alert: it never has.

Making a single partisan affiliation the bedrock of any national movement is utterly foolish and destined to fail spectacularly. By doing so, there’s no stopping how narrow or rigid that ideology can get before it continues splintering groups of people which would (and should) otherwise be united. Eventually, you get to a point where the parameters of any given ideology are so exclusive that they allow for only a small subset of individuals. Anywhere you go, be it a country, a state, a city, or even a neighborhood; you’ll find a spectrum of politics that spreads beyond any single ideology.

This is why I want to emphasize how pivotal it is to recognize Cascadia, the Cascadian identity, and the Cascadian independence movement as being far greater than politics. Just as the identities of “American” and “Canadian” convey national values, sentiments, and affinities far beyond partisan politics, so too must “Cascadian.” This means we must reject those naïve and ill-fated attempts to equate Cascadia with any given partisan political ideology or group.

The Cascadian identity and the movement supporting it must be about our societal common bonds which originate from our bioregion. Our common bonds as a society do not come from the colors of our skin. Nor do they come from the locations of our birth. Nor do they come from the bloodlines of our ancestors. Nor do they come from the holy spaces we worship in. Nor, especially, do they come from the personal political ideologies we subscribe to as individuals.

We must acknowledge the fact that we are different from the rest of Canada and the United States because our bioregion is separate and unique. We must embrace the possibility that we are able to unite as one because our bioregion is one. We must look past existing political borders and colors on maps and accept the natural boundaries God has given us. We must rally around the rivers, mountains, forests, and climate Mother Nature has provided us in our bioregion. Only then can Cascadia be a big and bold idea that persons of different partisan affiliations can embrace.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I want to stake my claim here:

Whether you reside in Canada or the United States;

Whether you live east or west of the Cascade mountain range;

Whether or not you voted for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals last autumn;

Whether or not you voted for Donald Trump last week;

If you cherish our bioregion and acknowledge that our foundational bonds as a society come from it, then I stand with you.

This is what identifying as Cascadian should mean. Even if all we ever achieve is tangible unity in a cultural sense, growing this movement into a national force will require patience and radical acceptance. We must reach out to and accept our neighbors of many different persuasions if we’re truly committed to this movement and the goal of a united Cascadia. By doing so, we reject fear and cynicism.

Many will mock our efforts and some may even claim them to be treasonous. We know that supporting and advocating for Cascadia is not treachery. Much like Quebec nationalists are loyal Canadians and Scottish nationalists are loyal Britons, both groups even being members of their respective country’s Parliaments, we Cascadians are loyal Americans and/or Canadians who embrace a different national identity which is good and true. Without shredding or diminishing our loyalties to our fellow citizens, or skirting our obligations as citizens of our countries as they exist today, we choose to build the foundations for a strong and united Cascadia which may one day be politically free and independent.

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

Cascadians at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

The summer games of the 31st Olympiad have wrapped up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 11,303 athletes from 207 recognized nations or organizations competed in 306 different events across 28 different sports. While Cascadia is not (yet) a recognized nation participating in the Olympics, 103 Cascadian athletes competed in these summer games, almost all of which represented team Canada or team USA.

Thanks to Reddit user SeattleDave0, you can read a full overview of how team Cascadia did. In this article, we’ll highlight Cascadia’s medalists and medal total compared to other recognized nations.

Cascadian Gold Medals

Ashton Eaton – Track & Field

ashton eaton, rio 2016

Event: Decathlon – “World’s Greatest Athlete”

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Portland, OR

Nathan Adrian – Swimming

nathan adrian, rio 2016

Events: 4×100 Freestyle Relay, 4×100 Medley Relay

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Bremerton, WA

Kristin Armstrong – Cycling

kristin armstrong, rio 2016

Event: Time Trial

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Boise, ID (born in Memphis, TN)

Sue Bird – Basketball

sue bird, rio 2016

Event: Team Tournament

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Seattle, WA (born in Syosset, NY)

Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. – Track & Field

matthew centrowitz jr, rio 2016

Event: 1,500m

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Eugene, OR (born in Beltsville, MD)

