Cascadia Needs a Real Government
The Covid-19 pandemic has proven an awful truth: governments across the United States and Canada have utterly failed at their single most important job — protecting their people.
In less than a year, more than 400,000 Americans and 18,000 Canadians have lost their lives to a virus that numerous less developed countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Estonia have proven dramatically more competent at controlling. This already horrible death toll is set to steadily increase until the summer of 2021, when the wide availability of vaccines is expected to finally end this cruel pandemic.
Across British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon more than 6,500 people have already died, and it is all but certain this horrifying death toll will exceed 10,000 — this out of a population of around 17 million. If our governments had only been as effective as those of Denmark, Norway, and Finland — together boasting a population of similar size, distribution, and wealth and around the middle of the global pack in terms of death rates—the toll would be less than half as bad now, and roughly third as high by summer.
And there are even more compelling examples. South Korea has lost around 1,500 people — a quarter of Cascadia’s toll — despite boasting a population more than twice the size and also older and more densely packed, which elsewhere tends to lead to rapid, severe outbreaks. Singapore, a city of five million and major regional transit hub, has lost only 29 people. Oregon alone, with a population of 4.2 million, has suffered 1,800 casualties already. Australia and New Zealand — combined population 31 million— nearly double Cascadia’s — are set to make it through with less than 1,000 fatalities.
Worse, fatality counts only tell a small part of the story. Evidence is mounting that many of those who contract Covid-19 — estimates are presently 10% continue to have at least one symptom of the disease six months later. The number of people directly and severely impacted by this plague is truly astonishing — millions in North America alone.
Our governments must be held responsible for allowing one of the most epic failures of modern history. This failure is all the more glaring in light of the fact that there is no magic to controlling Covid — just effective, properly funded public health programs. Countries that beat Covid-19 quickly and decisively, and kept it tamped down, all followed the same disciplined drill:
- Lock down until cases decline to almost zero for two weeks.
- Reduce restrictions while testing as many people as physically possible constantly, and perform thorough contact tracing on any new infections that crop up.
- If a cluster forms that individual quarantines can’t stop, the affected geographic area — defined by how the affected people actually live and travel, not arbitrary political boundaries — must be isolated to prevent the need for broader measures.
- Rinse and repeat — liberally — until more than 70% of the population is vaccinated.
It is by no means an easy or simple task, so to support this necessary effort, government must do everything possible to ensure as many people as possible can stay home yet still obtain all the supplies and income they need to hold out until the plague can be purged. Despite the vast public expense involved with subsidizing the incomes of virtually all workers and businesses for several months on end — not to mention the bitter pain that ripples across society when people are separated from friends and family — a coordinated lockdown has been proven to be the cheapest way — for everyone — to beat the virus in the long run .
And one need not be an authoritarian state like China to make this work — people do largely follow sensible rules if they understand the need and have everything they need to ride out the disaster. A pandemic is not fundamentally different than any other natural disaster, it just lasts longer.
In the United States and Canada, this basic, crucial objective was never accomplished. Instead, after a brief lockdown, officials — especially the politicians in charge — chose to listen primarily to powerful voices representing the sectors of the economy inadequately supported during the lockdown.
These interests naturally favored leaving the choice of how to respond to the hazards of Covid-19 mostly up to individuals. Under their approach, people would be informed of the local risk level and advised to take measures like socializing in small groups, working from home if their boss allowed, and other risk minimization efforts. But these were fatally flawed: they aimed to simply “flatten the curve” in the short term rather than achieve victory, and as a result tens of thousands of lives were lost and all the pain of the lockdowns rendered for nothing.
Worse, national governments — against the advice of pandemic experts who knew the need for a carefully coordinated response — began deferring to state and provincial governments on implementation of Covid restrictions. Yet they never strongly physically separated regions to compensate for the naturally varying competence levels.
And these State and Province governments likewise passed too many hard choices on to to local jurisdictions, who generally proved ill-equipped to handle the challenge — mostly due to a predictable lack of resources. So testing capacity was never increased enough. Contract tracers were hired in insufficient numbers to quickly track new outbreaks. Businesses with physical premises called people back to work in reduced numbers — but this proved only enough to ensure the virus continued spreading slowly, seeding the disaster that arrived with the onset of winter.
And so hundreds of thousands of people have died who simply didn’t have to, sacrificed on the altar of the economy in a false choice produced by a totally catastrophic failure of government. Two of the richest countries on the planet left so many of their people to die because few in positions of power wanted and were willing to take responsibility and make the hard but necessary choices required to protect their people.
