“Where are you from?” she asks. “From the Northwest,” he replies automatically, without thinking. Then she shoots back, “Northwest of what?”
Just as any name, Cascadia is a construct that help shapes an identity and place. This region has had many in the near past: New Spain, New Caledonia, New Archangel, New Georgia, the Columbia Department, the Oregon Territory, the Northwest, the Pacific Slope, Ecotopia, the New Pacific, Ecolopolis. Note that each of these is a construct as well - imposed by a different power to be, and often thousands of miles away - to give a definition to best suite its purpose.
Rather than a term that defines its space from a capitol nearly 3000 miles away, Cascadia is the name of the land, given by the people who live here, and just as it's a new name, it gives us a new opportunity to forge something new, something positive together, from a culture rooted in place and the shared values that arise from sharing a landbase. Just as the people who have lived here for thousands of years, Cascadia is an opportunity to forge a new shared vision for what is possible, created from the land and people living here.
Together, Cascadia has the worlds 13th largest economy, a population larger than many countries, and is roughly the size of Mongolia. Rather than accidents of geo-political history, and arbitrary lines on maps which do not accurately reflect the place or the people - Cascadia seeks to find systems which can better reflect the social, cultural, ecological, economic and political realities of the place we live.
If it stops raining, it affects all of us. If there is an earthquake it affects all of us. We cannot talk about dam removal or pollution along the Columbia river without every member of the watershed being a part of that discussion. The regions two largest cities Seattle and Vancouver BC are only 180 miles a part and share the same watershed - but are divided by an international border.
It is becoming apparent to more people in Cascadia each day that society here is, in some ways, irreconcilably different from the rest of the United States and Canada. Understanding the Pacific Northwest as one coherent region is bringing clarity to a lot of people who are growing more frustrated with the statuses quo imposed upon us from more powerful regions within the United States and Canada. The identity of Cascadia is becoming a more true representation of who we are as a people.