Ryan Crouser – Track & Field

ryan crouser, rio 2016

Event: Shot Put

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Boring, OR

Cascadian Silver Medalists

Paul Chelimo – Track & Field

paul chelimo, rio 2016

Event: 5,000m

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Beaverton, OR (born in Iten, KEN)

Lindsay Jennerich & Patricia Obee – Rowing

lindsay jennerich patricia obee, rio 2016

Event: Lightweight Double Sculls

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometown (both): Victoria, BC

Travis Stevens – Judo

travis stevens, rio 2016

Event: 81kg

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Tacoma, WA

Cascadian Bronze Medalists

Nathan Adrian – Swimming

nathan adrian bronze medal, rio 2016

Events: 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Bremerton, WA

Hilary Caldwell – Swimming

hilary caldwell, rio 2016

Event: 200m Backstroke

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometown: White Rock, BC (born in London, ON)

Jasmin Glaesser, Georgia Simmerling, & Laura Brown – Cycling

jasmin glaesser, georgia simmerling, laura brown, rio 2016

Event: Team Pursuit

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometown (all): Vancouver, BC (Glaesser born in Paderborn, GER; Brown born in Calgary, AB)

Kimberly Hill & Courtney Thompson – Indoor Volleyball

kimberly hill, courtney thompson, team usa indoor volleyball, rio 2016

Event: Team Tournament

Recognized Team: USA

Hometowns: Portland, OR & Kent, WA (born in Bellevue, WA)

Kayla Moleschi – Rugby

kayla moleschi, rio 2016

Event: Team Tournament

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometown: Williams Lake, BC

Catharine Pendrel – Cycling

catharine pendrel, rio 2016

Event: Mountain Bike Cross Country

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometown: Kamloops, BC (born in Fredericton, NB)

Galen Rupp – Track & Field

galen rupp, rio 2016 trials

Event: Marathon

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Portland, OR

Sophie Schmidt & Christine Sinclair – Soccer

sophie schmidt, christine sinclair , team canada womens soccer, rio 2016

Event: Team Tournament

Recognized Team: CAN

Hometowns: Abbotsford, BC (born in Winnipeg, MB) & Burnaby, BC

Mariel Zagunis – Fencing

mariel zagunis, rio 2016

Event: Team Sabre

Recognized Team: USA

Hometown: Portland, OR

Cascadian Medal Count

Cascadian athletes earned 7 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 10 bronze medals for a total of 20 medals won. If we were to attribute medals to a hypothetical recognized Cascadian team, using only medals from individuals or from teams which were entirely Cascadian, Cascadia would have earned 4 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 5 bronze medals for a total of 12 medals won. This would have put Cascadia in 22nd place in terms of total medals.

cascadia medal count, rio 2016

For a hypothetical nation of just over 18 million people, which would be ranked about 62nd in the world, we’re already punching above our weight. Imagine what a united Cascadian Olympic team with a dedicated organization could do.

One day, we’ll see the Doug Flag rise slowly while our anthem plays and our athletes celebrate victory. But, for now, we cheer on our fellow Cascadians regardless of which team they play for and congratulate this year’s medalists.

On to PyeongChang 2018!

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

The Lesson From Brexit: Change Nationalism

UK flag and EU flag

The people of Britain have voted to leave the European Union. There were a few arguments used to support this decision, such as Britain has the right to vote democratically and reject an economic union which seemingly wasn’t benefiting many in the country, therefore asserting its right to self-determination. But another common narrative is that those who voted to leave did so in support of British nationalism, opposing the multi-national cosmopolitan elites in London and the pro-globalist forces of the EU. The people of Britain “wanted their country back,” as some have said, implying that they had lost something which they no longer had.

Of course, they had not lost their country at all. The United Kingdom hadn’t gone anywhere or dissolved. They hadn’t lost their right to vote. They weren’t of all a single political party and were just angry at the current government. No, they felt that Great Britain had become less great and less British because of a changing cultural landscape they grew less and less familiar with. Britain had become less ethnically British as more and more “foreigners” with different languages and different values immigrated.

The reaction by many to this reality was repudiation and an embrace of culture and values which define what it means to really be “British” in their eyes. And while not everyone immediately linked British culture and British values with a tendency toward white anglophile ethnic nativism, many who voted to leave drew that direct link between the two. In their eyes, a true British nation is white, English-speaking, and ethnically native to the British Isles. These are the characteristics which define their common sense of civic belonging; this is their definition of British nationhood. Their nationalism is an expression of this view.