It is vital for all Cascadians to forever remember that this astonishing failure was not the fault of one leader or political party alone — though in the years that follow this horrible pandemic, they will all struggle mightily to escape blame. Leaders of all major parties and at every level of government have systematically failed in their most fundamental, sacred task, despite public health experts having warned for decades that such a pandemic was inevitable.
The rot runs deeper than mere politics. Sadly, this tragic failure of our governments is a natural and inevitable result of their historical origins as settler-colonies.
Unlike a truly democratic government, a settler-colony government’s main concern is always protecting the economic interests of the powerful. That’s why the first governments form in colonies: A generation of settlers stakes a claim to the land, then establishes a set of formal laws and rights to differentiate themselves and their holdings from one another and especially from those migrants who come after.
Each incoming generation of migrants — and slaves, particularly in America’s case — is exploited as cheap labor, then — if they survive — their descendants are pushed into the ever-expanding frontier. The colonial government eventually expands to manage them too — but it is mostly there to perpetuate the process of expanding its power, funneling wealth back to the national capitol.
What democratic rights the majority of people later win only come after a bitter struggle, and the society is slowly divided into classes or castes that fight over control of the government. Settler-colonies, once they run out of room to easily expand, then develop a kind of interior frontier where large numbers of people live in perpetual near-destitution, serving as a largely-menial reserve labor force kept in line by the promise of improving their situation over time.
It should come as no shock then that, despite the pleas of thousands upon thousands of experienced doctors, nurses, and scientists, governments in America and Canada effectively surrendered to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unwilling to protect the vulnerable at the expense of perpetual economic growth, they shrugged their shoulders and accepted its spread as inevitable, just as kings of old used to kneel to an invader, becoming a subject of the incoming regime, maintaining as much of their own property as they could while their subjects were pillaged.
Our governments have failed so miserably because the institutions of government in these settler-colonies were designed to react this way in a crisis. They have always been a shield used to safeguard the interests of a privileged few, with the rest of the population divided and set against one another, fighting over the paltry scraps that remained. The governments of the United States of America, Canada, Oregon, Washington, and even British Columbia have all manifestly failed their people in this predictable crisis — and this will not be the last existential crises Cascadians face.
For the people of Cascadia, this bitter truth about the governments we currently have represents a grave and pressing threat to all our lives, families, homes, and businesses. We cannot trust that our leaders can do what is necessary to protect their residents against the complex array of threats that Cascadians face in this globalized world.
This represents a problem that must be solved — and fast. The clock is always ticking down to the next disaster, and delaying the cost of responding now only leads to magnified costs in the future.
There’s an old saying I picked up while serving in the Army some years back: “Sweat now or bleed later.” This was a favorite of the old grizzled sergeants who had been everywhere and seen everything, including the brutal Occupation of Iraq, and the Covid-19 pandemic has proven it bitterly true.
And unless Cascadians can build a better government capable of doing some serious sweating very soon, tens of thousands of people— maybe ourselves, maybe our children — will pay the inevitable blood-price that comes from a failure to properly prepare.
A Beautiful but Dangerous Land
Cascadia is a distinct region of North America physically defined by the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the Cascadia Subduction Zone that birthed these mighty peaks. This stark, rugged landscape is also defined by a set of interlinked hazards anyone living here must be prepared to cope with.
Tales abound in the surviving myths and legends coming down to us from the First Cascadians, warning of the tempestuous nature of our home, where the scars of past calamities are etched into the very hills. Some other regions of North America face one or even several of these threats, but none face them all.
Yet the Cascadia Subduction Zone poses a threat beyond all the others combined. Every 300–500 years —the last time was 1700 — this extensive region ruptures catastrophically, spawning a Megathrust earthquake— a seismic event exceeding 8.0 on the Richter Scale and often even higher. And when one comes, it is an event that utterly defines the lives of all who remember, which is probably why memory of these Megaquakes and similar great disasters was retained by so many indigenous storytellers.
One awful day — it may come tomorrow, next month, or a hundred years from now, but the clock is always ticking — for five minutes or more, every person living between northern California and southern Alaska will feel the ground heave and shudder with such violence that many will wonder if it’s the Apocalypse. How bad it gets depends entirely on where you are.
The eastern slopes of the Cascades will get rattled, but damage should be fairly light. Along the densely-populated corridor stretching from about Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia the damage will be far more severe, with many older buildings and bridges collapsing under a strain they simply weren’t built to withstand. Homes will be knocked off their foundations and fires will break out around damaged gas mains.
