Cascadia as an Independence Movement
Aside from a bioregion and growing social and cultural movement, the Cascadia Bioregional Party is the largest organization promoting the idea of an independent Cascadia.
We increase the autonomy of our region on a political, social and economic level, grow the well being of those living here, and are a pro-democracy movement for all people living here. Cascadians have a shared affinity with those living here that stems from this place we live, a ruggedly independent spirit, and a belief in equality and equity. Cascadians are the best suited to speak for our interests and needs, rather than those currently doing so thousands of miles away, with little vested interest in our region or livelihood. We will continue to build a movement for a society and world that is more livable, ethical, responsible and just, not just for this generation, but for the generations to come.
There are several reasons why the Cascadia movement aims to foster connections and a sense of place and strive towards independence. These include:
- Bioregionalism and sustainability.
- Local autonomy and self-sufficiency.
- Increased regional integration.
- Increase civil liberties, privacy and freedom.
- Local food networks, resilience and economies.
- Decolonizing borders and Indigenous sovereignties
- A dedication to open source, dynamic and associative governing models.
Cascadia has been listed as #7 on Time Magazine’s top 10 most likely to succeed (at seceding) independence movements (along with Tibet, Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia), Vice Magazine’s personal favorite independence movement, and has been mentioned in the NYtimes, CNN, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the Portland Monthly, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Sinner, Stranger and Weekly, the Portland Mercury, Good Magazine, the Oregonian and many others.
As measured only by the combination of present B.C., Washington, and Oregon statistics, Cascadia would be home to slightly more than 15 million people (15,105,870), and would have an economy generating more than $750 billion worth of goods and services annually, placing Cascadia in the worlds 20 largest economies. This number would roughly double if portions of Northern California, Idaho, and Southern Alaska were also included to $1.5 trillion, or the economic output of India or Canada.
Cascadia’s largest city Seattle has an economy slightly smaller than Thailand, but larger than Colombia and Venezuela. The region also has one of the fastest growing clean energy sectors in the world, and already exports electricity based from renewable resources to surrounding states and provinces.
“The reason for being independent is a simple one. It is fundamentally better for all of us if decisions about Cascadia’s future are taken by the people who care most about Cascadia – that is by the people of Cascadia. It is the people who live here who will do the best job of making our bioregion a fairer, better and more successful place.”
On December 22nd 2018, the United States federal government partially shut itself down for the third time of the year, and more times than in the past two decades. Since the government shutdown, followed by endless years of political turmoil and a pandemic that has swept the globe, the United States and Canadian economies have begun a tailspin, continuing a downward trend and the worst December on record since the great depression in 1931.
The brief shutdown in 2018 impacted 800,000 individuals, many within the Cascadian bioregion — and included the halt of programs responsible for food inspection, sexual assault and domestic violence prevention, crime victim support, and basic food assistance for women, infants and children across Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California. Departments impacted are the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, as well as several smaller agencies. More than 30 million small businesses no longer had access to federally assisted loans and technical assistance from the Small Business Administration until their funds are unfrozen. Universities and other receivers of large federal grants could also see impact to their budgets.
The Responsibility of a Government to its People
This inability to govern, undermines the very basic principles of a modern government. By defaulting on it’s payments the United States is defaulting on it’s responsibility to provide economic stability, create and enforce a society of law, and increase the livelihood and well being of its citizens. As outlined by the United States constitution, the federal US government has three primary responsibilities:
- A representational democracy that represents the people, creates laws, and upholds laws.
- The manufacture of currency and regulation of interstate commerce and an economy. The duty to maintain a steady economy.
- The defense of borders, and stability at home.
The United States is now failing in each of these areas.
The biggest threat to the United States, is the United States itself.
During the height of the last major government shutdown in 2013, u/SangersSequence in the Seattle subreddit made a post that “Now that the Federal government is shut down… it’s time!” with a picture of the Cascadia Flag. The post received more than 1.6k likes, and was one of the top ten posts of the year. During the last major presidential election, in which a president was elected that a vast majority of Cascadians disagreed with, an organic post we made with the simple letters #CascadiaNow reached more than 100,000, and was widely shared, retweeted and blogged about.
