Cascadia Basics by David McCloskey

David McCloskey sent me a link to a recent interview he did with KLCC at the Oregon County Fair:

David McCloskey

Thanks, Paul, for your heartfelt reply….

I forgot to include the good news:

Performed a gig at the Oregon Country Fair down here last week (50,000 attendees, 8000 volunteers,
an incredible show–WOW!), and did this interview … enjoy

& then I transcribed the interview:
Interview with David McCloskey at the Oregon County Fair
regarding Cascadia and the Cascadia Institute, July 13, 2012


KLCC – David McCloskey is the Founder of the Cascadia Institute, among other things, known as the “Father of Cascadia” in this bioregion. A region he’s brought attention to thorugh maps and all sorts of other ways of presenting this ecoregion to us and he is with us at KLCC. Thank you, David, for being here.

DM – Thank you.

KLCC – Well, how do you define Cascadia as a bioregion? What are its boundaries in a physical sense?

DM – From the Coast to the Crest, from the Pacific Coast to the Continental Divide, and from Northern California and the Great Basin, to Southeast Alaska. So the three corners, which are extraordinary places, are Cape Mendocino on the coast, Yellowstone on the Continental Divide, and Icy Bay and Mt. St. Elias and the glaciers hitting the sea up in Alaska.

KLCC – And if you had to define the region in terms of character, what kind of characteristics do you see coming through this region?

DM – Well, everyone would know it as a common landscape. It was once known as the Oregon Territory, or the Oregon Country. But clearly the forests. (It’s) the first thing people see. I just saw the salmon parade go by my talk and it was swimming upstream.

KLCC – How appropriate!

DM – And we were just talking on the way in about the removal of the Elwha Dam. And the Condit Dam and how fast those salmon are coming back. In a couple of months they’re back. So they’ve been doing that for millions of years. So, the two icons, the forests and the salmon are the most identifiable, but there are a lot of other dimensions.

KLCC – Any particular dimensions you’d care to highlight?

DM – Well, sure. I mentioned Cape Mendocino in California. That’s where the San Andreas Fault runs out to sea. That’s where our own earth plates begin. That’s where the Cascadia Subduction Zone begins. We’re one of the few bioregions in the world that has our own earthplates. That geology continues to ripple and create, through the whole region, all the way to the Continental Divide.

KLCC – I see you mention “respectful acknowledgement” of that area. What does that mean exactly?

DM – For many years we’ve still been in an imperial mindset. The colonialist mindset. And we’ve had all these different names for the region: New Caledonia: New Spain; New Georgia, all the rest of these things. But the first name that’s true to the spirit of the place is Cascadia. And it’s named not after the mountains, but the waters. And it’s what the waters do, or what the mountains do, is cascade. That image of cascading waters is what the place itself literally does. So it’s the first name true to the spirit of the place, because it says what it does and does what it says.

KLCC – Is there acknowledgement of this region outside of this region at all?

DM – In terms of the bioregional movement (that’s) been going on for quite a while, Cascadia by far is the most mature consciousness and self-designation in all of North America. The map’s right in front of you. I’ll show you an example of that. Also, I want to say, by its own strange alchemy, Cascadia has passed into regional consciousness here, far more than any other place. There are literally hundreds of groups, companies, &c, who call themselves Cascadia. That’s an extraordinary process.

KLCC – One of the things you talk about is “sparking the imagination” and “helping people get their feet on the ground.” What’s the relationship between imagination and groundedness?

DM – Well, you can have an imagination that is not grounded. And we’ve often had that when we bring in identities from elsewhere. But when you begin to sing the place, for instance, and the spirit of the place infuses that and you get that spirit, then you begin to get grounded and you begin to – what I’m trying to do is call forth a new culture here.

KLCC – Well, how is that manifesting in a new culture in terms of the institute itself? What are you active in with the institute at this point?

DM – The purpose of the institute is education about the character and consciousness and context – you have to use the old phrases like Greater Northwest as a distinctive geographic, ecological and cultural region. So that’s what we’ve been doing for a long time. The maps are a good example. This talk is like that. And I help, I don’t know how many people week in and week out try to clarify, get their feet on the ground, (as to) what the region is. Actually, most people don’t know the region very well. They know the I-5 and I want to say Cascadia is not an I-5 conceit. That’s a mistake.

KLCC – How would you correct that mistake?

DM – Well, you just think of the Cascades. We love all these mountains, but they have a west side. That’s where the I-5 is, but there’s an east side. And if you’re in Bend you have this INCREDIBLE panorama, of those peaks. You see six, eight peaks. On the top of Middle Sister you can see Shasta, you can see Adams and Hood. So there’s two sides to that. About seventy percent of the regional population lives within sight of a Cascade volcano. Most people think it’s the I-5 side, the wet (side). No, it’s the other side as well.

KLCC – The east side and the west side are so completely different in terms of environment, but you’re saying that they’re the same.

DM – No, well the Cascades and the BC Coast Range, they create the rain shadow. So the dry east side is a creation of the same mountains. What people don’t understand is that they go over there and they see the lava, they see the basalt and they see all that dry thing and they think “ooh, this is a different world and I don’t like it.” That world is created by the same geological forces that created the whole region. They’re not different. They’re part of the same formative process.

KLCC – And so how is your participation and your work being presented here at the Fair? What are you bringing to the Fair this weekend?

