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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cascadia
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Defined as the watersheds of rivers that flow into
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            the Pacific Ocean through North America’s tem-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            perate rainforest zone, Cascadia, or the Pacific
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Northwest, extends from northern California to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            southern Alaska – along a coastline once cloaked
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            in nearly continuous rainforest – and inland as
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            far as the Continental Divide.




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Slow News is                                 regularly would have all the excitement
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cascadia




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           of watching grass grow – less, actually.




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good News




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Defined as the watersheds of




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Grass stretches upward as much as                                                                                               er




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A.                        rivers that flow into the Pacific




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  C op                                    U. NA                        Ocean through North America’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          CA                              temperate rainforest zone,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           nine percent a day. The daily growth of                                                                                                                                                          Cascadia, or the Pacific
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Northwest, extends from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        northern California to southern
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           life expectancy in the Northwest –                                                                                                                                                          Alaska—along a coastline once
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         cloaked in nearly continuous

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              By Alan Durning




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           arguably the trend that has most                                                                                                                                                            rainforest—and inland as far as




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            the Continental Divide.




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Northwest Environment Watch
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           transformed human existence in the




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M A P: C Y N T H I A T H O M A S , B A S E D O N D ATA I N “ C O A S TA L T E M P E R AT E R A I N F O R E S T S O F N O RT H A M E R I C A ,” P O RT L A N D , 1 9 9 5 A N D “ C A S C A D I A ,” S E AT T L E , 1 9 8 8 .




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         that ignored
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I MAGINE A NEWSPAPER                         past century – is about half of one




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 all things fleeting, no matter how        one-thousandth of one percent.                                                                                                                          Ju
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              dramatic – violence, scandal, celebrity          As publishers know, slow news                                                                                                                                                                                                                           N




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              – and focused instead on the quiet,          means slow sales, so the headlines




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              incremental changes that actually            hype the transient: Martha Stewart’s                                                                                                                           BR




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              matter over the long run.                    trial, Britney Spears’ marriage, Janet                                                                                                                                                 CO
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Covering Cascadia, the region            Jackson’s breast. And this focus on                                                                                   Queen
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              for smaller families, later in life: Life-   the personal ritual of the bathroom




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              associated with improving living             about seven percent to their height




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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              conditions for women.”                       annually from birth to voting age, or            activity, not economic welfare. GDP
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Other “slow news” would spotlight        one-fifth of a millimeter each day.              often rises while economic security
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              long-simmering problems: “Again              Hair grows roughly twice as fast.)               diminishes, as it did during the “job-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              yesterday, the number of poor north-             The national analogs for the bath-           less recovery” of 2003. So while these
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              westerners grew by about 70, as              room scale and growth chart are eco-             indicators promise to reveal incre-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              population increased. The Northwest’s        nomic indicators such as the Dow                 mental changes in vital, long-term
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              cities sprawled across about 40              Jones industrial average and the gross           trends, they deliver something else:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              additional acres. Clearcut logging           domestic product. But many of them               distraction.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              felled an estimated two square miles         are misleading. The Dow, perhaps the                As an antidote to such blinkered
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              of old- and second-growth forests. And       best-known economic indicator in                 accounting and as a periodic slow
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the region’s consumption of natural          the world, is a running joke among               news update, Northwest Environment
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              resources continued its rapid pace: in       stock market insiders: it averages the           Watch (NEW), with the help of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              gasoline, for example, we each aver-         stock prices of 30 companies without             hundreds of experts, volunteers, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              aged about a six-ounce shot an hour.”        adjusting for how many shares are                supporters across the region, has pub-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Such news is striking the first time     in circulation. And gross domestic               lished the book Cascadia Scorecard,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              you hear it, but the underlying trends       product, regarded by many as the bell-           which introduces an index of seven
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              are so rarely measured that a slow           wether of national progress, is not              key slow-changing trends that are
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              newspaper wouldn’t have to reset its         only rife with questionable statistical          dramatically shaping our future.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              type for months on end. Reading it           procedures, it also tracks economic              Here are some highlights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              www.open-spaces.com                                                                                                                                                                        O P E N S PA C E S | 5 7
                              Clearcutting in the Central Cascades
                              Along the Columbia River
                                                                                                  which have strongly          the Northwest’s leader, Vancouver, BC,
                                                                               Mount Rainier
                                                                               National Park
                                                                                                  pro-woman and pro-           has already achieved. And Vancouver
                                                                                                  family policies, and where   is far from the world’s best. Vancou-
                                                                                                  women are choosing to        ver’s more compact form produces
                                                                                                  have 1.7 births apiece       one third less driving, fewer traffic
                                                                                                  over their lives.            fatalities, and, thanks to the walking
                                                                                                      Energ y : In recent      it induces, a physically fit populace:
                                                                    Mount                         years, northwesterners       overall, B.C. has one third less obesity
                                                                  St. Helens
                                                                                                  have moderated their         than the Northwest states.
                                                 Co
                                                                                                  consumption of energy,           Forests: Our stewardship of forests
                                                   lu
                                                                                                  as indicated by the best-    has improved but leaves much to be
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                                                                                                  measured for ms of           desired. The Cascadia Scorecard tracks
                                                    ive
M A P: C O M M E N S PA C E