People often say that Cascadia is an unrealistic notion, but the reality is that every time the federal government shuts itself down, every time they strip away rights and protections from citizens, and every time they create chaos and volatility that affects the livelihoods of millions of American and Cascadian citizens, Cascadia becomes slightly more real.
By the numbers — in terms of government, as of August, only 34% of Americans remain satisfied with the size and power of the federal government, a number which has declined continually for the past 17 years, despite a brief uptick after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of September 11th. This crisis of representation was even worse for congress, with a combined approval rating of only 17% and even from the majority party in power, only 28% of Republicans approved of the job they were doing, while a mere 7% of Democrats approved. Numbers which are guaranteed to decline as the stock market continues to decline. In 2017, the United States was downgraded to a ‘flawed democracy’ and just in December 2018, Reporters Without Borders added the United States to the list of deadliest countries for journalists, ranked sixth among the most lethal countries for journalists, behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen and India, in that order.
More than just the illusion of discontent, the situation of the United States gets much worse as you begin to crunch the numbers as it approaches a failed state. As of March 15, 2018, the U.S. debt exceeded for the first time ever $21 trillion dollars, and with the debt ceiling removed by congress, the United States is now adding more than a trillion dollars of debt each year. The primary way to measure this, as a ratio to the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP — the overall economic output of the United States) the United States has been over 100% in 2016, 2017 for the first time since World War II and is expected to grow to 108% of the GDP in 2019, and 2020. This means that the United States has been spending more than it earns, as an entirety of its economy, for the past three years, and is expected to do so into the future. Every day, the United States is paying more than $1 billion in interest, that is not being reinvested into the economy, just to stay current on what is already owed. Broken down to a per person basis, the debt that every person owes has more than doubled in the last eleven years to more than $160,000 a person.
Since World War II, the United States government has been the largest driver for American Capitalism in the world, promoting economic policies that position the United States as the chief beneficiary of a global system of inter-global finance, manufacturing and exchange of goods and services. The role of government America, and especially since the last great depression, has been to help balance the growth of the economy, while providing basic protections for citizens, small patches of socialism on a larger capitalistic framework. That balance, now is tipping again. American Capitalism will not just disappear, even as the United States federal government, might. Capitalism, like a cancer, thrives on scarcity, on models of disaster, and uses times of turmoils — like economic collapse, volatility or chaos — to implement wide sweeping changes that favor a few, and greater entrench it’s own policies.
Current Support for Independence
According to a Zogby Poll in 2018, support for independence currently sits at 39% in the United States, with 68% of people being open to the idea of a states right to peacefully secede. These numbers are by Democrats (41%) and Black Americans (47%) replacing the previous current highest block of Latinos (51% in 2017), and followed by Republicans (39%).
In Canada, a much younger country with only 30 million residents in which independence does not bear the same stigma and an active Quebec and Indigenous Sovereignty movement, support for the idea of independence ranges in British Columbia sits around 42% in British Columbia and continues to grow with strong feelings of western alienation. British Columbia and Washington continue to share close ties, with more than
In British Columbia, the only place where research specifically on independence and Cascadia has been conducted, a 2020 poll by Glacier Media and Research Co. has shown a signifigant growth of support for Cascadia and an British Columbia as a standalone independent country. As a standalone country, support has gone up to 27% from 17% in 2018 and 2019) and shockingly, support for joining together with Washington and Oregon as Cascadia sits at
A consistent finding over the past few years is related to Cascadia. We have seen how British Columbians value the special relationship we keep with Washington State and Oregon, whose residents we perceive as different than Americans from other states. The biggest surprise in this year’s survey by Research Co. and Glacier Media is the significant growth in the proportion of residents who think British Columbia would be better off as its own country (27%, up from just 17% in polls conducted in 2019 and 2018). British Columbians (58%) continue to believe that we have more in common with the people of Seattle and Portland than with those in Toronto or Montreal. In British Columbia, those aged 18 to 34 support Cascadia at a rate of 66%, 60% of those aged 35 to 54 and 48% of those aged 55 and over. British Columbians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to feel that the province could be independent (37%) than those aged 35 to 54 (28%) and those aged 55 and over (18%). This does not mean that we are giving credence to the so-called “wexit” movement. The secessionist federal party attracted the attention of only 15% of British Columbians when we asked in March.
Another study released by Angus Reid which is conducting a four part study on Western Canadian identity, and surveyed 4,024 Canadians in late December and early January. It showed that 54 percent of British Columbians felt they had the most in common with Washington state, 18 percent picked California while just 15 per cent chose Alberta, 9% percent chose Ontaria, and less than 3% chose Manitoba, Saskatchewan or another Canadian area.
This connection, while not new, has steadily continued to grow (In 1991, fully half of B.C. respondents told the Angus Reid Group they had the most in common with Washington) and more telling, in 1991 there was a much greater degree of mutual recognition between British Columbia and Alberta, and other parts of Canada.
At that time fully one-in-three Albertans in that survey said they had the most in common with B.C., more than chose any other province. Similarly, today, only 7 per cent of Albertans think their province has the most in common with B.C. These differences in perceived closeness across the west reflect that while Western Canadians perceive their region as unique and distinct from the rest of Canada, they also hold nuanced views about the region’s component provinces. In particular, the study finds a growing rift between Alberta and British Columbia on many issues. On an individual level, Western Canadians tend not to think of themselves by that name. Tellingly, residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are more likely to think of themselves Albertans, Saskatchewanians and British Columbians, respectively, than Canadians.
Not Represented by the Federal Government
A key component of how the west perceives its role in Canada is whether or not it feels represented by national institutions. The federal government receives its poorest scores in the West, with just one-quarter of British Columbians (25%), and fewer than one-in-five Albertans (15%) and Saskatchewanians (17%) saying they feel well represented.
Much like their southern Cascadian and Californian counterparts, asked whether the federal government’s treatment of the west has improved or worsened over the last few years, those westerners who believe the treatment has been unfair tend to see it worsening:
Given that they feel they’re receiving poor treatment from the federal government, it’s interesting to note how British Columbians and other western provinces would like to their local governments to best proceed in representing their interests.
Rather than less of a schism, only 7 percent want their province to take “a soft approach” that aims to avoid conflict. The vast majority are split between favoring “a firmer approach” that doesn’t shy away from disagreement (46%) and “a tough approach” that would see their provincial government “do what it takes” to defend regional interests (47%).
Cascadia is not an if, but when
Cascadia will not happen in a vacuum. In times of great turmoil, and collapse, such as the 2008 global economic crisis, or in 2011 with the upswelling of peoples resistance movements around the world, people look to the ideas on fringes to help find solutions where there haven’t been any before. Counter intuitively however, it is not during times of shock, but rather during times of prosperity and stability, in which people feel safe enough in their livelihood, that real change, and the slow process of building the alternative systems and models can take root.
Instead it will be tens of thousands of people, in regions across the United States, working together, creating better alternatives, all coming together to create our collective future. Localizing our economies, democratizing our ways of living, finding waste-free business streams, starting farms and accessible ways for people to buy goods does not just happen overnight — but we are lucky that broad swaths of organizers, activists, governments, businesses and individuals are already coming together
As the United States government increasingly fails to be able to provide the fundamental responsibilities of a government, to centralize authority, decrease representation and strip away the rights and protections of it’s citizens, Cascadians, and citizens of every bioregion must ask the questions of how long we will wait, and what pathways we will create for a more sustainable, equitable and just future, before the choices are taken away, and other decisions forced upon us.
Bioregionalism resists this fragmentation of place, and our communities. Capitalism and shock doctrine economics entrench themselves in moments of turmoil and upheavel — but bioregionalism builds in times of plenty as well, when we have the time to build the alternative models we need so we can be ready for times of less. Resiliency is key, in which our communities are self-sufficient, able to weather shocks put upon us by exterior forces, and inhabitants can be supported in the work, and feel comfortable enough in their livelihoods to create the change that our world and society needs.
As traditional borders and protections of nation states fade into the thread of a 21st century environment, Cascadia is not an if, but when. It is the job then of Cascadians, and bioregionalists across this country and world, to write the future that we want to see and inspire the popular consciousness and spark our collective imagination.