Along the coast, though, is where the situation will be truly apocalyptic. There the ground will suddenly plummet the height of a grown man while the ocean recedes towards the horizon — only to come rushing back with astonishing force a few minutes later, a series of powerful waves the size of buildings pulverizing everything in the tsunami’s path. From Cape Mendocino to Vancouver Island, tens of thousands of Cascadians will be forced to flee to high ground as quickly as they can run, racing great waves that will push some distance up the coastal rivers, temporarily reversing their flow.
Videos widely available online document similar incidents. In 2004, on the day after Christmas, a subduction zone megaquake devastated communities around the Indian Ocean, the shaking and tsunami that followed killing a quarter of a million people. In 2011, another struck the coast of northern Japan, killing thousands and triggering a second disaster when the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant went into meltdown, releasing historic amounts of radiation into the environment.
If a 9.0 Megaquake happened in Cascadia today, planners estimate up to 25,000 Cascadians would die — and as Cascadia’s population continues to grow rapidly in the coming decades, the eventual impacts will be even greater. That’s the equivalent of not one, but two simultaneous failed Covid pandemic responses — and it will happen, with geologists estimating the odds as ranging from about one in eight to over one in three before 2050.
Fortunately, there is some good news: with proper planning and preparation this death toll can be dramatically reduced. We aren’t helpless — we know who is vulnerable and where they live, and there are phenomenal engineering and planning solutions available to mitigate the hazard. But so far, despite knowing about the severity of this threat for twenty years, our governments have embraced only token efforts wholly inadequate to the challenge. And their failure in the face of Covid-19 proves they just aren’t up to the task.
Government is supposed to exist, in its most basic terms, to provide essential services that the systems of markets and charity can’t be expected to distribute to everyone equally. These are broad social guarantees, like national security or disaster response, where expensive equipment and dedicated organization are needed along with the people trained to operate them.
But settler-colony governments don’t truly care about their people — beyond our role as revenue generators. This warped original intent is a substantial part of the reason why simple democratic concepts like giving every citizen the right to vote took centuries to implement — and in some places still haven’t been. It is the root of why our police are trained to be so reflexively violent, especially towards minority groups. It is why corporate lobbyists have so much power as well as why there is always some new enemy to fight beyond the edge of the ever-expanding horizon.
The governing institutions we rely on were designed to work this way — and also, to be extremely difficult for the mass of the people to change. It is a particular irony of the United States that its revered Founding Fathers, rebelling against Britain under the banner of Liberty, subsequently moved to prevent the vast majority of America’s people from voting. And Canada too has its own anti-democratic colonial legacies, including the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the First Nations under its control.
Cascadia, like any nation, has the basic right to a truly democratic government dedicated to the equal protection of every person. A government structured to suit the needs of the present day, able to secure the basic rights we cherish against any threat.
That’s what the Democratic Federation of Cascadia aims to be.
The first mission of the Democratic Federation of Cascadia is to secure the right to establish a self-governing Cascadian Nation within the United States and Canada. Only once this is achieved, when we can focus our public finances and attention on the most pressing issues facing Cascadia, can we get started building a better world.
However, it is extremely important to state something vital as clearly as possible:
This is not a call for secession!
The Democratic Federation of Cascadia seeks legal authorizations from both the United States Congress and Canadian Parliament to organize Cascadia as a trans-national, self-governing territory within and still part of both the United States of America and Canada. At no point will we disobey the law or engage in acts of violence in order to achieve our goal.
Our aim is simply to protect all residents of Cascadia against the many harms of the world now that we know for a fact that our present governments have manifestly failed to accomplish that most vital task. They have failed the test; so now we must pursue a fundamental reorganization around a collective Cascadian identity.
We don’t need revolution or even international status as a sovereign country. It is not the basic laws and rights of our parent countries that are at issue, nor do Cascadians want to be severed from our home countries. We only want to rectify the proven inability of our present governments to secure our basic human rights.
What we do need is legal recognition of our nationhood and right to govern ourselves. Cascadia will exist within our parent countries, holding a special status that allows Cascadian legal residents and goods unrestricted movement within our jurisdiction. Cascadians will remain American or Canadian citizens, but the Democratic Federation of Cascadia take full responsibility for guaranteeing their basic rights so long as they are residents Cascadia.
This regional, devolved solution — a stronger flavor of the sort of arrangement enjoyed by nations of the United Kingdom like Scotland and Wales — is ideal for Cascadia because people’s lives are always shaped most strongly by where they live. The reality they perceive to be normal is forever restricted by the scope of the world they interact with on a routine basis.
Humans exist in constant dialog with the landscape, shaping it while it molds us in return. Shared climate, mutual hazards — the diverse features of Cascadia’s geography will always be the driving factors shaping Cascadian identity, just as geography does all across the Earth.
