The Father of Cascadia (Interview)

David McCloskey Interview

David McCloskey & HIS version of the Cascadia Flag

David McCloskey & HIS version of the Cascadia Flag

In the introductory segment the notion of the Cascadia bioregion was discussed, specifically how one must start with a sense of place (oikos) and not from a political or other sense which strengthens what he calls the abstractions and psyche projections that work against a truly ecological way of being in the world. (Part 1, 8:33)

In segment two he discussed his efforts to create a new culture through what her termed: “a poetics of landscape.” He discussed how his effort involves maps, poems and stories. He invited poets and artists to help create a shared story that will inspire an ecologically-centered culture by taking on the imagination of the bioregion. He also discussed how he got to know Cascadia ecology by exploring the North Cascades. (Part 2, 8:21)

In the third segment he discussed how he found out about bioregionalism, how it’s about, in his words “ever deeper levels of relationality.” He discussed how the myth of Cascadia began in the late 1800, early 1900s,  the new myth of plate techtonics which started in the 1970s, the search for a new name that was “true to the spirit of the place” and how this was all the result of Bates McKee’s groundbreaking 1972 book “Cascadia.”  (Part 3, 11:48)

In segment four he discussed teaching classes on Cascadia at Seattle University in 1980-1982, the bioregional conferences he helped organize in the mid-80s, and the role of a then obscure graduate student, Tanya Atwater, in the revolution of plate techtonics. He also discussed how the dynamism surrounding the notion of Cascadia, comes from the place itself and is the bioregion imagining itself though inhabitants. (Part 4, 8:38)

Know Your Firs.

Know Your Firs.

In the 5th segment he discussed how he began to understand, when attempting to create a new culture based on a bioregional ethos, that Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart was a critical text for him and that though people craved community, they had no cultural experience with the real sense of it and tried to get there using a language of abstraction and individualism. McCloskey says that reflected a lack of gemeinshaft, or being in the horizontal life flow with each other. So he began to incorporate the effort to discover a language of place which had its identity in the place (as indigenous people did), rooted indentity in place and with ancestors, he realized that he needed to “short-circuit the analytical and move toward the evocative.” He moved to the creation of maps, flags and other aspects of a symbolic language. he said it is the heart of culture (and the psyche) but he found that it had tremendous evocative power. Cascadia is his “long, extended open poem” that a whole bunch of people are writing, but for which he issued the call. He said that it took only 15 years from a visionary pipe dream to something that has taken root in the bioregional consciousness, reflected by names of businesses, sports competitions and individuals who consider themselves Cascadians before anything else. He says that Cascadia has been imagining through us for over 100 years in different generations and different ways. (Part 5, 7:59)

In segment six he talked about the beginning of a bioregional culture happening now with a fierce devotion by people who may not always understand themselves as Cascadians, per se, but love the place with great intensity. He said we are all captive by a metaphysics and epistemology that ultimately has its source in the culture and logic of Ancient Greece, but does not serve our situation well. He calls it a “secret code” and says knowledge of it is at the core of “success” in our world. He says unlearning that secret code of control of the West is critical in building a new bioregional culture. He says movements of the late 19th century, the extential and the phenomenological are models that jibe well with bioregionalism. Heidigger, Merleau-Ponty and others are examples he cites. Seeing is Forgetting The Name of the Thing One Sees by Robert Irwin is a source McCloskey recommends. (Part 6, 9:46)

His Cascadia Shower

His Cascadia Shower

His bioregional shower which reenacts the story of how it gets to him.

His bioregional shower which reenacts the story of how water gets to him.




2 Responses to The Father of Cascadia (Interview)

  1. Kathleen Bushman says:

    I hope I won’t bore you with more personal details, but I’ll risk it because I wonder if the ideal of Cascadia doesn’t offer hope for me and for anyone who recognizes that humans as cogs in a ruthlessly capitalist system – a system without regard for nurture or nature, much less the arts – we are constrained from realizing the full height and breath of our own humanity, and that until we find a better system we risk destroying the very environment from which our humanity sprung and which sustains us.

    I guess my family’s attitude toward intellectual endeavours was formed and restricted through financial hardship; my family didn’t consider an intellectual pursuit of art or literature as a “serious” endeavour for a mature person because aesthetic interests could not help a person provide for his or her family. (After my father died leaving my mother as the sole support of five children all under the age of 14, my mother managed to lift us out of a share cropping situation through the judicious use of blackmail, and into financial security through what I thought, even as a child, to be somewhat ruthless business tactics. I only learned more understanding of my mother later in life when I realized that without her actions some of of her children might not have survived, and none would have had an opportunity for an adequate education – much less access to a college education.) In spite of my family’s attitudes & situation or because of them, my mother was so occupied trying to provide for all of us, no one seemed to have the time or the interest in guiding my reading habits. Growing up in a neighbourhood without other children to play with left me with a lot of unguided time on my hands which I used to read many classic authors before I left grade school: Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair. (I don’t know if it was fortunate or unfortunate that I somehow gravitated without much direction to such great writers – all with such compassion for the poor, and the dispossessed. It was probably the book Huckleberry Finn which had the greatest impact upon my young mind; it was thanks to that novel in particular, I think, which led me to so frequently question America’s values and ethos when family or teachers tried to instil them in me.

    Unfortunately, in spite of the influence my reading had upon my value system it could not, ultimately, outweigh the fact that at home I was treated somewhat dismissively. – Could it be that treatment was precisely because of my varient attitudes? Was there fate in the isolation which led me to discover different points of view – and those viewpoints, once adopted as my own, leading to greater isolation? One piece of family lore though reinforced what my best teachers, those authors, were teaching me; the way my mother had been driven out of a small mid-western town as a young teacher. In the midst of the Great Depression, my mother had landed her first job as a teacher in a one room school. One night men in white sheets showed up to burn a cross on the lawn of the home where she was boarded – their harsh voices informing her in no uncertain terms, “No Catholic is going to have the only teaching job in town! Leave town – or else!” She did. I was too young and too far from the scene to become personally involved in the civil rights movement, but all that I had become meant I was totally in total sympathy with it. I realized that until EVERY man’s human rights are respected, no one’s rights are secure, yet sometime before I was 14 years old, I began to sympathize with the men in white sheets – imagining that those growling men were terrified – desperately frustrated and terrified because their own children were suffering and might not survive the privations of the depression.

    If I came to see that our system is one which promotes and rewards the most ruthless among us to marginalize the best among us, was it because of my family lore or because of what I read? The wise Noam said recently, that “America hates its poor.” I wonder if Americans don’t also hate defenders of the poor because they challenge their conscience. I guess I think that we humans must risk challenging ourselves and oneanother because otherwise we gag and drwarf our mutual humanity.

  2. Splabman says:

    Not boring. Au contraire, fascinating. While we work to create “a better system,” I believe we are most happy, most content when we also have a system (discipline) to enable us to become better human beings. More noble humans. To have sympathy for such men at age 14 is a sign of a high degree of development. That you all escaped is a sign of wisdom and love of life. USAmericans hate their poor because their own imaginations are stunted and they cannot truly experience empathy, a function of a healthy imagination. As I delve deeper into the culture of Cascadia, I become less focused on those externalities like the U.S. federal government and its wars and torture, &c. We start to create that better system by envisioning the possibility that something could replace it. May it be so.

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