Ever heard of Cascadia? Or Ecotopia? This is the geographical and cultural region – both real and mythical at the same time, it seems – that stretches from the Pacific Northwest up through British Columbia and includes such cities as Seattle, Portland and Vancouver. The NY Times recently published a story on the region. And, although the article focuses on some of the dreams of integration that haven’t come true, there are a lot of interesting nuggets in the piece about this land that stretches across two nations and shares spectacular landscapes, a similar culture, and a strong environmental mindset.
Had Mr. McCloskey and his allies had their way, the border might not be there at all. For decades they preached of a distinct “bioregion and eco-culture” reaching roughly from southeast Alaska through inland British Columbia and down to Northern California. Pristine peaks, cascading waterfalls and a shared way of relating to it all would transcend national boundaries through what Mr. McCloskey called “a swearing allegiance to a life in service of the place.”
Purists (and parodists) still talk of secession, from both countries, and Mr. McCloskey still has flags he designed for the nation that would be…Business leaders and elected officials took the Cascadian dream and worked to make it a brand, a cross-border powerhouse of trade and tourism tilted toward Asia, the Arctic and the new, all to be linked by high-speed rail, a green economy and a sense of independence from Ottawa and Washington…
Yet Cascadia remains elusive. A few Web sites still promote the idea. “Ecotopia,” a 1975 novel by Ernest Callenbach that helped inform Cascadian thinking (but excluded British Columbia), has found a new audience as environmental awareness increases, and Joel Garreau’s “The Nine Nations of North America,” published in 1981, which unites parts of British Columbia and the West Coast into an environmentally minded whole, can still be tracked down.
As the article suggests, two interesting books that delve into the culture of this region are Ecotopia and The Nine Nations of North America. The latter book is an intriguing look not only at the Pacific Northwest, but also at eight other cultural regions across the continent, including New England, Dixie and MexAmerica. The book may have been written in the 1980s, but it still rings true today.