Never mind the countless millions in Britain who aren’t white or aren’t ethnically British yet identify as such and exemplify the same culture and values many, who voted to leave the EU, champion and support. Never mind the absurd basis for drawing a link directly from race and ethnicity to culture and values is the assumption that one’s shade of skin color or one’s physical ethnic traits force an individual to behave a certain way. No, none of that mattered to many on June 23rd. Their nationhood is identified by auxiliary anthropocentric characteristics and their nationalism excludes anyone who could more easily be identified as “the other.”

The result was a good chunk of voters choosing to leave the EU based more on xenophobia than a cogent understanding of the totality of Britain’s relationship with the EU, or of the EU as an organization itself. Whether or not leaving the EU was “the right decision,” this factor cannot be ignored.

This should be a wake-up call to all of us. We need to change nationalism.

What is Nationalism?

At its most fundamental level, nationalism is simply an expression of one’s nationhood: a common sense of civic belonging. Void of any particulars, nationalism is when one acknowledges and supports the intangibles of their national society’s ethos. Support for whatever that foundation is can, theoretically, be a positive and inclusive force.

However, the predominant understanding of nationalism, and of nationhood, is that it has a basis in things like race, ethnicity, and/or religion. And it is with this understanding that nationalism results in exclusion and prejudice. If the basis of your nationhood is a particular ethnicity, anyone who doesn’t look like you or share your ancestry doesn’t belong in your national community; in your civic society. Ethnic diversity is not only undesirable, it’s threatening.

This is the cancer that is nationalism in its current form. It creates hostility which weakens a civic community’s ability to unite and function. It’s a force that says, “If you look different than me, or don’t follow my religion, or don’t speak my language, then we can’t be in the same society. We can’t share the same neighborhoods. We can’t share the same civic institutions. We can’t share the same place. Your very presence is threatening and we don’t belong together.”

I reject this wholeheartedly.

In the context of identifying a common sense of civic belonging—a common nationhood—its foundation should not be these auxiliary anthropocentric characteristics. That doesn’t mean nationhood should necessarily be destroyed. Without it, we’d live in a monolithic global society; frankly, I don’t think such a lack of cultural diversity is possible or desirable. There are, and always will be, points of differentiation which separate the ethos of societies from one another.

So, what’s the alternative?

National Identity Rooted in Place

The planet has arranged itself in unique places, each defined by ecology, geography, watersheds, and climate. These places are called bioregions. Within each, the character of society is shaped by the nature of the bioregion itself; human communities learn appropriate ways to truly thrive as being a part of that place and adapt to its environment. This paradigm of societal identity, established by ecological philosophers such as Peter Berg, is called bioregionalism. It testifies to a simple and profound truth about our reality: place shapes identity.

Bioregionalism is the alternative. By using factors of ecology and geography to define and differentiate civic communities by, we establish a new understanding of nationhood and, thereby, nationalism. This new standard says that people of any given ethnic, racial, or religious background adapt to the place they live in. The community as a whole becomes an extension of this place and embodies the ethos—what Peter Berg called a “terrain of consciousness”—shaped by the characteristics of the place itself. To be of a certain nation, in this sense, means to truly inhabit a place; to embrace the values and characteristics which allow society to thrive in the place it’s in.

With this alternative, nobody’s anthropocentric characteristics become criteria for exclusion in a national society. Co-existence flourishes and nationalism ceases to maintain its potency for prejudice. We must begin defining nations by the places they correspond with and not the physical characteristics of the people who live there. Even if nations don’t necessarily correspond with states (multiple nations may be in a single country, a nation may be split between more than one country, etc.), it is vital we begin identifying nations within a bioregional paradigm. Only then will societies around the world have the ability to truly move past a dying era of struggle rooted in fear of “the other.” The differences between us as human beings become inconsequential and each will be free to embrace those who are different as their brothers and sisters in civic community.

American Schism: How Bioregionalism is at the Heart of Political Discord

The United States of America is currently in the midst of its most politically polarized era since the Civil War.