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                                                                                                  energy: nonindustrial        five key forest areas, including the
                                                                                                  electricity and highway      Olympic Peninsula, the central Cas-
                                                                                                  fuels. Demand slack-         cades, and the forested slopes of Ore-
                                                                                                  ened by about 0.3 per-       gon’s southern Cascades, Siskiyous,
                                                                                                  cent per capita in 2002,     and Coast Range. Some 0.5 percent of
                                                      Portland
                                                   32 km
                                                                                                  for example. But the         these forests are being clearcut each
                                  Park or wilderness           More clearcutting occurred in the
                                  Forest                   20 mi
                                                               Central Cascades than in any other
                                                                                                  decline hasn’t sufficed to   year, slightly more than in the late
                                                               study area – more than 1.7 million nudge energy use off the     1990s and roughly half the pace of the
                                  Clearcut
                                  Not forested
                                  Urban/suburban               acres from 1971 to 2002.           high plateau where it        late 1980s. In the three U.S. study
                                                                                                  has been stuck since         areas, clearcutting tapered from 250,000
                                  Health: The Scorecard reveals that the 1970s. The typical resident of                        acres to less than 80,000 acres per year
                              northwesterners are the eighth health- the Northwest states of Washington,                       by the end of the 1990s, largely due to
                              iest people in the world. Lifespans, Oregon, and Idaho uses almost as                            the Northwest Forest Plan. But since
                              at nearly 79 years, are expanding by much nonindustrial electricity and                          2000, clearcutting in the three areas
                              about 0.2 percent annually. Since highway fuels as a Texan. Even if                              has accelerated again, to roughly one
                              1900, this trend has added three the region continues the pace of                                acre every five minutes, or about
                              decades to our lives – even more in improvements in energy efficiency                            108,000 acres annually.
                              Vancouver, B.C., the region’s leader in evident in the past four years, it will                      Pollution: Northwesterners con-
                              lifespan. Washington, for example, take 86 years to match Germany’s level                        tinue absorbing worrisome quantities
                              lags B.C. by two years.                            of per-capita energy use, which is less       of harmful pollutants. Our bodies
                                  Economy: Cascadia is rich by world than half of ours.                                        and breast milk, for example, are con-
                              standards, and it has increased eco-                  Sprawl: Smart growth is gaining in         taminated with flame retardants,
                              nomic output thirtyfold since 1900. every major Northwest city, but sprawl                       PCBs, and dioxins. Puget Sound resi-
                              But all have not shared evenly. The remains the norm. Some 28 percent of                         dents’ body burdens of flame retar-
                              Scorecard’s economic security index, the Northwest’s metropolitan resi-                          dants, for example, are 20 to 40 times
                              a composite that reflects median dents live in transit-friendly, compact                         those of Japan and Sweden. Available
                              incomes plus poverty and unemploy- neighborhoods, and that share is ris-                         evidence suggests concentrations are
                              ment rates, shows the region has ing at an annual rate of 0.4 percent.                           rising quickly for flame retardants,
                              skidded since 1999. It has fallen The Puget Sound region trails the                              perhaps even doubling every two to
                              behind national averages and has lost average, with 24 percent of its resi-                      five years, but may be inching down-
                              0.2 percent in economic security in dents in compact communities; and                            ward for PCBs and dioxins.
                              the most recent reporting year.                    the Oregon counties of Portland are               Across seven trends, the annual
                                  Population: Cascadia’s birthrate doing slightly better, at 28 percent.                       changes are mostly steady and small,
                              has changed slowly since the 1970s. It Boise is the Northwest’s most sprawl-                     usually less than 1 percent. That’s slower
                              recently dipped by one percent to an ing city, with only 7 percent in com-                       news than watching fingernails grow:
                              all-time low of 1.8 lifetime births per pact communities. But it will take 60                    they expand about 300 percent a year.
                              woman. The region is close to the years of progress at current rates just                        It’s slower than watching children
                              mark of northern European countries, for the regional average to match what                      grow: they add weight during their

