Contemplating secession, sustainably

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Collin Ferguson wants to create a new nation.

The urban and regional studies graduate student is one of the founding members of the Cascadia Society, a sustainability-themed group that wants to create a new nation along the coast between Vancouver, B.C. and Northern California and cutting off at the Columbia River.

They are trying to increase its membership, raise revenues and make a change environmentally, economically and mentally in the Northwest, the group says.

The nation they want to create is based on bioregionalism: the idea that geographical features, and not government-created boundaries, should differentiate between areas.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘boundaries,’ they imply limitations,” Fergunson said.

What the group is looking for is not complete secession from America, Ferguson said in an e-mail, it’s “virtual secession,” which he said is “a state of mind–a condition.” The e-mail also said the Cascadia Society realizes that secession is limiting and possibly illegal.

Ferguson and the group, who met at the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub Tuesday to discuss plans for the Cascadia Society, focused on sustainable principles based on Ernst Callenbauch’s book, Ecotopia.

Cathy Symes, a consultant for the Cascadia Society, said the group focuses more on sustainability than the secessionist movement because, “We are trying to be realistic.”

“I believe that today’s politics need to refocus on economy, especially sustainability,” Ferguson said, “We want to take these principles into action. With multiple watersheds in the area, we want to work with them to see where the ecology is strained and how people can save it.”

Members of the Cascadia Society think that promoting ecology and the environment should be the driving force in public policy. Abram Goldman-Armstrong, a freelance carpenter and beer writer for the Portland Tribune, said he believes that quality of life is important to Northwest culture.

“I think green means something here,” Goldman-Armstrong said.

Along with being a Cascadia Society member, Goldman-Armstrong has also taught sessions at Reed College about Cascadia.

Some of the principles of the Cascadia Society rely on a strong local presence, which includes buying local products, changing lawns to gardens and supporting local politics.

“Right now, in the founding of the group, we are creating the constitution and by-laws, and we have asked everyone to support Sam Adams’ campaign for mayor,” Ferguson said.

The Cascadia Society is also trying to set up a chapter at Portland State University.

“We hope to have multiple chapters around the region to get the best results,” Ferguson said.

Dave Vanleenen, a Portland State junior majoring in business administration, was at the meeting and was pleased with the process.

“This is how a lot of the decision making should go down,” he said.

“We want people to know that we are a friendly society. We are trying to create an insurance system for times in need,” Ferguson said.

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