The room for moderates within the two main political parties is vanishing, there’s a historical level of legislative obstructionism with a divided government, and distrust between voters of differing ideologies is becoming more potent. I’m not just saying this because it feels true; there’s plenty of data to back this up.

Just a few days ago, a Supreme Court Justice passed away unexpectedly and statements from leaders in both political parties demanded opposing courses of action regarding the nomination of his replacement no more than half an hour after the news broke. The level of such clear divisiveness is disturbing, frustrating, and sobering.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that political dysfunction is resulting from stark differences in political ideology or economic class; these are very apparent in the everyday lives of American citizens. Policy proposals to solve these issues are rooted in these differences. However, I believe there’s a more fundamental element at play.

After all, there have been more extreme ideologies to take hold in the halls of Congress, more blatant examples of corruption, and more dire levels of income inequality within the past 100 years than what we witness today. And yet, the schism seems more irreconcilable now than ever before.

I believe the real root cause of this political divisiveness and dysfunction is due to the fact that the defining elements of what constitutes the American ethos are no longer unified across the country. In other words, the commonalities of what defines American nationhood (even outside of the realm of politics) are scarcer and more diminished than ever before.

There is more prominent and more fundamental divergence from the traditional “American norm” in the daily lives of its citizens to the point where the United States can no longer be legitimately considered a single united nation.


Before I continue with this argument, I want to clarify what I mean by the term “nation.” A nation is a collective of people who share a common sense of civic belonging (a common nationhood) and have some level of commonality in culture, economy, etc. in a geographically coherent region.

A nation is not defined by auxiliary human characteristics such as race, ethnicity, skin color, language, or anything similar, as these characteristics do not force or compel any person(s) to act or interact with others in distinguishable ways which exemplify a given nationhood. Furthermore, a nation (in the sense I’m referring to) speaks to a collective of people meant to be effected by civic policy in a unifying manner, be it through formal self-governance or some other form of public power.

My argument is that American nationhood, as has been apparent in previous generations of American citizens, is not and has never been an identity formed out of a single, coherent foundation. I believe what we recognize as American nationhood is actually a conglomeration of commonalities derived from environmentally-distinguished regions within the geographic boundaries of the country.

The United States isn’t a single nation in this sense, but a country made up of several nations, each made distinguishable by its respective environment. Over the past 2-3 decades, the natural ethos (plural) of these regional nations have grown more influential and significant in their own right, causing the level of commonalities apparent between all of them to diminish. This is directly due to the effect of bioregionalism.


If you’re unfamiliar with bioregionalism, I’ll reference you to two of my previous blog posts here and here.

The “too long; didn’t read” summary of bioregionalism is this: the identity of a society is directly shaped, at least in part, by the bioregional environment that society resides in (bioregional environment includes plant life, animal life, geography, climate, etc.). You can understand bioregionalism as a philosophy, a phenomenon, or a system of intangibles, but each framework asserts the same truth: place shapes identity.

When we apply a bioregional framework to the United States, we see the country as a collection of bioregions which each have their own distinct ethos that contribute to the conglomeration of the whole. Because each region’s ethos is shaped by its respective bioregional makeup, there will be some level of fundamental differentiation between “national” identities from region to region.

bioregional map of north america, bioregion map of north america
Bioregional Map of Upper North America

The existing federal system within the United States is not capable of adequately embodying what each respective region understands to be “American” because that identity is subjective and regionally based. The federal system cannot and will not reflect any one region’s concept of national identity fully.

I believe this is why the American people, across many differing political ideologies, classes, and backgrounds feel something is fundamentally wrong with the federal body politic, as evidenced by the emergence of credible political candidates in the “extreme” wing of their respective party.

Factors such as too much money in campaigns or gerrymandering certainly exacerbate this problem, but I do not believe they are the cause. These issues have been present for nearly as long as the United States has existed, yet the country was able to function as a coherent federal system for most of its history prior to the present.

The problem now is that non-central bioregional identities (i.e. not the Northeast or the South), which were of small influence without significant population size up until a few decades ago, now have a very noticeable effect on the American ethos. This phenomenon is throwing the country out of whack because the existing federal system was not designed to handle the current level of bioregional diversity.