DM – Well, I gave a talk; just finished a little while ago, called Coming Home to Cascadia. And besides Cascadia, it’s that image of home and what it means to be welcomed home. The place is a gift. The question is how do we receive that gift. We need to learn how to receive that gift in a much deeper way than we’ve been doing.

KLCC – Is there any particular key to receiving that gift, in terms of our spiritual openness or, what helps us to receive better?

DM – The three laws of Moral Ecology would help. Number one: The Gift has a spirit of its own and so what we need to do is honor that spirit. The second one is The Gift must move. And the third is that you have to give as you are given. Now, if  THAT became the basis of an ethic, a regional ethic, that would then put us back in, actually the only true spirit of the region, and that’s the potlatch spirit which is a giveaway and the giveaway starts with the land itself and that’s signified by the Cascades. Because that’s what they do, they give themselves away. The water flows through us.

KLCC – And we are very much made through water more than anything else. It is the water of Cascadia.

DM – We are yeah. (Laughter.)

KLCC – We’re talking to David McCloskey of the Cascadia Institute. You can find more on the Cascadia Institute website: And thank you so much for your presence here at the Fair on on KLCC, David.

DM – Thanks very much.

Cascadia Map courtesy of Cascadia Institute


& then I asked him to elaborate on why Mt. Saint Elias is the northernmost range of Cascadia and he said:

Not many people know this geography–I’ll try to keep it succinct, relying on the website and you having a really good physical map
–a shaded physiographic relief map– in front of you..
Recall the image of the arcing two axes converging in se AK? and the earth-plate dance?
It has to do with where the earth-plates and major fault-lines begin and end. These forces are not
ancient history but still active–they form the place. If you want to know why this place is as it is,
begin there…. with the active dynamic of formation….
Well, on the southern end at Cape Mendocino in n CA where the San Andreas Fault runs out to sea and forms
the incredible Mendocino Fracture Zone for 3000 miles! to the west, that’s where our own micro-earth plates begin–
the Gorda, Juan de Fuca, and Explorer plates (remnants of the old Farallons plate which formed western N. America), and
where the great Cascadia subduction zone (trench) runs.
The Explorer plate ends somewhere northwest of V.I. and then picks up in a kind of sublimated form  again thru
massive long fault-lines like the Queen Charlotte F, and many others which finally converge in those axes coming in from
both seafloor and inland into the corner of the Gulf of Alaska, where the new Aleutian trench and subduction zone begins.
(Of course, fault-lines are themselves indicators of where island volcanic arcs or sub-continents rafted in and accreted
onto the growing edge of N. America, so the old sutures remain alive as active fault-lines–gulfs in the sea, and
river-valleys on land–another reason why we say the earth is alive!)
The earth energy below is reflected in the mountains thrown high above, in that massive incredible knot where the Fairweathers, Boundary Ranges, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Kluane, etc.  ranges rise. These capture the winds and weathers off the Gulf to form the greatest non-polar icefields in the world, where we witness massive long-tongued glaciers calving directly into tidewater. Cascading Ice-Falls–sweet into salt directly!
Mt. St. Elias is the sacred mountain to the Eyak, and at over 18,000 feet close to the Gulf, can be seen from the sea. It is the most known
and visible landmark at the northern edge of Cascadia.
Inland slightly is the real corner of Cascadia–Mt. Logan, over 19,000 feet, only out-topped by Denali, but with, I forget exactly, more than
11 side peaks over 14, 000 feet! They say it’s the largest single massif in the world, totalling more than a 100 miles around the base, and
I flew all around it and believe it. It’s not only a storm of stone, incredible peaks everywhere, but a wilderness of ice stretching for 100’s
of miles in every direction.
Why is it so big and why is it the corner of Cascadia? Remember those axes? B/c that’s where all those earth  energies from below converge,
and where the bones of the earth pivot again to the west/ north west …. stay on that new axis, and you’ll find yourself on the slopes of Denali,
or island hopping along the chain of volcanoes in the Aleutians almost all the way to Asia….
Quickly zooming thru all the other levels from geology to ethnology, these are the same places where NW coast cultures began and ended
on either end (could go into more depth on any level later)…. It’s that convergence on all the levels above and below interacting to
form the FIELD which generates the distinctive character and context of the bioregion and makes it a coherent place. Nobody really knows this, but the dynamic FIELD is the key….
Does that help…?
David McCloskey
How much effort he has put into this is remarkable and prophetic. I asked him to elaborate on the part about NW Coast Cultures, but will post any relevant thoughts on a future post, as this one is quite long.

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. Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, he is in year five of a twenty year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation. (Oct 12-15, 2017, Tacoma, WA)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Cascadia Basics by David McCloskey

  1. IQ says:

    Thanks very much for this additional information, Paul, I found it very interesting. I would be interested in any further elaboration from Dr. McCloskey.

  2. IQ says:

    It’s a general overview of the idea of Cascadia in the form a 10+ page paper for a one-credit research class. I want to write my master’s thesis on a particular aspect of Cascadia so the idea was to start researching and building a set of reference material. It’s going well so far, finding time to actually write the paper is the hard part.

  3. Splabman says:

    I’d love to see it when you’re done. It is a subject of great interest to me. Let me know if I can help. Good luck. Paul

Leave a Reply