                              5 8 | O P E N S PA C E S                                                                                               www.open-spaces.com
years as minors at an annual rate of      portfolio standards into law. The stan-       On this continent, such systemic
18 percent. Yet fingernails get filed.    dards would direct utilities to get a      solutions have yet to catch hold, and
Children stop growing. The Scorecard      growing share of their power from          the lightning-fast spinning of the news
trends keep changing – slowly – and       renewable sources and efficiency.          cycle doesn’t help. As a species, we do
shaping the direction of our region.         Beyond such stepwise approaches,        not change what we do not pay atten-
   Comparing our performance on           however, are far-reaching reforms like     tion to. And news stories here live
these measures with the best perform-     tax shifting. Employed by a dozen          about as long as mayflies: one day.
ance recorded in the world, we fare       European nations, this innovation in          As the Academy Award-winning
well in health, economic security, and    public finance would restructure taxes     screenwriter Ben Hecht once quipped,
population trends. But the Northwest      to work in accordance with society’s       “Trying to determine what is going on
lags substantially in containing sprawl   values – not against them. Tax shifting    in the world by reading newspapers is
and using energy efficiently. (Forests    would reduce taxes on “goods” that         like trying to tell the time by watching
and pollution are hard to compare         society wants to encourage – such as       the second hand of a clock.” It’s not
based on existing data.)                  paychecks, profits, and retail sales –     impossible, but it’d be easier with the
   Of all the commodities produced        and replaces the revenue dollar for        hour and minute hands. That’s where
and consumed in the region, none          dollar with taxes on “bads” that society   the Cascadia Scorecard comes in.
casts a longer shadow than energy. It     would like to discourage, such as the         By tracking the long view – unhur-
affects everything from national          depletion of energy and other natural      ried changes such as sprawl and high
security to economic development          resources. In the process, tax shifting    energy consumption – we can better
and from salmon survival to climate       could turbocharge both conservation        assess the world that we are creating
change. And the sprawling layout of       and job creation.                          for our children. ∂
our cities is one of the root causes of
our energy-intensive lifestyles. Sprawl
turns automobiles into life’s organiz-
ing principle.
   What to do about these twin prob-
lems? For starters, Washington, Ore-               chamber music ad 1/3 page
gon, and Idaho can emulate British
Columbia by restraining road growth.
That seems to have been key to Van-
couver’s strong record in curbing
sprawl and limiting auto-dependence.
British Columbians burn a third less
gasoline than the residents of the
Northwest states. We can also emulate
Oregon, by keeping the growth
boundaries tight around our cities.
   We can embrace innovative
approaches that make it easier and
more profitable for developers to build
tasteful, new, energy-efficient homes
in existing neighborhoods, as King
County, Washington’s nonprofit Hous-
ing Partnership recently recom-
mended in an insightful report called
“Filling in the Spaces.”
   And Washington’s electrical energy
efficiency would improve markedly
if the state legislature followed the
example of 21 other states and passed

www.open-spaces.com                                                                                      O P E N S PA C E S | 5 9

				
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