Think of it this way: the American identity is the black circle in the middle of the picture below. Its existence is made out of the commonalities which are present between its bioregional identities, represented by the colored circles below.

bioregional ethos example, bioregional identities, how bioregionalism works

Throughout most of its history, the United States was almost exclusively influenced by 2 or 3 regional identities. Over time, the other bioregions grew in population size and have become home to generations of Americans which have lived their entire lives in these regions, each being influenced by their respective environment.

These other regions have “divergent” identities which don’t fit as well with those of the regions more central to America’s identity. As the influences of these other regions grow, it shrinks the level of commonality within the collection, thereby causing the black circle in the middle (aka the American identity) to shrink. And, as that black circle shrinks, each region finds themselves more distinguishable from the others now versus the past when the level of commonality was sufficient to adequately cover most everyone.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This bioregional reality means the citizens of the United States need to cease trying to understand the country as if it were a single united nation and, more importantly, trying to get the federal system to behave as if it was a single, coherent nation-state. Bioregionalism’s effect on national identity must be acknowledged and reconciled with the existing system. And, by the way, this argument holds true for Canada too, which is also a country made up of several bioregions.

If the United States is to continue to thrive as a federal union, this may mean significant changes in the near future, such as constitutional reform (i.e. a 2nd constitutional convention), the realignment of state boundaries to better reflect bioregional ethos, or possibly even the contraction of America’s borders to allow for greater unity.

I don’t know what the “correct” answer is. But, as a Cascadian who embraces that identity because it holds coherence and fidelity with my sense of civic belonging, I realize the path forward for Cascadia may eventually diverge from that of the United States and Canada.

Regardless, I believe one of the most important steps forward all Americans can make together is to recognize, understand, and embrace the true nature of American nationhood. Only then can there be clarity to move past this potent era of political division and polarization once and for all. Otherwise, I fear the consequences of what an angry populace will do when faced with a system which is no longer capable of responding to its will.

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

New Year’s Resolution: Say “Cascadia”

New Year’s resolutions are often cheap or unrealistic pledges which temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. They tend to follow a pattern every year:

Week 1 – “New year. Let’s do this!”

Week 2 – “I should really get back to that resolution. But I can’t, because reasons.”

Week 3 – “…”

Skip to Week 6 – “Yeah; that was a thing for about 2 days. Oh well.”

You get the idea. This year is different though. There’s a new year’s resolution you and I or anyone else can make that is so absurdly easy and will actually make a very tangible impact when it comes to Cascadia.

The number one obstacle to the growth of the Cascadia movement is very simple: awareness. A vast majority of people in the region simply don’t know what Cascadia is and haven’t heard of it in any significant context before. That’s a big obstacle that’s difficult to remove, but the solution itself is easy: make sure more people are aware of Cascadia.

You can do something about this. You can be a direct contributor to the growth of the Cascadia movement and it will cost you nothing. Furthermore, each time you do it, it takes approximately one second of your time.

Here it is: in conversations when anything regarding the “Pacific Northwest” comes up, say “Cascadia” instead. That’s it. That is literally all you have to do and it will have a very real impact.

By doing this, a topic of conversation goes from this:

Other Person: “We’re getting a lot of rain recently. More than usual for the Pacific Northwest.”
You: “I don’t mind. It helps keep the Pacific Northwest green.”
Other Person: “True.”
[End of topic]

To this:

Other Person: “We’re getting a lot of rain recently. More than usual for the Pacific Northwest.”
You: “I don’t mind. It helps keep Cascadia green.”
Other Person: “Cascadia? What’s that?”
You: “Cascadia. It’s the name for the Pacific Northwest. It’s here. It’s us.”
Other Person: “Why not just say ‘Pacific Northwest’ then?”
[Expand upon importance of Cascadia]

Seriously, this is the easiest thing in the world to do to spread awareness and begin making real change in the minds of others. In this example, you’ve just introduced someone to our region’s name and explained why it’s important. That other person is now aware. Maybe s/he becomes intrigued and wants to know more, maybe s/he doesn’t. Regardless, you can bet the term “Cascadia” is going to come up again for this person in some context and s/he won’t remain ignorant or just cast it aside; s/he will remember than time you mentioned “Cascadia” and what it meant.