For Cascadians throughout history geography has proven to be destiny. And the history of the region is more ancient than most know.
Dense networks of settlements linked by trade existed for centuries, this proto-Cascadia comprising a diverse array of bands and tribes. They wouldn’t have thought of themselves as Cascadians as such — that’s a European term — but evidence from indigenous oral legends does indicate that the lower Columbia River brought migrants and traders from what is now northern California to far northern British Columbia.
The Cascade volcanoes feature prominently in many stories, the many peaks of the long arc remembered as ancestors, gods, or the homes of spirits. Some stories speak of a long line of marchers who were fixed in place for all time by a mystical power, and many peoples ranging from Cascadia’s northern to southern edges have tales of when these ancestors or gods went to war, fire and ash devastating the lands beneath. So too do the memories of the Cascadia megaquakes and tsunamis persist in local stories, personified as a demon lurking under the waves in the west, sometimes sending them raging onto the shore.
Some may dispute the existence of any common Cascadian identity prior to modern times, and it is true that so much knowledge has been lost that generalizing is difficult. Those arguments tend to use European definitions of nationhood that are suspiciously in line with the myths European kings told about the lands under their control. Fundamental differences between peoples are in the real world very few, particularly in the old days, before electricity and gasoline and the internet.
In Cascadia human settlement was strongly tied to shifts in the seasonal availability of food, with peoples gathering together to trade; up until relatively recently the same was true of life for the vast majority of people in Europe. Striking parallels mark the day-to-day activities of Cascadians and Europeans a thousand years ago —it should never be forgotten that national identities like “German” or “British” are themselves relatively new, and have changed much in only a few decades.
In a time where identities are being rapidly reshaped across the entire world, Cascadia is as much a nation as any. A basic human right that must be accorded to all nations in a free world is to be served by a truly accountable, fully democratic government that exists by the will of, and for the benefit of, its people.
From the outset, the Democratic Federation of Cascadia will be focused on making the transition to self-governance as smooth as possible. This status has holds many advantages over formal independence. Financial transactions will be done in either Canadian or American Dollars, citizens can still travel as they please, except during a declared emergency like a pandemic, when travel isn’t safe. Life will continue as it ever does —except that Cascadians will have a responsible government, one better capable of ensuring stability and prosperity far into the future.
Much of the real work in building a resilient, sustainable Cascadia will lie in the hands of sub-national State governments which hold substantial powers delegated from the Cascadian Federal Government. Cascadian State governments will have a high degree of autonomy, their borders drawn to ensure they are predominantly urban, rural, or suburban in character. These three human settlement patterns now strongly define our daily lives and associations, constituting the primary social divide between Cascadians.
This blended form of governance is appropriate for a diverse nation like Cascadia because the Cascadian national identity is not and can never be narrowly exclusive. Cascadia has always been a Nation of Nations, and the Democratic Federation of Cascadia will have the task of truly uniting the many First Nations with the more recent waves of settlers who began to arrive after European colonization started in earnest.
After the introduction of new diseases had killed some 90% of the pre-contact population, a genocide and ethnic cleansing of the survivors carried out by federal military units and settler militias restricted the surviving First Nations members to reservations. Then the new settler governments carved up what they called “Oregon Country” without much regard to the long-term history of the area, some parts falling under the jurisdiction of the British Empire to later become part of Canada, the majority being spun off as American States as settlers came down the Oregon Trail.
As a result much knowledge about Cascadia from across the many centuries when indigenous Cascadians ruled themselves has been forever lost. But the hard work of scholars, writers, storytellers, and archivists over the last hundred years has managed to save a fragment, and generations of sometimes bitter struggle to preserve their cultural identities has preserved and in recent years has even begun to restore some of what was taken.
Like any other group of peoples occupying a shared landscape, Cascadians lived on and worked the land to survive, an essential part of the local environment who managed it to produce all the things they needed to live. Their lives were defined by the variable availability of food, villages often moving between seasonal encampments established near rich sources of fish, game, roots, and berries as the weather changed.
But this mobility does not imply poverty — Cascadia’s topography and climate long sustained one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions of North America. Salmon, deer, elk, camas roots, wapato roots, wild grains and huckleberries sustained some of the densest populations seen on the continent. Along the coast some Cascadians hunted whales, but the marshes and inlets were so rich and the shells on the beaches so prized further inland offered plenty of opportunity.
