This flag was conceived in 1993 when Alexander Baretich was sitting on a hill in Eastern Europe homesick for the conifer trees he grew up with. Earlier digital imagines of the flag were not how he originally imagined it. Most of those early digital versions displayed a full color tree.
Eventually in 2004-2005, the full color conifer was replaced with the silhouette of a Douglas Fir which then matched the original idea of the flag. The flag is also called the Cascadian flag or just Doug for short.
The tri-colors of blue, white and green has been a continuous series of colors applied to the region known as Cascadia, the Oregon Territory, Ecotopia, Chinook Ilahee, Pacifica, the Pacific Northwest, the NorthEast Pacific and all the other names this region comes to be called. The blue represents the unpolluted sky, the Pacific Ocean and the rivers and lakes that flow in Cascadia. The white represents the clouds and snow. The green represents the forests and fields.
The conifer tree found in a variety of species throughout the bioregion stands in defiance of storm, fire and Man. The conifer tree as the Douglas Fir, the Redwood, the Cedar, the Spruce, the Pine and all other Evergreens can be found in many of the various political and social organizations throughout the bioregion.
One of the best descriptions and history of the Doug Flags come from Alexanders own writing:
“In the academic year of 1994-1995, I ended up doing graduate work in Eastern Europe studying nationalism and ethnic minorities. Though I totally love the people, cultures and landscape of Eastern Europe, I was deeply homesick for the forests of Cascadia, specifically the Willamette Valley forests I grew up around. One day in spring as I sat on a hill with my companion, I explained to her what the landscape of my home looked like. I said those vast vineyards if at my house would be vast green forests; the distant mountains of the Matras would be the snowcapped Cascades with white clouds hovering above; and above that might be the blue sky. The three colors of blue, white and green came to mind and that the pine tree in front of us would be a Douglas fir. The image stuck in my mind and spent a lot of time obsessively drawing the flag which really annoyed my soon to be wife. That period of time was crucial in regards to what was happening in Cascadia at that point.
Prior to the design and its popularity, the idea of Cascadia, specifically the bioregion, was pretty much an abstract concept reserved for radical geographers, hip sociologists, devoted ecologists and “radical” environmentalists. There were bioregional congresses, but they were periodic camp and small workshops that were from an older generation from the 1960s and 1970s. The bioregional congress “movement” or gatherings was an echo of the alternative culture of a bygone generation. The bioregional congress gatherings were also limited to those that already knew about bioregionalism and often to those who could afford both the cost of camping in some distant place and the privilege to do so. What the flag has done is convey something far more tangible than an abstract concept of demarcation of space. The flag gave access to the idea of Cascadia that was not limited to scholarly research or having the privilege of money and time for a camping trip on the other side of the continent.
I tend to look at the meme (viral idea) of the Cascadian flag like it’s a multilayered sphere or onion entering or implanted in the mindscape of the host and then unfolding while releasing its contagion. The meme conveys multiple layers to understanding Cascadia. As the memetic onion unpeels in the deep subconscious of the host some will stay or linger at one or another layer, but I have seen major shifts into the deeper layers by some who I thought would remain at the first several layers and I have seen some stay stuck at the first couple layers who I thought would delve deep into the core of the memetic onion. So the levels or peels. At first the normal reaction, the shallow surface level, is to be of nationalistic. The “oh we are a new country” concept which often ends up being “well if they are America then we are Cascadia.” This is the flying of the flag as a form of simple regional identity, but then there is the deeper layers of consciousness that emerges as the simple concepts of nationalism peels away. The next level then is the awareness that Cascadia is not defined by the limited borders of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but has greater broader borders that include Idaho, northern California, and southeast Alaska as well as northeastern Nevada, northwestern Wyoming, northwestern Montana and even a little of northern Utah. Then there is the realization that those borders are based on nation-state concepts and imperialism. This realization is that these lines on a map are dictated by the conquerors and oppressors who have destroyed so much diversity. This comes to an awakening that Cascadia the bioregion is based on watersheds or river drainage systems that flow all the way to the Rockies or continental divide. Then a deeper layer of consciousness hits that the flow of water is crucial to a bioregion and that life is based on that water. After that comes the realization that Cascadia or any bioregion is not just a place, but a living complex of interactions and interconnectedness to many communities, human and nonhuman. That at that realization we are not a human in a vacuum separated from Nature, but are extensions of each other and dependent on the health and dynamic interactions with each other. It becomes a consciousness of living dynamic being and is no longer stuck in banal nationalism, but is an awakening to being part of a bioregion which is part of the biosphere which is the living Earth (Gaia).
The Cascadian flag captures that love of living communities in our bioregion. Unlike many flags, the Cascadian flag is neither a flag of blood nor a flag of the glory for a nation, but a love of the bioregion; our ecosystems and the dynamics interplay between tectonics, H20, atmosphere and life; the place in which we live and love.”
– Alexander Baretich, The Cascadia Flag as a Transformative Icon