Our geography of hope? | Guest column

By Steve Ulvi

Special to the Journal

Last week, feeling sucker-punched by the election and the deepening nightmare of farcical cabinet appointments, I rang Archie at his winter cabin seeking release from screaming into my pillow.

After many rings, the most knowledgeable, cynical old-school conservative guy I know fumbled the phone to his good ear. “Yep?” I had interrupted his annual “energy upgrade” –squirting expanding foam into gaps in the rotten wall logs, where at minus 32 F, he could easily see the many frosted blowholes.

Archie considers me a fool for leaving Alaska to settle in on a “resort wannabe, wealth-encrusted island with more than 5 million people on the near horizon, from Vancouver to Seattle, busily choking off and poisoning the entire Salish Sea.”

Not to mention that when drought-stricken blights in the desert like Phoenix and Lost Wages depopulate, western Washington will be a jobless climate refugee magnet.

I revealed a gut-wrenching dream where I stumble to higher ground, watching the sea pull back into a dark bank on the horizon, while many flock to the beach to stare, distracted by empty promises, unable to comprehend catastrophe.

We disparaged the millions of Americans who blindly placed party affiliation ahead of the good of the country, in both major parties. Or who failed to vote at all. But our special “I have a bridge to sell you award” goes to folks who believe that the alchemy of the Oval Office will transform lead into gold. It is a uniquely unsettling and shameful time to be an American.

But surely there is hope in making a principled stand in this diminished, but remarkable island archipelago. Cascadia could be much more than an Elysian dream. With our unusual voter participation, levels of education, relative prosperity, town hall discussions and horticultural potential, we can conjure a promising future. Most importantly, water falls copiously from the sky, for temporary capture and wise use, before release back into the hydrologic cycle.

Our own county election results promise a more forward-thinking, analytical and less reactionary governance team for our unique mix of social, business and environmental challenges, ongoing and emergent.

But the nearly assured socio-economic chaos of short-term political brinksmanship and cascading climate stressors, will require unprecedented collaboration and a carefully articulated expression of just what kind of community we will strive to be.

Archie finds solace in hunkering down on the edge of an immense northern landscape as a buffer to the coming disruptions. But I know of no better place or better community than here. Let’s join in drawing bright lines and insisting that we will not drawn into cynicism nor be divided. Facts and science matter. Women and kids deserve special protections. Nature is our home. We will not throw away our children’s future.

Rising above the national tumult we could choose to be a model “sanctuary county” for social equity, quality education, affordable housing, climate resilience, energy conservation, sustainable agriculture and ensuring that we create a healthy economy and protect the rich natural world upon which we rely.