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Cascadia: More than a dream

Miro Cernetig, Vancouver Sun
The notion that the continent’s west forms a natural bloc has deep roots — now powerful forces are joining to make it true
It’s always been more a state of mind than a tangible place on a map. Yet the empire of Cascadia, what some dreamers have long believed the westernmost states and provinces of North America might one day be called if they ever banded together, may not be quite the fantasy it once seemed.

…Where you will find Cascadia, though, is in the mindset of the millions of people who live on the continent’s western edge. For them it’s a concept, an increasingly real regional abstraction — one backed by some rich and influential people, including Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates who has supported a think-tank that tries to breathe life into an idea that goes back from the time Europeans explored the continent’s western wilderness.

Cascadia’s guiding principle today isn’t nationhood but what might be best called regionhood — the sense that Alaska, the Yukon, B.C., Alberta and the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho — often share similar regional goals and ambitions. Cascadians may be in separate countries, states and provinces. They often have different national agendas. But, the thinking goes, in an age when centralized governments are often devolving their powers, they often share similar agendas. In Cascadia, these range from environmental issues, a heightened sense that their collective futures are tied to the Asia-Pacific and a desire for more autonomy from federal governments that are thousands of kilometres to the east, in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., and often out of touch with the big questions to the west.

In fact, when taken as a whole, Cascadia has evolved into a powerful economic entity with clout its members alone can never hope to wield.

If you add up the states’ and provinces’ individual GDPs and populations, Cascadia is a significant geographic area and market: It comprises a market of more than 20 million people and what would be the world’s eighth-richest nation, with a GDP of about $848 billion US, according to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, the entity that was formed in 1991 by the legislators of Cascadia’s provinces and states. Those same leaders will be in Anchorage, Alaska, from July 22 to 26, to continue their work to foster regional cooperation and the idea of an economic bloc.

Some, however, even look at Cascadia as bigger than that. If you add California to the concept, as Premier Gordon Campbell was wont to do in a recent interview when he discussed Cascadia, you would get an entity that would include about 60 million people and a GDP of more than $2 trillion, about the size of China.
(14 April 2007)

It’s All About Distribution

John Thackara, WorldChanging
William Gibson’s take on the subject has become a classic modern aphorism: “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” Most elements of a sustainable world exist. Some of those elements are technological solutions. Some are to be found in the natural world, thanks to millions of years of natural evolution. The majority, I suspect, are social practices – some of them very old ones – learned by other societies and in other times.

From this insight flows the idea of designers as global hunter-gatherers of models, processes, and ways of living that already exist. Or used to. Thanks to platforms like Worldchanging, a large community is learning, fast, to share information about pre-existing solutions that have been proven to work. Creative design practice these days is about adapting solutions found in one context for use in another.

The problem is that our collective knowledge footprint is still tiny in a global context, and is growing far too slowly relative to the time available for us to to turn things around. This is why we have to crack the distribution question: How do we ensure that knowledge about sustainable practices is available where and when it needed?
(16 April 2007)
Website for author John Thackara.

A Film Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
I appreciate that reviews of films that don’t contain the word “Crude” or “Peak” in the title are somewhat unusual at Transition Culture. I also appreciate that I am rarely a member of the cinema-going public, and usually only get to see films when they emerge on DVD. However, recently I saw the recently-out-on-DVD film Little Miss Sunshine which was so wonderful and which, in unexpected ways, overlaps with many of the themes explored here.

…What I loved about ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ was that it shows a family coming back together again, in spite of all the pressures that could force them apart. Underneath the disparate and extreme characters, the drug addicted, sex obsessed grandfather, the neurotic suicidal uncle, the control freak father, are people who want to be happy and to be loved. As we enter a time of extraordinary change, we will need to learn to work with each other again, to spend time with each other again, to accept other people for what they are rather than what we think they should be…
(16 April 2007)

Kick Starting Communications For A Peak Oil World

Randy White, Lawns To Gardens
As a marketer who’s present livelihood depends on a functional economy, I take great interest in the role of our collective consciousness to prepare for post-peak oil world. The complaint I run into again and again is that the “Mainstream Media” isn’t communicating the severity of the energy crisis. That’s why I’m offering a general marketing outline for local governments to take charge and kick off their peak oil communications plans.

It goes against the nature of capitalism to ask people to stop consuming – so I wouldn’t expect your local car dealer to advertise for people NOT buy their cars. Of course, the more profit margins shrink the more they will be willing to experiment with their marketing budgets to see what works, and there will be a period of “desperation marketing”. But that is a different article. This article is about helping cities take the lead to educate citizens and businesses.

Now, what I’m about to propose is a sneaky way for cities to “Educate” advertising agencies and wake them up. The hope is that once advertising folks get wind of the seriousness of peak oil, they will be able to communicate with their clients/customers and the information will trickle to executives controlling the money. Hopefully they will choose to reinvest that money right now into localizing their own economy, including producing goods and services from raw materials within a hundred mile radius.

Randy White is a member of the Portland Peak Oil Task Force. He is the Internet Director for a large media company and specializes in peak oil communications.
(16 April 2007)

Welcome to Appropedia

Village Earth and Appropedia
The Appropedia Vision is that all members of the international development community have the ability to find and connect with each other, and to collaborate in sharing the latest information, with multiple views on best practices, for sustainable development, poverty reduction and capacity building. They will have speedy access to each other and to this knowledge-base worldwide and in every desired language.

…Appropedia follows an open design approach. Anyone can write or edit articles, anyone can plant the seed of an idea that others will build upon. Any group can use these pages to work collaboratively.

We would like to include your projects, current works, observations and suggestions!
(April 2007
Thanks to Dave Pollard.