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The Cascadia Protocol

The Cascadia Protocol is the latest evolution of my education project, The Natural Philosopher ~ A Curriculum for Ecological Intelligence.  This project is entirely a child of the extraordinary community that is Vashon Island, WA, Cascadia.  Many of you on Vashon are familiar with this endeavor as it has evolved over the years.  I want to thank Steve Allen for providing me the space to think this further through here in the public space in which it was born.

The further evolution of this work that is The Cascadia Protocol is the addition of a deep, personal, local Nature connection to the self-directed learning process.  This was facilitated for me by Island naturalist and healer, Sally Ammon.  We entered this project in the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Design Challenge…my third time to enter.

In a sentence…The Cascadia Protocol is a model for self-directed, eco-logically structured learning, and deep local Nature connection, in the context of a natural, bioregional mode of human social self-organization.  

As the Cascadia bioregion is leading the world in becoming self-aware as such, we’re introducing this model that may serve as a template to be tailored to other bioregions as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with the modern bioregional movement (a movement Bucky Fuller would heartily endorse)…Bioregionalism is the idea that human society is best self-organized as Nature is self-organized.  That is, in regions that are biologically and climatically similar.  In this way, regions that have similar resource needs can manage those needs and those precious resources more efficiently.

As Bucky pointed out, the present nationstate means of human social organization and the invisible political boundaries that define it, are all the result of warfare and imperialism.  This then becomes the context in which we meet our fellow human beings all over this world.  The natural topography, weather, wildlife and etc. seem to me to be a better, healthier context for human relating.  Besides, the rest of Nature and indigenous cultures are all doing it already.  It’s nothing new, in this more real sense.

This is explicitly not a call to political revolution, let me add.  Vashon has Dilworth. Seattle has Wallingford. Washington State has The Palouse.  The US has The Pacific Northwest.  These various means of self-organization and identification exist within the present context.  The Cascadia bioregion is only different in that it crosses nationstate boundaries.  There is already a Cascadia Cup played between the professional soccer teams from Vancouver, BC, Seattle and Portland.

The fundamental processes for self-directed education that I promote with my Natural Philosopher project are these…1)  Learn to learn and 2) Learn to structure what you learn.  That is, learn to put ideas together in a systematic, eco-logical way.  This is the domain of Epistemology.  Fundamentally and operationally, I describe this as becoming fluent in The Context of Contexts.  Meaning may then be treated as a relation between an idea or event and the context in which it is placed.  

As an aid to this overall process, I’ve developed a set of Glass Bead Game* Icons and a set of knowledge diagramming tools (Logical Ecologies) that I will introduce and explain as we go.  These tools comprise what seems to me to be a highly functional second order Glass Bead Game* (and possibly the only extant one)…a concept I will discuss at length in the near so-called future.

As for the Learning to Learn layer of the cake, here’s an overview…

1)    Familiarize yourself with the nature and proclivities of your own nervous system and sensory apparatus for these are our information gathering systems.
2)    Get an adequate depth and breadth of exposure to the new idea system you are studying.
3)    Build in the necessary repetition to install that idea system in your long term memory.  This takes time and puts a premium on remaining emotionally comfortable in the semi-confused, ‘not knowing’ state of mind.  Stick with it and the “Aha!” will come.

As for the knowledge structuring portion, the Epistemology…I maintain that Epistemology is our long lost human operating system.  This is fundamentally what The Natural Philosopher and The Glass Bead Game are all about.  It is draws heavily upon Gregory Bateson’s “Ecology of Mind” concept.  I will discuss all this at length as we go.

The Deep Nature Connection portion of the project is similarly systematic and sensible and, with Sally’s help, I’ll delve into it at length in future articles.

Thanks for your time and attention!

Rod Smith, creator of The Natural Philosopher, may be reached at  Sally Ammon may be reached at for naturalist beach walks and energy healing sessions.

*See Hermann Hesse’s classic 1946 Nobel Prize winning novel, The Glass Bead Game.