Uncascadian

It was a long day, but one filled with vision and inspiration last Saturday (Dec 6, 2014) as I was part of a Board Retreat for CascadiaNow! I agreed to be Board President when asked by founder Brandon Letsinger and it is exciting to be part of a social movement to foster the identity of the bioregion in the minds of residents, as well as anyone around the world who understand the benefits of bioregionalism and the huge shift it suggests.

I have been aware of the concept of bioregionalism since the early 90s when I interviewed Peter Berg, who created the Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco in 1973, not long after he attended the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. His experience there helped him understand that the environmental movement, as we have come to know it, was only interested in limiting the damage done to the environment, but not drastically changing the way in which people of “developed” nations lived. Bioregionalism, in his view, was a way of reinhabiting the places where we lived in a way that we’d now call sustainable. He saw environmentalism as a bandaid.

view from the roof of the Chloe Apartment Building, looking toward downtown Seattle

And the setting for Saturday’s retreat was quite Cascadian, as we managed to have access to the meeting space at the top of the Chloe apartment building at 14th & Union in Seattle. A brand new building with environmental amenities like a rooftop garden and view of the rapidly-changing Pike/Pine section of Capitol Hill, our bi-national board could get to work in a first-class setting on envisioning how this new non-profit corporation would begin to make the bioregion and bioregional concepts foremost in the minds of all residents.

There were long-term vision goals like:

Physical interconnectedness, bioregional high speed rail,

Agreement among all port cities to reduce fossil fuel consumption,

Increased familiarity and understanding of the term Cascadia, our org, movement, and boundaries. Formal, peer reviewed boundaries,

Tribal communities engaged and working with us,

A larger network of local organic farming. More accessible local food sources and

Fewer national and global chains.

The notion with that last goal was not that we’d prevent chains from moving here, however that might be accomplished, but we would work to show how such firms are against the interests of people in the bioregion. In a word, most corporate chains are “Uncascadian.” It was a term I’d never heard before, but immediately recognized it as something that I could identify with. What works in other parts of the continent, but does not work here. I’d blogged about climate refugees relocating here from other bioregions and the notion that more are coming makes more urgent the cultural education effort by people here who do not want Cascadia turned into some strip-mall shit-hole like much of the U.S. already is. There might be chains like Walmart here in the future, but we envision people will be educated enough not to shop there. Sure, you can get coffee at Starbucks and they STARTED here, but they do things like sue Vermont over their effort to label foods with genetically-modified organisms, so Caffé Vita or Stumptown are more Cascadian.

Here, we compost and in Seattle, our yard waste and kitchen scraps are collected each week by the city and turned into dirt. Not composting is Uncascadian. Here we like the air cleaned by frequent rains, consider lichen, that sign of good air quality, to be almost like a power animal. Idling your car is Uncascadian. Here Same Sex Marriage is legal. Homophobia is Uncascadian. Here we honor our connection to Asia and yoga, Buddhism, Zen and other Asian spiritual traditions are more popular than traditional Western religions, so fundamentalism and the intolerance it brings is decidedly Uncascadian. Here we honor the notion that Native Americans (or First People in BC) were here first. Putting Indians down is Uncascadian. People practicing traditional (monotheistic) religions in Cascadia are welcome, but only to the degree they understand the “spiritual but not religious” tenor of the bioregion here.

While these are generalizations and are not limited to this part of the world, you could probably think of more and are welcome to add Uncascadian things in the comment section. I do not expect to be the arbiter of what is and is not Uncascadian, but am grateful the discussion got started at the CascadiaNow! Board Retreat. What to you is Uncascadian?

About Splabman

SPLAB and Cascadia Poetry Festival founder Paul E Nelson wrote American Sentences (Apprentice House, 2015), Organic Poetry (VDM Verlag, Germany, 2008), a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, Washington, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, 2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme, Brazil, 2013). Founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, in 26 years of radio he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering, Joanne Kyger, Jerome Rothenberg & others, including many Cascadia poets. He lives in Seattle and writes at least one American Sentence every day. https://www.paulenelson.com. Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, he is in year five of a twenty year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation. www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.org (Oct 12-15, 2017, Tacoma, WA)
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6 Responses to Uncascadian

  1. Cascadia Uber Alles! says:

    What is Uncascadian? This strikes me as a dangerous question. A little intolerant. Cascadia is still in it’s infancy. ENERGY is better spent on talking about what Cascadia is rather than what isn’t Cascadian. Let our emerging values light the way forward. Pride, awareness and action.

    • Splabman says:

      “It is the business of the future to be dangerous.” – Alfred North Whitehead

      • Splabman says:

        Also ironic CUA that you use an alias and a reference to Nazi Germany, but say calling something Uncascadian is dangerous. If there is a Cascadia and if there is a culture here, then there is something that is not Cascadian and I am trying to put this out there for discussion. As the post says I am not suggesting I be the arbiter of what is and isn’t but welcome the discussion. I think transparency is Cascadian, but that might be my bias.

        • Cascadia Uber Alles! says:

          Cascadia Uber Alles! is a play on the Dead Kennedys song “California Uber Alles!” The song is a cautionary tale about Governor “moonbeam” Jerry Brown and his presidential ambitions. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIqESwzCGg4

          I can’t get with Uncascadian. The first association I have is McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
          Dive into the darkness if you must but I might have to ask for my money back.

          • Splabman says:

            CUA,

            I am aware of the Dead Kennedys and saw them in 1981 in Chicago. Yet their frame of reference was Nazi Germany. I guess we are free to choose our own darkness. As a dear friend would say: “Namaste.”

  2. I immediately thought of McCarthy too! However, I think it is desperately important to break our identification with the dominating system, so the more words the merrier. Funny, I have an Indigenous friend from Cascadia who kept talking about “reeducating” newcomers here, and in her context , it meant “unbrainwashing” and reinhabiting this place in a bioregional manner, but I couldn’t help but think about Mao and the atrocities of the “Cultural Revolution” just because of the word “reeducating”. The truth is, there are trigger words in the dominant, post-cold war culture that have lots of baggage. But a skilled poet will be able to navigate this beautifully, especially in that our “context” is striving for the antithesis of totalitarianism.

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