David McCloskey: A Note about Cascadia Megaquakes

The below is a missive published by David McCloskey, former Seattle University sociologist who helped coin the term and idea of Cascadia in the 1980’s. You can find more information about him, and Cascadia bioregionalism on the Cascadia Institute.

Fellow Cascadians,

I’ve recently noticed a verbal trend in media where in the Cascadia SubductionZone Megaquake has begun to be short-handed as “Cascadia.” Seeking to seem au currant, people now tend to say “Cascadia” when they mean to refer only to the to the Megaquake instead.

This is simply sloppy usage, for Cascadia =/= a Megaquake! Such an equation ismisleading because Megaquakes are a consequence of the subduction zone, while the name Cascadia refers to the wider land created by tectonic forces on the NE Pacific Rim.

The name Cascadia first emerged as a metaphorical extension of what the Great Cascades & Celilo Fallsof the Columbia River once did, then transferred to “the Mountains by the Cascades” in the early 19th century which became shortened in turn to “The Cascade Range.” From what the Mountain Range does—namely “cascade,” the name was transferred in turn over a century later successively to an offshore seafloor basin, channel, and then a trench from the mid-1950’s thru 1970’s in the plate tectonic revolution in marine geology.

Thus, Cascadia is a “Great Green Land” rising from Mountains and the Sea on the NE Pacific Rim. Encompassing watersheds based on tectonic forces, Cascadia is named for the many whitewaters pouring down her slopes—the “Waterfall trails” of the Columbia Gorge, as well as the Upper McKenzie and upper Umpqua Rivers in western Oregon are perfect examples. Glaciated landscapes and their “hanging valleys” running all the way east over to the Continental Divide and north thru B.C. into SE Alaska are laced by white ribbons roaring free thru a green plaid. So remember: Cascadia cascades! And it is this dynamism which gives our bioregion its evocative name….

David McCloskey
Cascadia Institute

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