Mapping Cascadia

cascadia solstice rainbow pride

Cascadia is a movement rooted in place, in the Cascadia bioregion, and most excitingly, a term still being defined by those living here. 

When trying to identify the geographical features that demarcate Cascadia, everything becomes a bit pseudo-scientific. It’s an ecological region, no wait, it’s cultural – a regional identity, no, economic, a basis for regional planning and transportation – it’s environmental, no it’s actually political – a state of mind, or is it geologically defined through the Cascadia fault and plate tectonics?

The answer is that it’s all of these, and that each method of examining provides supporters, educators, students, regional leaders, or inspirational thinkers with a unique way of examining an aspect of the place we live.  

Boundaries shift depending on where you are standing, when you are recording, and whether you wield the reign of power, or are indeed an insurgent cartographer.

So, how then do we define Cascadia?

1.       Bio-regionalism – One of the most often cited rationales for the general definition of Cascadia stretching through Southern Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Northern California, is that there are similarities in the ecosystem that make these disparate political entities indispensable from each other as a whole. Mapping the Cascadia bioregion uses physical boundaries and explores a culture and story of place as defined through a geography of place. It extends along the The Columbia Watershed, and is comprised of smaller and distinct eco regions and watersheds, incorporating all land that drains into the Columbia River. Ours is a land of flowing water, and this gives recognition to the importance of the contiguous body of water – that if we pollute into the northern stretches of the Columbia where it begins in BC, this affects everyone and everything living through to the Pacific Ocean.

2.       Cascadian Subduction Zone – this tectonic area of the region is further away from the ecosystemic arguments for Cascadia, but is still closely linked to a symbolic relationship with the land under one’s feet. Cascadia is the name of the minor tectonic plate that sits just off the coast of the Pacific coast, and is the name given to the faultline expected to destroy and kill us all when the next 9+ megathrust earthquake hits. It is worth noting that the volcanoes of the Cascades are not silent–in fact, “Cascadia Day” is celebrated on May 18th, the anniversary of Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980.

3.       A Megaregion

4.       A Political Region

5.       An Economic Region

6.       A Culture and Regional Identity

7.       Transportation – One of the more curious and anthropocentric definitions, this boundary draws on the ecosystem of human technology, identifying Cascadia as one of many new “megaregions” in North America. Interstate 5 runs straight through the major population centers of Cascadia, from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC. This boundary line is more of an axis than a limit, and is often used in arguments for economic cooperation and transportation development between the cities and existing governmental boundaries. Amtrak also currently has a line running from Eugene to Vancouver called “The Cascades”, that provides quick service along the I-5 Corridor as an alternative to notorious traffic jams. State lines are little hindrance to the realities of social and economic migration.