East of the mountains life was always a little tougher, yet along the tributaries of the lower Columbia many prosperous villages existed, many acting as intermediaries between the people of the valleys and coast to the west and those of the arid inland plateau to the east. It was apparently a saying that only a very stupid or lazy person would starve, and indeed many ancient migrations into Cascadia from across the Great Basin or north from California’s Central Valley appear to have been prompted by the relative stability of the environment.
Communities across the region were constantly interacting with one another, sometimes violently, much more often peaceably, trading goods along routes that passed up Cascadia’s rivers and through mountain passes, closely binding those on the eastern and western slopes. Cascadians were aware of peoples living in distant lands, and some appear to have heard of the Spaniards who appeared in California preaching their Catholic faith, but the densest populations were ever clustered in the richer lands in sight of the Cascade Mountains.
Truth be told, defining Cascadia’s natural borders remains a matter of substantial debate. There are actually several definitions of Cascadia in use, no two quite the same, each derived from a different strand of thinking about nationhood in the modern world.
The most expansive definition, outlined in dots in the above image, is most often used by advocates of bioregionalism, and defines Cascadia primarily by the extent of the watersheds of the Columbia and Fraser rivers. The slightly more limited definition shaded in dark green simply groups the States of Oregon and Washington together with the Province of British Columbia. An even more restrictive definition focuses on emerging economic links, producing a more minimalist vision of Cascadia tied to the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver urban corridor (top-left below).
Each vision of Cascadia has strengths and weaknesses. The Megaregion concept ignores the eastern slopes of the Cascades entirely, despite their rapid growth and longstanding close ties across the mountain passes. Simply grouping existing states and provinces accepts the unnatural and often harmful boundaries adopted by European settlers, set up to ease extraction of resources and minimize property conflicts, not intelligently divide governing responsibilities.
The bioregional definition, probably the most popular, inexplicably excludes the southern end of the Cascade range — Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta — while including a vast region to the east across the Columbia and Fraser plateaus that today is culturally distinct, its climate and ecology bound more to the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains than the Pacific coast. Bioregionalism does offer a compelling vision of the Cascadia that might someday be, and the environmental focus is admirable — as is the movement’s shift in recent years to incorporate Indigenous perspectives. But some basic foundational steps need to be taken before it has a chance to really take root and grow.
The Democratic Federation of Cascadia is about building a responsible government, offering a better solution to as many Cascadians as possible as swiftly as it can be built. We have to have to have something compelling to organize around, and nothing will serve better than one so fundamental to our common future that we have no choice but to act.
Because of this need I have adopted a middle approach inspired by two key factors: hazards and the patterns of settlement dominant in Cascadia before the arrival of Europeans. And because both are produced by the same basic cause, the Democratic Federation of Cascadia aims in the short term to serve the region bound directly to what has always indisputably been the most visible symbol of Cascadia: the Cascade Volcanic Arc.
If one day we can to serve the entire bioregion, that will be excellent, and we will be happy to add a few more states! But the foundation for a self-governing Cascadia has to start here, with the vast majority of us who live in range of the subduction zone’s power.
In recognition of Cascadia’s past and present diversity, the Democratic Federation of Cascadia will adopt a Federal system of government, with three predominantly urban (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland), two mostly rural (Cascades, Klamath), and four suburban or mixed states (Kulshan, Salish, Tacoma, Willamette).
State — Population (approximate) — Key Cities
Cascades — 1.5 million — Kelowna, Yakima, The Dalles, Bend
Klamath —1.1 million — Medford, Redding, Klamath Falls
Kulshan —1.3 million — Bellingham, Abbotsford
Portland —2.3 million —Portland, Beaverton, Oregon City
Salish — 1.1 million — Nanaimo, Victoria
Seattle —2.8 million —Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Everett
Tahoma —1.9 million — Tacoma, Olympia
Vancouver —2.7 million —Vancouver
Willamette —1.3 million — Salem, Eugene
Long-lasting governments tend to be those that build in a good deal of separation of powers between branches of government, and so the Democratic Federation of Cascadia will integrate those aspects of the Canadian and American systems that work best. Though many powers will be reserved to State governments, the Federal Government of Cascadia will be responsible for matters relevant to multiple States and will have four co-equal branches of government: Legislative, Executive, Judicial, and Defense.
The Legislative Branch — the Cascadia Assembly — will be comprised of 259 Speakers. It will follow the multi-party parliamentary model, with 200 seats awarded proportionally to all parties able to win at least 10% of the votes in a national election. 32 seats will be reserved for a First Nations delegation, these Speakers elected by whatever rules are chosen by the First Nations of Cascadia as a collective. And 27 additional seats — three per State — will be appointed by the elected Executive of each State from a list of individuals of proven ability and dedication who commit to act on a non-partisan basis during their term.
