Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So what's all this about, anyway?

When I created a blog called "The Daily Cascadian," I risked committing myself to three principles inherent in the title:

First, the name suggests posts on a regular schedule. If taken literally, I should have something to say each day. Additionally, when I post the content should relate in some way to this nebulous thing called "Cascadia." Finally, the definite article suggests that my efforts are unique. There may be other daily blogs and other Cascadian ones, but this is the Daily Cascadian.

On all three points, I'm sure to fall short, which is why my title is more a suggestion and goal than an outright declaration. But I should at least clarify what I consider the domain and purpose of this site.

First, it's a place for me to write about things that are not solely personal, that have a larger social impact beyond me and my immediate friends and relatives, and may be of interest to anyone who stumbles onto my site. This means that I will sometimes opine about the larger world beyond "Cascadia." But the name is intended to be a focus, a reminder to ground even my larger commentary in my own experience, and in the context of the communities of which I am a part. My intention is to relate most posts back to this conceptual center.

"Cascadia" is a bit of a problematic word. As I've already mentioned, it doesn't have a commonly-agreed definition. Most people who live in the area, no matter how it is defined, are probably not familiar with the term, and would likely resist the concept even if they were. In particular, Canadians in British Columbia are usually mystified by the idea and often annoyed. It's a term that can be simultaneously provincial and mistaken for nationalist. It can be seen to threaten existing national, regional, and cultural identities, while also implying new divisions.

When I speak of Cascadia, I don't speak of a different national identity, and I don't intend for it to threaten existing labels or concepts. To me, it is simply a description for my personal regional community. It is a way of overcoming barriers and seeking common ground. It's a framework that adds to our collective understanding of ourselves. It suggests new ways that people from different backgrounds who share a common region of the world can cooperate to make their shared world better.

Ultimately, "Cascadia" is an ecological concept, which is only secondarily social or political. As humans, we are part of a larger ecology that we have a tremendous capacity to change. That means we have a responsibility to act consciously within an ecological framework. This responsibility has personal and political consequences.

The World Wildlife Fund, one of the most prominent organizations to support global biodiversity, popularized the concept of the "ecoregion" or "bioregion." An ecoregion is defined as:

"A large area of land or water that contains a geographically distinct assemblage of natural communities that:
(a) share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
(b) share similar environmental conditions, and;
(c) interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence. "

The WWF defines 8 major ecozones and 867 ecoregions (counting only terrestrial areas and not marine areas). One of those ecozones is the Nearctic, which is nearly identical to what is now North America. It is ecologically distinct because it exists on a continental plate that was separated from others long enough to develop a unique ecosystem.

One interesting thing to note about these ecozones is how much they change over time and how much they interact in the global ecosytem. For example, all canines, camel-like creatures, and equines originated in North America, as did the Cheetah, though most of those creatures have been found predominantly outside of the area throughout recorded history.

My ecoregion, as defined by the WWF, is the "Puget lowland forests" ecoregion. It includes the coastal areas around Puget Sound and nearby interior coastal waters from Vancouver, BC to Olympia, WA. 95% of this ecoregion has been altered by urbanization and agriculture, so ecological issues largely concern the health and welfare of the people here, and maintaining what biological diversity remains in the context of the larger region's ecology.

The Puget lowlands forest ecoregion is part of a larger grouping of "temperate coniferous forests" ecoregions in North America. Adjacent eco-regions include the "British Columbia mainland coastal forests," the "Cascade Mountains leeward forests," the "Central and Southern Cascades forests," and the "Central Pacific coastal forests" (Vancouver Island, the Olympic Peninsula, and the coastal ranges in Oregon). Some non-WWF ecoregion classification systems include all of these areas as a single ecoregion. Collectively, they make up the heart of what I call "Cascadia."

Surrounding these ecoregions are the "Fraser Plateau and Basin complex ," the "Okanogan dry forests," the"Central British Columbia Mountain forests," and the "Eastern Cascades forests." These represent a secondary region that can be seen as part of a broader "Cascadia."

Further out (from north to south) are the "Northern Pacific coastal forests" around Prince William Sound in Alaska, the "Northern transitional alpine forests" east of the Alaskan panhandle in British Columbia, the "Pacific Coastal Mountain icefields and tundra" bio-region which is the only tundra bio-region in this grouping of temperate forests, the "Queen Charlotte Islands" in coastal BC, the "Blue Mountains forests," and the "Klamath-Siskiyou forests"in Oregon and northern California. These regions have much in common with the Cascadian regions, but with the possible exception of the last region are far enough removed from the Cascades that the term is not really appropriate. However, they could be grouped with the Cascadian regions as part of a larger "Pacific Coast" super-region.

Finally, there are several interior ecoregions in Eastern Washington and Oregon, north-central British Columbia, northern California, and Alaska that could be seen as part of the larger region. They connect to the coastal regions through common watersheds, particularly those along major rivers such as the Fraser River, the Columbia River, the Snake River, and their tributaries.

These are the natural regions to which I feel some local affinity, starting with those closest to me and working outward. Any farther out beyond these regions, and my interest is as a human being and concerned foreigner. They relate more closely to the global view in which my region and super-region interact with other parts of the planet.

These areas collectively define my geographical regions of interest, and mark an ecological framework that's useful in focusing my personal, social, and political concerns and relating them to a broader context. My interest corresponds well to the concept of bioregionalism, in which ecoregions help to define the political, cultural, and ecological milieu and decision-making processes of people within each region. Rather than replace our existing political and social processes, I see bioregionalism as a helpful concept that can lead to new processes and institutions, as well as individual choices and behaviors, that supplement the effectiveness of existing institutions.

So, hopefully I haven't lost everyone by now. In future posts, I'll build on the foundation of bioregionalism to explain the key issues that are important to me as someone who lives in this particular part of the world and is interested in what happens both here and on the planet as a whole.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home