Should Cascadia Leave North America?

Cascadia. It’s not Canada. It’s not America. It’s … better? Given the current political climate of soon-to-be “Trump Nation,” there is a very real movement afoot to create the Republic of Cascadia, a land of 15 million people with an economy stronger than Russia’s comprised of BC, Washington, Oregon and small parts of other States.

The vision is to have a republic similar to other autonomous regions around the globe such as Britain’s Scotland and Catalonia in Spain. And since the election results on November 8, organizations such as FreeCascadia.org and Cascadia Now are receiving an exponential rise in inquiries and donations.

Coast Mountain Culture magazine featured the rise of Cascadia in its inaugural issue and now’s the perfect time to revisit that article to learn how the movement began and whether it has a real shot at coming to fruition. Here is Darren Davidson‘s story “Cascadian Dreams” featuring an interview with lifelong Pacific Northwesterner and revered spirituality chronicler Douglas Todd:

cascadia-mapIn 1803, president Thomas Jefferson sent super-frontiersmen Lewis and Clark packing for the continent’s most distant western edge. US flags firmly in fist, the duo went searching for Jefferson’s dream of a luscious landmass, an independent political state as green as the men who sought to settle it: The Republic of The Pacific. Two centuries later, it seems Lewis and Clark failed. Or did they?

Split by an international border, the bioregion now known as “Cascadia” claims British Columbia, Washington State, the majority of Oregon and small swaths of Alaska, Idaho, Montana and California. In verifiable fact, this region might be the most attractive non-country in the world. Although support to secede from Canada and the US to form a separate nation is small, the Cascadia region has been receiving international attention as a model for transnational cooperation.

There is statistical and evidential data to support that a New-World pseudo-nation all but exists today. Stalwart defenders of Cascadia have given it its own flag, coniferous mascot and anthem, and now it even has its own biography. In a two-year effort to chronicle the area’s unique character, veteran British Columbian journalist Douglas Todd has become perhaps the foremost expert on the Cascadia region. A recipient of over 50 journalism honours, the Vancouver Sun reporter is considered one of North America’s top spirituality and ethics writers.

Part owner’s manual, part manifesto, Todd’s book Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia sniffs throughout the famously supernatural state’s spiritual and societal infrastructure. Including the essays of 15 Canadian and US professors, spiritual wonks and cultural watchdogs, the book reveals the denizens of Cascadia are more opposed to organized religion than anywhere else on the continent yet consider themselves deeply spiritual. Further, they are the best educated regional population in North America, globally famous for New-Age corporate titans, resource riches and exotically cosmopolitan cities. Plus, the scenery, as the kids say, is sick.

On the other hand, Todd and his contemporaries explain, more of the region’s marriages fail than in any other part of the continent, and Cascadians are politically torn asunder, self-absorbed slacker-nihilists and sometimes, just downright flakey. Undeniably blessed, and perhaps also cursed, is Cascadia truly heaven on Earth? Darren Davidson spoke with Douglas Todd this past summer to find out.

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CMC: Who’s driven the Cascadia movement in the past and current day?

Todd: The groups seem to come and go. The Republic of Cascadia may be the most active. There are politico-enviro groups and websites, like Cascadian Bioregionalism, the Cascadian National Party and Team Cascadia.

A decade ago, former BC cabinet minister and talk-radio icon Rafe Mair predicted a legitimate Cascadian political entity would exist by 2010. Who were or are some of Cascadia’s other high-profile proponents?

Joel Garreau, author of 1981’s The Nine Nations of North America, and Robert D. Kaplan, author of 1998’s An Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America’s Future, have both pushed for it. So does the Discovery Institute, at least with much closer economic and transportation ties. The Sightline Institute is a highly respected organization too. [David McCloskey, a retired professor of sociology at Seattle University and founder of the Cascadia Institute, was a main source in the New York Times’ investigation of the Cascadian concept during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. McCloskey has even
created a flag for the region.]

Comedian Stephen Colbert says Oregon’s “tie-dyed, tree-hugging wusses” are just like Canada’s famous liberal-leaning masses. But your book debunks some of the coastal west’s penchant for flakiness, noting that if Cascadia were its own nation, it’d be a powerhouse. How so?