Every three years a national election will be held, and when the new government enters session the Speakers will elect a First Speaker by majority vote who is given the right to form a government. This government will set the day-to-day rules and legislative agenda for the term and establish a Cabinet to coordinate with Federal Agencies in implementing federal laws and programs. First Speakers can change during a term, if a majority of Speakers cannot be maintained by one government.
A nine-member Executive Council will be responsible for the actual administration of all federal programs. The Assembly will have the right to set laws, tax rates, and set federal policy, however all revenues applied to the general budget will be disbursed to States on a per-person basis, ensuring that federal spending is equitably spread across the Cascadian economy. Each State will elect, by direct popular vote every three years, a single Executive empowered to shape the administration of both state and federal laws to suit local needs, allowing substantial local flexibility in implementation of national policy.
When disputes arise between States as a result of this decentralized structure, the Executive Council determine a solution. A 2/3 majority (6 of 9) will be required to directly override the actions of an individual Executive within their State to ensure conformity under national law. Less-strict Administrative Rules, however, can be adopted by a mere majority vote in order to keep the States reasonably coordinated and set guardrails for behavior. Each Executive will have the power to nominate three non-partisan Speakers to the Assembly as well as any nominate Federal Judges when there are vacancies, with all nominations confirmed by a majority vote on the Executive Council.
The Judicial Branch will be responsible for ensuring that all law, policy, and actions taken by the Assembly and Executive Council conform to the requirements of the legal agreement between the United States, Canada, and Cascadia that authorizes Cascadia’s self-governing status. Cascadia will commit to maintaining all existing government benefit programs presently in place as well as American and Canadian citizens’ basic rights, and the Federal Courts will be maintained to ensure this is accomplished in perpetuity.
Each State will be served by a single Federal District Court staffed by however many Judges are needed to handle the caseloads. For matters where a Supreme Court must be convened to settle disputes between branches of the federal government, one Justice from each District Court will be randomly assigned to hear the case. All Judges will be appointed to ten year terms, with renewal assumed except in extraordinary cases. The Supreme Court has the final say in appeals and all Constitutional matters, and legally bound to uphold all fundamental Canadian and American legal norms and codes.
And finally, there will be the Defense Branch: a unique arm of the federal government solely dedicated to protecting Cascadians against any and all physical threats. The Cascadia Defense Forces will be overseen by a Secretary of Defense nominated by the elected government and formally appointed by a majority vote of the Executive Council. This position will automatically be a part of every government’s Cabinet, answering directly to the First Speaker, with the formal chain of command flowing from the First Speaker of the Assembly through the Secretary of Defense to the Department heads.
The Defense Branch will be divided into five Departments —Ground, Sea, Air, Scouting, and Training, the head of each appointed by the Secretary of Defense and together comprising the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Cascadia Defense Forces will possess the full spectrum of capabilities required to respond to any threat — including, as unlikely as this may be, attacks on Cascadians by hostile groups at home and abroad.
But the Defense Branch has many more pressing dangers to contend with; it is also responsible for defending Cascadians against the impacts of wildfires, floods, pandemics, volcanic eruptions, crustal earthquakes, and eventually, the dreaded Megaquake. As a result the Cascadia Defense Forces will possess a wide array of equipment and personnel competencies as well as the ability to comprehensively assess and help manage the Cascadian landscape to mitigate the threats we face. It will be deeply embedded in Cascadian life, dedicated to the preservation and teaching of valuable skills that can help people survive in the face of danger.
This government design preserves the checks-and-balances of the American system — perhaps its Founders’ most significant innovation — as well as the federalism underpinning both Canada and the United States, a necessary measure when governing vast territories. The First Nations will retain all sovereign rights, but also have — if they collectively choose — to elect their own Executive to the Executive Council. As with the selection of Assembly Speakers, this is a decision and process to be left to the sovereign First Nations.
The Democratic Federation of Cascadia aims to offer the First Nations a pathway to fully equal representation and voluntary membership in a shared society that respects their history and ancient rights. To effectively manage these lands, those of us whose ancestors came in recent decades must come to understand and rely upon the traditional knowledge, restoring it wherever we can.
The Path to a Better Future
Today, Cascadia is a Nation of 16 million people. With a Gross Domestic Product of around $950 billion USD, Cascadia edges out the Netherlands for the world’s 17th largest economy. In per person terms, we’re among the top twenty richest countries in the world.