So, in 2016, commit to this: replace “Pacific Northwest” with “Cascadia”. The more you say it, the more natural it becomes. It’s important and empowering. We’re more than just a distant part of the United States and Canada. We have a unique region based in environment with a corresponding identity that the rest of continent does not possess. The more you say “Pacific Northwest” after acknowledging this fact, the more you reinforce the notion that we don’t matter. So, say “Cascadia” instead.

Have a happy and safe new year. Be part of the change Cascadia needs.

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

The Question of Cascadian Nationhood

Cascadia flag, Cascadian flag

The social and cultural awareness movement in support of Cascadia is both young and small. It is also still solidifying its foundation for support as there are wide ranges of opinions on what Cascadia actually is—in terms of more than just a physical location—and what it should be. One of the most contentious questions supporters within the Cascadia movement haven’t been able to agree upon yet is this: should Cascadia (and the Cascadian identity) be understood as a nation?

I, for one, believe yes, Cascadia should be understood as a nation and, thereby, Cascadian our nationality. I would like to take a few moments to explain why.

Nation ≠ Country

First, let me begin with clarifying the difference between a nation and a country, which confuses many in Canada and, more-so, the United States. A nation speaks to a common sense of belonging whereas a country or state simply refers to a collective body of some sort having a degree of control over public policy. A nation does not necessarily equate to a state or country. For many countries around the world, their citizens would consider themselves a nation as well as a state, but the two concepts are separate.

So, for those of you hesitant to claim Cascadia as a nation for the sole reason that you don’t support the idea of secession, you needn’t worry. You can, if you choose, embrace the Cascadian identity as your nationality while simultaneously rejecting the idea of secession.

The Old Definition of Nationhood

There are many different definitions of what constitutes a nation. All of them speak to one common notion: a shared sense of civic belonging. Where they differ is what comprises that shared sense. Many self-proclaimed nations around the world use a common trait in ethnicity, race, or religion as the basis for defining their nationhood. This is one way of understanding nationalism; it is not the only way of doing so.

If you are one who shares this understanding—that a nation is or should be defined by an auxiliary human construct such ethnicity, race, or religion—I would ask that you do the following: take that definition, metaphorically write it down on a piece of paper in your head, light it on fire, and watch it burn away into nothingness (in good Cascadian fashion, don’t actually waste a piece of paper doing this). We need to overcome this notion of what a nation is because, while it’s widely accepted in many other areas of the world, it’s worthless and very dangerous.

Nationhood speaks to a shared civic belonging: being a member of a shared society. When you use ethnicity, race, or religion as the defining qualifier of a nation, you’re saying that only persons which have this auxiliary characteristic belong within that society—that these persons and only these persons belong together because their ancestral bloodlines are common, or because the pigmentation of their skin is similar, or because the origin stories of their belief system are the same.

Furthermore, you’re saying that other persons who don’t share this one qualifying characteristic don’t belong in the same society solely because of reasons equal or similar to their great, great, great grandparents were born in a different region of the world, or their facial features look slightly different, or they have an alternative understanding of how the world came to be millennia ago.

You’re saying that society cannot function optimally or peacefully solely because of these reasons, as if someone’s ethnic, racial, or religious background is the ultimate determining factor in that person’s character, values, and general worth.

Any sane and sober-minded individual in the United States or Canada knows these assumptions are utterly false. We all know other individuals from all different racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds that fit in and are just as valued members of society as any other. By defining a shared nationhood using these types of qualifiers, you’re saying this reality either isn’t possible or isn’t desirable (the latter being much, much worse than the delusion of the former).

Clinging to this old, arcane definition of a nation is what causes prejudice, hatred, and war. It needs to be destroyed, and quickly.

A Better Definition

What’s the alternative definition of nationhood that doesn’t rely on xenophobia or religious persecution to hold it together? A shared sense of civic belonging needs a focal point of some kind to be maintained; it cannot rely on nothing.

Cascadia’s shared sense of civic belonging has never come from race, ethnicity, or religion. Nor has it ever come from similar auxiliary characteristics such as language, political philosophy, or class. Cascadia’s shared sense of civic belonging has always centered on one aspect: the physical nature of the region itself. The region has always been the one factor which has held the common traits of Cascadian society together.

