Bullitt Foundation Vision
An essay by Denis Hayes
Cascadia, the Northwest corner of the United States and the Southwest corner of Canada, is emerging as ground zero for sustainable development.
Originally endowed with an extravagant abundance of natural biological capital, Cascadia is at an inflection point in its history. Following more than a century of intensive exploitation of its natural resources, Cascadia is now turning green. It is restoring its abused landscapes, and it is on the cusp of becoming a global model for a new approach to human ecology.
Cascadia already has a reputation for environmentally enlightened leadership. Through its innovations in science, technology, commerce, and culture, the region exerts a disproportionate national, and even global, impact relative to its size and population. Its political leaders tend to be unusually knowledgeable about, and committed to, environmental values.
Here, as around the world, human activity has reached a scale where it is interfering with such fundamental global phenomena as the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the hydrologic cycle. Often we have no clear sense of all the consequences of our actions, but we have a mounting awareness that many of these consequences will be dire.
As a result, humankind is searching for political and economic examples that successfully reconcile our obligation to sustain healthy natural systems with our understandable desire for health, convenience, creativity, and prosperity.
If this can be accomplished anywhere on the planet, it will be done in Cascadia. The Bullitt Foundation seeks to catalyze the necessary changes.
Any theory of sustainable development must be grounded in an understanding that the human economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the natural environment. We briefly ignore the big laws—nature’s laws—at our peril. In the long run, we cannot break them.
Sustainable human institutions and enterprises will be based on the same ecological principles that govern all ecosystems.
In pursuing this goal, the Foundation looks for high risk, high potential payoff opportunities to exert unusual leverage. It has a special interest in demonstrating innovative approaches that promise to solve multiple problems simultaneously. It searches the world for successful projects and policies that can be adapted to the Pacific Northwest. It strives to build the intellectual foundations and political support needed for sweeping innovation.
Operationally, the Bullitt Foundation has moved to a more proactive, streamlined, and collaborative approach to its work, seeking a true partnership with its grantee community. We will work closely with our colleagues in the field to devise strategies, identify opportunities, and help find needed resources to move the environmental agenda forward.
The Foundation focuses on root causes rather than symptoms. It prefers to prevent problems rather than cure them. It seeks to identify the most talented individuals and most effective organizations and empower them to respond to the most important issues facing the region.
The Bullitt Foundation places high value on being nimble and able to respond quickly to emerging threats and opportunities, while still acting with deliberation and strategic sensibility. At any moment, within its broad mission, the Foundation will be focused on a relatively small subset of explicit priorities that appear especially ripe for progress. The Foundation recognizes that environmental issues are inherently interconnected, and it marshals staff and financial resources across its programs to achieve success.
To do so, the Foundation has substantially refined its funding focus, geographic priorities, approach to grant making, and operations. Where once the Foundation endeavored to cover the full range of environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest, it now will concentrate on urban issues, business and technology, ecosystem services and planning, and civic engagement.
While the overall geographic region of interest remains the same, the Foundation will focus the majority of its funding in the regions centered in and around metropolitan Anchorage, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and Boise. In addition, we anticipate devoting resources to selected ecologically significant sub regions that are facing growing development pressures and impacts.
If these efforts, and those of all our peers and partners, are successful, Cascadia will become an inspiration for others around the world.
Denis Hayes, President and CEO