Even if you are committed to a bio-regional vision of Cascadia, the borders of the Democratic Federation of Cascadia as I have outlined them above cover 85% of its present population. The portion of Inland British Columbia not part of core Cascadia is home to around 650,000 people — about 13% of the province’s population. This also leaves out 850,000 people in far-eastern Washington, about 11% of the state’s population, along with the 200,000 residents of the far-eastern Oregon counties — just 5% of the state’s population. Cascadia will absorb around 500,000 people from far-northern California, reducing that enormous state’s population by less than 2%.
Sixteen million people now call Cascadia home —and this represents an increase from around 4 million people in the early 1950s, likely around 1 million before European colonization. Cascadia’s population has quadrupled in a single human lifetime — and it very well could again.
Though we face many geological hazards, Cascadia’s climate will remain extremely attractive despite the great changes underway as a result of human pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Cascadia is also ideally positioned to take advantage of rising economic prosperity in Asia — in short, we have a bright future, provided our present governments don’t get us killed first. And in case someone thinks that the threat of an armed attack is graver than I believe, it ought to be noted that at present U.S. Defense spending levels are around 4% of GDP if all expenditures are included. The Cascadia Defense Forces funded at that level would be equivalent to the 10th best-funded military in the world.
A prosperous nation already, the greatest challenge Cascadia faces is coming up with a better way of governing ourselves. Establishing Cascadia as a self-governing Democratic Federation is the best way forward — both for ourselves as well as many other nations who face mounting real-world challenges their governments prove unwilling or unable to face.
At the heart of any functioning society are good rules that most people can agree work reasonably well. Rules that guarantee the ability of as many people as possible to live free and be happy.
And at the root of any functioning, sustainable government is the collective social need for accountable institutions that can develop and maintain good rules over a long period of time. The rise of partisan political parties is inevitable in any healthy democracy — people will always find things to disagree about. Yet these disagreements need not give rise to zero-sum political gamesmanship and diametrically opposed truth-worlds and outright violence.
These are natural consequences not of democracy, but of malformed settler-colony governments. They will continue to pose grave challenges to many formerly-colonized nations across the world as the long process of decolonization continues.
In the United States in particular a moment of reckoning fast approaches, and while the changes will be painful, they also offer a rare opportunity, the kind that comes but once in a generation — if that. With daily, living proof of the abject, willful failure of our existing governments in the face of Covid-19 will come the entirely natural quest for something new, something better, something that works.
I’d like to foster the beginnings of a true democratic government to serve Cascadia — but I can’t do it alone.
I aim to take this basic overview and, if I can obtain funding, spend the next year assembling a team of contractors to help me build an online, fully interactive National Atlas of Cascadia. This will fully flesh out all the gory details of the Democratic Federation of Cascadia and offer a forum for further refinement of the concept with public input.
There are a few initial efforts at building a Cascadian Atlas, but all focus on the bioregional definition, and as a result are environmentally-focused, not comprehensive like a National Atlas needs to be. A wealth of public data has become available online over the past decade and platforms exist that make visualizing it easier than ever before. An interactive Atlas will allow users to explore Cascadia in greater technical and thematic depth, able to come to their own conclusions about how we can work together to build a Democratic government willing and able to protect it.
To get this started, I need $25,000 in donations from any Cascadians and allies willing to invest in a bold effort to reshape government in Cascadia, starting with the National Atlas of Cascadia. It will be made freely available online as a tool to help build public awareness and as a natural platform to jump-start the next phase of organizing — Level 2, if you will.
The Cascadia National Atlas will let people digitally explore Cascadia in a data-driven environment, and contributions from the public can be leveraged to help highlight the many fascinating nuances of our shared landscape — as well as identify opportunities for organization and growth. Developing a shared sense of Cascadian identity has never been more important, and helping people visualize what Cascadia is now and can be in the future will help develop achieve that essential goal.
Building a critical mass of support by some means is vital because each subsequent Level beyond the first will require an exponential leap in terms of reach and funding. Level 2 can only reached when the project can raise around ten times as much money — $250,000 — enough to establish a focused, registered non-profit organization with a board and regular contract staff to handle administration and support ongoing projects.
While this sounds like — and is — a lot of money, consider this: Americans are so fed up with their political system that in probably the most consequential election in centuries — one that featured record-breaking spending in the billions — overall turnout was only 70%. Canada’s most recent federal election was no better.
Despite all the money being thrown around, nearly a third of Cascadian-Americans are so turned off by federal politics they have simply stopped participating in the democratic process. Data shows that of those who do still vote, about half are motivated more by fear of the other major party than anything approaching enthusiasm about their choices.
Out of about nine million eligible voters in Oregon and Washington, this implies that there are at least two million Cascadian voters who dislike their existing options. If one in a hundred could be contacted and convinced to donate $15, that’s Level 2 plus some.