I believe bioregionalism—the notion that the environmental characteristics of a naturally-defined region play a defining role in shaping the identity of society—plays into the answer we’re looking for. This is not to say bioregionalism is equal to nationalism, but they are not mutually exclusive. Bioregionalism is an ecological concept which centers on the importance of environment whereas nationalism is a human concept which centers on the importance of community. They are different, but the definition of nationalism we need uses the concept of place and its power to give coherence to society.

In this sense, we can understand Cascadian nationhood as a civic concept in which the people of Cascadia voluntarily uphold and consent to the natural value of the Cascadian region itself. This is similar to the predominant form of American or Canadian nationalism in that they rely primarily on popular sovereignty rather than an auxiliary characteristic such as ethnicity. However, it differs in that Cascadia as a nation is permanently grounded in, and particular to, the physical bioregion of Cascadia itself and cannot expand past its bioregional borders.

By using this as our model, we can understand Cascadia as a nation where anyone in the region can adapt to our shared sense of civic belonging and regional culture by recognizing the importance of our natural region and staying true to its inherent, intangible value. A person of any race, ethnicity, religion, or similar characteristic can do this so long as they then choose to participate in Cascadian society in ways which uphold this value. Cascadian nationhood, in this sense, cannot be limited to a set of auxiliary human characteristics.

Addressing Structural Racism and Imperialism

You may be reading this and think it’s a nice ideal, but still be skeptical that this model of Cascadia as a nation can manifest itself in a just and egalitarian manner. You are right to be cautious, especially if you are a member of any historically marginalized group of people in the United States and/or Canada.

I’m a white male. I’ve benefited from living in a society which has largely given me the benefit of the doubt and allowed me to succeed in my own way to establish a comfortable life for myself. It’s very easy for me to sit behind a computer screen and write about this beautiful ideal without having been subjected to many of the injustices and structural obstacles present in our existing paradigm.

I, nor anyone else in my position, can fix this. What I can do—and what I think we all need to do if we’re to actually transcend the reality we know now—is acknowledge the impacts structural racism and imperialism (or colonization) has had in our society. More importantly, I and anyone else can help empower those who have been unjustly marginalized by listening to their stories and affirming their worth.

These are the steps we must take if we are to ever reconcile the society we have now with the society we wish to see in Cascadia, and that’s true regardless of what political ideology or belief system you hold. In doing so, we can establish a reality in which the marginalized aspects of various minority cultures are no longer feared, but are allowed to thrive in their own ways according to our bioregional nature and as a rich, equal part of Cascadian society.

The Answer We’re Looking For

The old definition of nationalism perpetuates a paradigm where members of one ethnic, racial, or religious group see persons of a differentiated group as “the other.” This is most prevalent, I believe, with indigenous peoples which currently live under a “nation within a nation” model. This allows for certain aspects of tribal sovereignty to be upheld, but it also allows a stark “us versus them” mentality to thrive. It allows persons of a marginalized group to suffer injustice while everyone else maintains indifference.

This reality was born out of fear, distrust, and violence. It does not have to be this way. We should strive for a new national model which fosters the opposite of this: unity, trust, and peace.

I am not claiming we remove the rights or entitlements marginalized groups have under the existing system, especially for indigenous groups who’ve been in Cascadia since long before anyone else showed up. What I am claiming is that, in order to achieve this new reality, we all must adapt a new understanding of what constitutes our shared sense of civic belonging; it comes from our bioregion.

By accepting this, we will foster a reality where we look at this region’s history, to the communities which have been here for thousands of years, and be able to connect with it—its people and values—regardless if we’re of the same bloodlines or not. As a non-indigenous person myself, I do not wish to cheapen or exploit this history; I wish to be able to embrace this history as my own because I am of this region.

The essence of Cascadia as a nation comes from Cascadia itself. By embracing Cascadian nationhood in this manner, we can collectively embrace our diversity, acknowledge the wrongdoings produced by harmful foundations, and focus on solutions based in our shared sense of place. This is why I believe in Cascadia as a nation and our shared sense of civic belonging.

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today: