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The Cascadian Flag: A Transformative Icon

The Cascadian Flag: A Transformative Icon

(En Espanol)

By Alexander Baretich

The blue represents the moisture rich sky above and Pacific Ocean along with the Salish Sea, lakes and other inland waters. Our home is of continuous cascading waters flowing from our sky and mountains back to the Pacific. For Cascadia is a land of falling water from the Pacific to the western slopes of the Rockies where water cycles as vapor and then rain and snow to run through creek and river back to the Pacific. The white is for the snow and clouds which are the catalyst of water changing from one state of matter to another. From liquid into vapor (mist and clouds) and from vapor into solid (ice and snow) and melting back to liquid or vapor. The green is the forests and fields which too carry life giving water through our biodiverse land. The lone standing Douglas fir symbolizes endurance, defiance and resilience against fire, flood, catastrophic change and even against anthropocentric Man. All these symbols of color and icon come together to symbolize what being Cascadian is all about.








The flag as a transformative icon:

The flag ideally should capture, recall, the awe, love and beautify of the bioregion that we experience whether in childhood or in adulthood. At its deep subconscious level the colors and center icon (the conifer tree) should bring the observer to a sense of wonder and even security that the forests give us.

The history and reason for the flag

When I was in high school (early 1980s) I was fighting against the deforestation and mass building of suburbia around my home in Portland. I was very well in-tune with the forests and the open fields (White Oak Savanna) on the south slope of the shield volcano I grew up on. I would enter the forest after school and just listen to Nature. I would do my version of forest defense which meant pulling up surveyors’ stakes, pulling down real estate signs and sometimes damage to equipment. I would even go into a forest where trees were marked with spray-paint (marked to be cut) and repaint them with paint matching the color of the bark so the hired tree cutters could not figure out which tree to cut. It was a losing battle as suburbia wiped out lots of forests and fields on the edges of Portland’s expanding urban growth boundary. One day at my forest, the real estate developer had secretly ordered the cutting of all the trees while he was supposed to be arguing his case before Portland city council. It was an illegal cut as the city council were discussing if the “development” should take place given neighborhood protests and local media coverage. The damage was done, but as we tried to stop the loggers I realized this was a losing battle. I realized then that I needed to get into the minds of the chainsaw wielding workers and the bulldozer operators who would just scuff at my protest and say “it’s just my job” or “if I don’t someone else will.” I had heard those words repeatedly or from the real estate developer himself “you cannot stop progress.” First of all this was not “progress” it was greed and dominion over Nature. It was death and ecocide and its goal was eventually terracide. It was at that point I started to search for some means to shift the consciousness of people from anthropocentric (human centered) to one that was biocentric (life centered). I knew whatever that was, that catalysis, it had to be emotion driven and needed to have that “aha” moment or epiphany at the human conscious level. I also knew it was not something one necessarily went out and found, but was something that would reveal itself when it was time. So that began a subconscious search for what I would call a transformative icon.

In the academic year of 1994-1995, I ended up doing graduate work in Eastern Europe studying nationalism and ethnic minorities. Though I totally love the people, cultures and landscape of Eastern Europe, I was deeply homesick for the forests of Cascadia, specifically the Willamette Valley forests I grew up around. One day in spring as I sat on a hill with my companion, I explained to her what the landscape of my home looked like. I said those vast vineyards if at my house would be vast green forests; the distant mountains of the Matras would be the snowcapped Cascades with white clouds hovering above; and above that might be the blue sky. The three colors of blue, white and green came to mind and that the pine tree in front of us would be a Douglas fir. The image stuck in my mind and spent a lot of time obsessively drawing the flag which really annoyed my soon to be wife. That period of time was crucial in regards to what was happening in Cascadia at that point. Massive deforestation targeting old growth was happening and salvaging of down trees cause by intentional fires as well as law suits countering clear cutting of endangered species habitat was filling up the courts. The Clinton/Gore administration during the summer of 1995 signed into law “Salvage Rider” which basically back stabbed environmentalists and made all the legal victories pointless. Like what I had realized fighting real estate developers in the 1980s, had again surfaced that we needed to create paradigm shift in the minds of those who had power. The period was marked by “Cascadia Free States” which were environmental blockades and barricades set to stop the logging industry from harvesting national forests.

Prior to the design and its popularity, the idea of Cascadia, specifically the bioregion, was pretty much an abstract concept reserved for radical geographers, hip sociologists, devoted ecologists and “radical” environmentalists. There were bioregional congresses, but they were periodic camp and small workshops that were from an older generation from the 1960s and 1970s. The bioregional congress “movement” or gatherings was an echo of the alternative culture of a bygone generation. The bioregional congress gatherings were also limited to those that already knew about bioregionalism and often to those who could afford both the cost of camping in some distant place and the privilege to do so. What the flag has done is convey something far more tangible than an abstract concept of demarcation of space. The flag gave access to the idea of Cascadia that was not limited to scholarly research or having the privilege of money and time for a camping trip on the other side of the continent.

I tend to look at the meme (viral idea) of the Cascadian flag like it’s a multilayered sphere or onion entering or implanted in the mindscape of the host and then unfolding while releasing its contagion. The meme conveys multiple layers to understanding Cascadia. As the memetic onion unpeels in the deep subconscious of the host some will stay or linger at one or another layer, but I have seen major shifts into the deeper layers by some who I thought would remain at the first several layers and I have seen some stay stuck at the first couple layers who I thought would delve deep into the core of the memetic onion. So the levels or peels. At first the normal reaction, the shallow surface level, is to be of nationalistic. The “oh we are a new country” concept which often ends up being “well if they are America then we are Cascadia.” This is the flying of the flag as a form of simple regional identity, but then there is the deeper layers of consciousness that emerges as the simple concepts of nationalism peels away. The next level then is the awareness that Cascadia is not defined by the limited borders of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but has greater broader borders that include Idaho, northern California, and southeast Alaska as well as northeastern Nevada, northwestern Wyoming, northwestern Montana and even a little of northern Utah. Then there is the realization that those borders are based on nation-state concepts and imperialism. This realization is that these lines on a map are dictated by the conquerors and oppressors who have destroyed so much diversity. This comes to an awakening that Cascadia the bioregion is based on watersheds or river drainage systems that flow all the way to the Rockies or continental divide. Then a deeper layer of consciousness hits that the flow of water is crucial to a bioregion and that life is based on that water. After that comes the realization that Cascadia or any bioregion is not just a place, but a living complex of interactions and interconnectedness to many communities, human and nonhuman. That at that realization we are not a human in a vacuum separated from Nature, but are extensions of each other and dependent on the health and dynamic interactions with each other. It becomes a consciousness of living dynamic being and is no longer stuck in banal nationalism, but is an awakening to being part of a bioregion which is part of the biosphere which is the living Earth (Gaia).

The Cascadian flag captures that love of living communities in our bioregion. Unlike many flags, the Cascadian flag is neither a flag of blood nor a flag of the glory for a nation, but a love of the bioregion; our ecosystems and the dynamics interplay between tectonics, H20, atmosphere and life; the place in which we live and love.

The flag has been put it in creative commons with some restrictions. The following is cited from the creative common’s license:

The flag was designed by Alexander Baretich during the academic year of 1994-1995 and represents the bioregion of Cascadia.
The design is not to be used for hate (1) or exploitation (2).
1.) Hate speech being defined as words, depictions and actions generated against an individual or group based on ethnicity, religious affiliation (or non-religious association or identity), race, gender identity, sexuality (from orientation to mutually consenting adult activities), familial structure, mobility, educational background (or “lack” of institutional education), caste or economic situation (class) and so forth. Hate speech also maybe disguised as “White Pride” or nationalism. The Cascadian flag by Alexander Baretich does not represent any of these forms of hate and should not be used to represent such hate.
2.) Exploitation being defined by the actions of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work or the violating of Nature for profit at the expense of causing ecological harm. The use of the flag should not be contrary to the ideas of bioregionalism.
When in publication it should be cited that the designer is Alexander Baretich and that it’s the flag of the bioregion of Cascadia or simply as the Cascadian flag.
Alexander Baretich can be contacted at Alexander.Baretich@gmail.com


What is Cascadia?

Cascadia is a bioregion.

Cascadia is a noun and a place.

Cascadian, as an adjective or demonym, means someone or something associated with Cascadia (the bioregion). The name Cascadia comes from the word “cascades” meaning falling water or waterfalls. In the 1820s, David Douglas named the mountain range the Cascades. The name Cascadia in various circles came to mean the whole Pacific Northwest. This bioregion was also called Chinook Illahee in the trade language of Chinook Wawa that was spoken by indigenous and settler people alike. We honor both names as names of this beautiful place.

Cascadia as a geographical region includes most of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and the majority of Idaho as well as northern California, parts of northwestern Wyoming, northwestern Montana, northeastern Nevada, the northwestern corner of Utah, southeastern Alaska, and the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory.

Why not the “Pacific Northwest?” Because the Pacific Northwest is a geographic description based on an Atlantic centered map. By both the place (Cascadia) and the people (Cascadians) remaining as only a geographic description of a distant corner of Atlantic empires, then we do ourselves a great disservice. As “Pacific Northwesterners” we remain a nameless object or second thought to the power centers of Washington DC and Ottawa. By remaining the “Pacific Northwest” the bioregion ends up being an object or description. We have a name, we are Cascadians and we have a home and it is called Cascadia. By giving ourselves and our home a name we empower ourselves and restore the sacredness of the land as a place of home and not a place for “resource extraction” [plunder] for empire or greed!

~ Alexander Baretich


What is Bioregionalism?

Bioregionalism is the consciousness or awareness of the interconnectedness of the water-life cycle within a given region. Even in the driest of deserts, a bioregion is defined by its water-life cycle, no matter how short and seemingly sparse a cycle may be. The great water-life cycles are actually the generation and transfer of energy. So each bioregion is a living system of interconnected communities and churning of energy. Tao philosophy ascribes the flow energy in the body and systems to ch’i (or qì), often translated in English as life force. The water-life (within great water-life cycles) is like the ch’i within the biomass of the Earth. It is a flow of energy and, as living beings dependent on these life cycles, it is crucial we sustain, maintain and preserve these cycles in healthy ways. As bioregionalists awakened to the acknowledgment of the importance of these cycles and regions of the Earth, it becomes part of who and what we are. The bioregion permeates the very soul of the awakened inhabitant (i.e. the bioregionalist).

Hence, a bioregionalist is one that advocates for the awakening in consciousness and the protection of the water-life cycle. Bioregionalism is a paradigm shift away from the current paradigm of resource extraction, anthropocentric worldview, domination over, consumerism, “Man vs Nature” division and even patriarchy. Bioregionalism is focused on communities (sociological and ecological), interconnectedness and interdependence. Bioregionalism is a combination of biocentric (life centered), ecocentric (ecosystem centered), kincentric (relationship centered) and/or Gaia-centric (Earth centered) as opposed to anthropocentric (human centered). Bioregionalism is a living celebration of life.

Bioregionalism and in this case specifically Cascadian bioregionalism (or Cascadianism) is the radical shift in our relationship with the Earth and all other living beings and the shift in relationship with each other as humans as well as ultimately a shift in the very relationship with the self.
Bioregionalism becomes an anti-colonial and decolonizing approach by not letting us be the prisoners of imperial cartography, the lines drawn on a map by distant political diplomats and circumstantial events, but instead embraces the diversity of the landscape and its natural flow of energy (water).

Therefore, Cascadia is defined by the water cycles, watersheds, tectonics and biodiversity. Cascadia, the bioregion, extends to the western slopes of the Rockies and then flows back with moisture in the rivers, streams, creeks and runoff back to the Pacific to start the cycle over as rain, snow and ice. The uplifting of the Cascade Range, Olympics and other mountain ranges created an elevated barrier that churns the waters to produce the climates within the bioregion. The Rockies end up being that eastern edge where precipitation that falls on its western slopes flow back to the Pacific. The precipitation that fall on the eastern slopes flow to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic. Bioregionalism is the awakening to the fact that we as a species do not live in a vacuum, but have a deep interconnectedness to all things and that we exist in a huge dynamic relationship with multiple communities (human and nonhuman).
A vision that is anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and an end of exploitation of all kinds. This new model is one of horizontal structures, cooperative relations (mutual aid) and resilient communities. It is a decentralized network that branches out like a nervous system throughout a bioregion. This new approach is called a Bioregional Cooperative Commonwealth (BCC).

~ Alexander Baretich