A Magazine to Capture the ‘Shared Culture’ of Cascadia
Why should we in Canadian Cascadia pay attention to what’s going on in American Cascadia?
A lot of these issues in the bioregion don’t pay attention to borders.
When a fish farm in Washington’s San Juan Islands collapsed and a quarter-million salmon were released, those salmon didn’t stop at the border; they went up into the Fraser River, they went throughout the Salish Sea, threatening native salmon stock. So it’s super important for all of us on both sides of the border to pay attention. We can learn from each other on these issues, like fish farms, see how we’re approaching them in different ways.
South of the border, we like to think that everything’s better in Canada. But you look at your forest practices and mining, it’s pretty awful! You guys could learn a little from what we’re doing, too. On environmental issues, in Washington and Oregon, we’re actually pretty good at protecting wildlife. So I think there are opportunities to learn on both sides.
One of the first pieces we did was on the housing crisis, and how Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were approaching it with very different strategies. On homelessness, Seattle could really learn from how Vancouver is building modular housing. Seattle’s processes are so slow. Trying to pass an employee tax for homeless services and affordable housing was quickly rolled back after pressure from Amazon [for example].
That’s interesting, because people think of cities like Vancouver, Seattle and Portland as part of the “Left Coast.” What do you think of that?
Right now, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, all their legislative and executive offices are controlled essentially by left-leaning politics. Cities like Vancouver and Seattle think of themselves as progressive. We tend to be an edge leader on a lot of social issues. We have legal pot. [Cascadia Magazine] is doing a story on polyamory, which is fairly popular in the Pacific Northwest.
At the same time, there is this strain of conservatism [in certain parts of Seattle]... The big wealth is problematic. I’ve seen Seattle change a lot over my lifetime, and a lot of people are nostalgic about Seattle being an affordable place.
We do have this creative culture, and we need to protect it. I think of it like protecting the wilderness, because we need to safeguard it or we’ll lose it. Or we’ll just be Geneva or San Francisco in three years, a place only rich people can afford to live in.
You must be familiar with a lot of publications since your Cascadia Daily newsletter samples content from across the bioregion. What’s the Cascadian media ecosystem like?
There’s so much great stuff going on in the region, lots of independent magazines like The Tyee, literary journals, alt-weeklies, but we’re all in our little silos. A lot of people might read Seattle Weekly, but they’ve never heard of The Tyee.
There’s an online news site called the South Seattle Emerald, just a small local news site dedicated to the south end of Seattle. The south end is fascinating; one of the neighbourhoods there is one of the most diverse zip codes in the United States. It’s got Latinos, Asian Americans, Indigenous people, African Americans, whites... It’s unlike any other in the U.S. So that online news source popped up to serve that community. It’s small, it’s targeted, and they’re doing a great job. It’s exciting that these small, nimble sites are popping up all over the region.
What’s tough is reaching the bigger audiences. The Seattle Times and the TV stations are still where a lot of people get news in the city.
What do you see as the magazine and the newsletter’s role in that ecosystem?
What I’m trying to do is offer quality long-form journalism that digs into a topic — something that somebody can read at lunch, read over the weekend — whether it’s an in-depth story about a First Nations protest against fish farms, maybe it’s a short story, maybe it’s a poem. Just something meaningful beyond the flow of junk you see on social media. There’s a really exciting scene of poets in Seattle right now and all over the region doing amazing work.
I’m really trying to look at it from 30,000 feet, give people a real sense of the culture here, whether it’s a profile of an Indigenous musician or a piece on an environmental issue. And give a mix of some fiction and poetry, the arts, culture in with the hard news. It’s definitely ambitious! But the content’s all out there online, every day.