Cascadia refers to the bio-region of what is more generally referred to as the pacific northwest, including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Idaho and Montana. Bio-regions are generally defined as being places which share natural characteristics such as flora, fauna, climate, geography and watersheds. Within the Bio-region of Cascadia are many smaller Eco-Region, essentially a smaller and more defined section of a bio-region defined again by ecological and geographic factors. Bainbridge Island and Seattle belong to the Salish Sea Eco-Region. The Salish Sea encompasses the water ways of the Puget sound, Georgia strait and strait of Juan de Fuca.
Cascadia also refers to a cultural connection with place. For some this is as simple as a love of craft beer and soccer. Others believe in a secessionist movement, working toward creating a separate nation state following the natural and cultural boundaries of Cascadia. Still others wish to do away with the ideas and borders of a nation state, opting instead to work for a collection of autonomous municipalities working together under the cultural and geographic umbrella of Cascadia. One organization,CascadiaNow!, is working toward bringing together people and ideas from across the spectrum, encouraging people to get involved in raising awareness as well as working toward achieving the goals they have in relation to what Cascadia means to them.
Interestingly the idea of Cascadia is attributed to Thomas Jefferson who first envisioned a "Republic of the Pacific" after reports returned from the famed expedition of Lewis and Clark. Furthermore the term Cascadia was first coined by Scottish naturalist David Douglas (from whom the Douglas Fir derives it's name) to describe the botanically rich land he spent the 1820's exploring in depth. (1)
The idea of an independent nation state began to gain popularity with the release of the novel Ecotopia in 1975. The novel, written by Ernest Callenbach, follows the fictional accounts of William Weston. Set in the year 1999 approximately 20 years after a civil war in which Washington, Oregon and Northern California broke away from the U.S. to form the Republic of Ecotpoia. Weston is the first reporter allowed inside the borders since the war and writes dispatches showing a society concerned with sustainability and environmentally friendly technology as well as communal living and a focus on the happiness and needs of citizens rather than strict productivity.
The Douglas Fir and more specifically the Doug Flag are used as symbols of independence, freedom and autonomy by many who identify with the bio region. While Cascadia means many different things to many different people, we are all united by the idea that the area in which we live is special and extremely important to us.