So assuming an online Atlas can gain broad recognition among Cascadians, raising a quarter of a million dollars to fund the bones of a non-profit foundation becomes less of a challenge. With the first public version of the Atlas online, users and backers will have a simple place to send friends, helping to build a thriving community around the Atlas. Reaching Level 2 and being able to announce the establishment of the Democratic Federation of Cascadia as a real-life physical organization will then naturally power the next stage in the campaign: the push to Level 3.
Level 3 is reached when the Foundation has about a cool $2.5 million in the bank. This is the point at which it becomes ethical to hire full-time, long-term staff whose dedicated work can allow our organization to start having substantial real-world impacts.
Art, public events, social media campaigns — all the stuff that powers the growth of a sustainable, scalable grassroots organization eventually requires dedicated staff to do things right. At this point, when you’ve got a regular payroll and proven track record, additional funding streams are no longer limited to large numbers of individual donors — an organization can begin directly partnering with allied groups to seek grant funding, steadily expand influence networks, and even obtain development loans.
Full-time staff could not only maintain this interactive Atlas permanently but also expand it into a regular media presence, a hub for news broadcasts and public education focused on Cascadia — whatever definition you prefer. Staff would be able to actively reach out to Cascadians to let them know that we’re serious and building something special. Word spreads faster and faster once people start to see a new organization’s impacts on the grounds, fueling perception of it as a success, which makes it possible to jump to…
Level 4. A solid $25–30 million in the bank sounds impossible — yet if only 10% of 16 million Cascadians can be convinced to offer a single $15 donation — one hour of minimum wage work — we’re there. And that is enough cash to sponsor the formation of the next natural stage in Cascadia’s development — launching the Cascadia National Party.
Modeled on successful regionally-focused parties in Scotland and Quebec, the Cascadia National Party will be able to independently raise funds to run an initial slate of candidates in the first state, province, and federal elections we can. Elections are unfortunately expensive affairs, but the past few years have proven that mass support generated through mostly online campaigns can have a decisive impact in the field. Even forcing a few established politicians to fight to cling to their seats in 2022 would declare to everyone that organized Cascadians are a force to be reckoned with — and expand our base of support.
After that victory comes the long hard road to Level 5. To win legislative approval in the United States Congress and Canadian Parliament for the Democratic Federation of Cascadia it is very likely the Cascadia National Party will have to elect numerous representatives at all levels of government. This means wading deep into the murky, expensive pool of national elections, challenging each and every current elected official in Cascadia who will not pledge to support our cause. Such a fight will cost a lot of money — hundreds of millions of dollars if recent American legislative elections are anything to go by.
A lofty goal, to be sure.
But when the consequences of failure are as grave as the loss of tens of thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars in property losses, a quarter of a billion represents a relatively small and smart investment in securing Cascadia’s future. One many — if demand for Cascadia grows strong enough swiftly enough—will come to support, once they see the obvious benefits to a more efficiently run, democratic government.
Because these days, sprawling national governments trying to balance a continent’s worth of conflicting pressures are too simply inefficient to survive in their present form. The Internet has democratized information and communication and there is no turning back. Change is coming — but with change comes opportunity.
A thousand years ago, Cascadia was a thriving region, as much a proto-nation as Scotland or Germany at the time. And it can thrive beyond our wildest imaginations in the near future — but not if it lacks a government fully committed first and foremost to the welfare of its people.
The Democratic Federation of Cascadia is one of those rare ideas that can benefit virtually everyone. Under ideal conditions, after winning elections between 2022 and 2024 Cascadia will achieve formal approval for a transition period ending in self-governance.
All federal and state properties within Cascadia’s area of responsibility would be slowly shifted to the new organizational structure, taking care to minimize the impact on Cascadian residents. Taxes collected in Cascadia would start to stay in Cascadia, discretionary funds distributed on a per-person basis to fund projects and prove we can handle our business.
And in 2030, Cascadia would cast off into a new era — not separate from our parent countries, only self-governing. United perpetually by bonds of kinship and history and law, but willing and able to take on all the responsibilities that come with being a free Nation.
It is possible — the question is only one of gathering enough support.
If this article is shared widely and people are interested, I will be happy to get the ball rolling. Crowdfunding on a platform like Indiegogo is straightforward, and aside from compensation for the time I dedicate to this work, the rest of any money raised will go straight to the professionals I need to make the National Atlas of Cascadia a reality.
And after that, I hope, the Democratic Federation of Cascadia. A government that can unite us so that we can face the challenges ahead.
What happens next is in your hands, Cascadians.