We are an amazing, wealthy and admired region. We’ve got everything. We produce hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services each year. We’ve got in-demand natural resources: lumber, minerals, fish; game-changing transnationals like Microsoft, Amazon and Nike; and major philanthropic outlets [such as] the Gates Foundation, World Vision, Greenpeace.

When it comes to muscle, it is a military stronghold too, right?

There are about 10 US states that have major military presence, and Washington State would be one of them, yes.

So, if we’re so stalwart, why is it the Seahawks, Canucks, Trailblazers and Mariners have won so few league championships?

(Laughing) I guess it’s the fact that we know if our sports teams don’t win, we can always go for a kayak, have a cappuccino and sit out in the sun.

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Which Cascadia-based brands have had the biggest influence globally?

Microsoft changed the way we do business. Amazon changed the way we shop. Nike changed fitness. Starbucks helped revolutionize the way much of the developed world socializes. Even Vancity Credit Union, one of the biggest credit unions in the world. But my [other] choice would be a combination: Vancouver’s Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and Seattle’s Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI). They’ve expanded into giant international outlets. [Vancouver author] Douglas Coupland once told me the first thing his European guests want to see is MEC.

Thinking in terms of Cascadia as a huge experiment in humans’ ability to create a socially and environmentally conscious world, do you believe, like Pacific Lutheran University’s Patricia O’Connell Killen suggests in your book, that we’re the canary in the coal mine?

Yes. I don’t want to diminish the contribution other North American regions make to the continental zeitgeist. They’re all important. But I think Cascadia is the canary, a testing ground for the continent and the planet.

There must be other regions in North America that are as united by likenesses in geography, politics and spirituality, but divided by borders, like Cascadia?

Short answer: No. Most US cultural regions, and even geographical ones, tend to end at the Canadian border. New York State culture collides with Quebec’s French culture. Maine bumps up against the Celtic Canadian Maritimes. What’s unique about Cascadia is the power and beauty of our landscape. It binds us together.

What’s the greatest threat to Cascadia?

Rampant individualism. Sometimes there seems a sense that nobody truly cares about anyone else. There’s anti-institutionalism, which is kind of cool, but also naive. Unlike in the Canadian Prairies or US Midwest, there’s not as much of a cooperative, communal streak out west.

The bioregion known as Cascadia claims BC, Washington State, Oregon and small swaths of Alaska, Idaho, Montana and California. It might be the most attractive non-country in the world.

When you consider conservative power brokers, like Portland radio host Lars Larson, BC’s Fraser Institute and the sizeable Christian and Protestant populations of Washington and Oregon, is the Left Coast more right than we think?

It’s a lot more polarized. There’s a big political and religious gap between the coast and the interior. But yeah, the “Left Coast” thing is overdone.

Cascadians are the least religious population in North America, but the highest educated. What does that say?

It means educated people generally don’t like to be told what to believe in regards to anything, including religion. We’re a region of newcomers, of people who came here to get away from their pasts, including the religions in which they grew up. That’s why Cascadians like spirituality. It’s less conventional than religion. At least it used to be. Cascadians are now leaders in slowly showing the rest of the continent that spiritual is the new mainstream.

The best turnout for a book reading you’ve had was in Bellingham, Washington, with over 150. Did that surprise you?

I think Americans are more excited about the Cascadia concept than Canadians. Canadians tend to be wary of anything that emphasizes our similarities with Americans, even the mostly wonderful ones of Washington and Oregon.

When you consider the apocalypse and rapture banter, is Cascadia a giant juxtaposition? On one hand, we’re tolerant, globally minded folk living in Eden. On the other, we’re all for legalized drugs and free will, more of our marriages break up than anywhere else on the continent, and for the most part, we reject God. Are we going to be the only ones saved or the first to go?

(Laughing) We’re a place of extremes. Can both happen at the same time?

Author / Contributor

Darren Davidson

A National Magazine Writing Award winner and longtime print and broadcast journalist, Darren made the jump to account manager when we launched Coast Mountain Culture in 2010. He’s also currently KMC‘s deputy editor.

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