In some ways my wife and I are good examples of how to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas pollution: we own two hybrid cars, and I ride a 45 mpg scooter as often as possible.
But we also live in a rural area about six miles from the Salem city limits. So we do a lot of driving back and forth to town. More driving means more greenhouse gas emissions.
Yesterday Laurel and I attended a 1000 Friends of Oregon lunch meeting where this environmental organization's 2010 legislative agenda was discussed. I learned about a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Task Force established in 2009 that is linking land use planning and efforts to fight global warming.
Sprawling cities and subdivisions sprinkled around the countryside force people to use their cars more. A 1000 Friends report by Joel Batterman, "The Land Use-Transportation- Climate Change Connection," says:
Oregon has committed to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas pollution to one-quarter of 1990 levels by 2050. One-third of today’s emissions come from transportation; however, cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicles alone are not enough to attain the necessary cuts. Oregonians must also significantly decrease the distances we drive. We can meet this challenge through compact communities and transportation choices, while also creating more livable communities and leading the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Oregon has an exciting opportunity; we should seize it.
It's going to take several years before the Task Force's recommendations result in on-the-ground improvements to Oregon's land use and transportation planning. Eventually, though, our great state should be even more of a Green national leader.
At the end of the 1000 Friends lunch meeting I felt a warm glow, and it wasn't all due to the excellent vegetarian brown bag meal I'd eaten that was put together by The Wild Pear restaurant.
The 1000 Friends staff who talked about 2010 legislation and answered questions were competent, friendly, and committed. It was reassuring to realize that 1000 Friends and other Oregon environmental organizations are actively working to keep our state, nation, and world from falling into the pit of climate change disaster that threatens us all.
I moved to Oregon in 1971 to attend graduate school at Portland State University. It was a hugely welcome change from San Jose, California, where I'd gone to college.
I didn't know much about Oregon when I came here -- just that it was supposed to be a green, largely unspoiled paradise compared to the already smoggy, crowded, and concretized Bay Area.
The rumors were true. I was thrilled to find blackberries growing behind the Raleigh Hills apartment where my wife and I lived. I couldn't understand why our fellow Oregonians weren't out there picking them like we were.
I'd take a bus down to Portland State. The first few months, I couldn't take my eyes off of Mount Hood when the bus started down Terwilliger (I think it was) and a vista to the Cascades opened up.
Almost all of the other bus riders would have their heads in a newspaper, magazine, or book. I'd wonder, "Don't they appreciate what they've got here in Oregon? I guess they need to spend some time in San Jose, then return to Portland."
Well, after almost forty years here, I've become a bit blase myself about my adopted state. But I never fail to go wow when I drive over the south Salem hills to our home and see Mt. Jefferson in the distance.
And I haven't gotten tired of eating wild blackberries on a hot August afternoon, taking a juicy break on a dog walk.
We Oregonians need to both protect our state's marvelous natural environment and assure that the human "built" environment doesn't screw up what nature has given us. Compact cities, smart growth, public transportation options, bike paths, protecting farm and forest land -- if we do this, and more, my granddaughter (plus further generations to come) will be able to visit me and express her own wow's.
I just hope you and your kind don't unintentionally visit tyranny on us in the name of our grandchildren.
Posted by: Concerned Libertarian | January 15, 2010 at 03:37 AM
Concerned Libertarian, do you think requiring handicapped parking spaces in front of a business is "tyranny"? What about building codes, such as health and safety requirements? (these would have saved countless lives from the earthquake in Haiti)
Should anyone be able to construct whatever they want, wherever they want? Would you be happy to have a concrete plant that spews mercury into the air next to an elementary school?
One person's "tyranny" is another's social compact. This is a fact: no man (and no woman, no animal, no plant, no anything) is an island. Everything on Earth exists in relationship with everything else. We are social creatures. What one person does affects others.
I am my brother's and sister's keeper. And they are mine. So I disagree that wise land use planning is tyranny. Not only do I disagree a little, I disagree a lot.
Posted by: Blogger Brian | January 15, 2010 at 07:59 AM
I also believe in land use planning but recognize that there has to be increased development as more people live in a place. Compact is good to a point but it can only go so far. The contradiction comes because people have to have food and populations also grow larger (unless bad things happen). If you block all development around a city to protect the agricultural land, then where do the people go? If you let it develop outward from the cities, then eventually it reaches you.
In Oregon's past (and many states still today) they hopscotched outward which led to sprawling developments any which direction. With planning that doesn't happen here, but we still have to deal with the need for people to live and food to be produced. You won't find that you can always get people handy to where they can easily get all their necessities nearby. Wise use planning has to be done by a combination of the community and experts.
Wanting to see something stay as it's always been won't happen anywhere in life, why expect it in our neighborhood views? And we always want to protect 'our' views. When I visit Tucson, I bemoan the changes every time I arrive because my home is on the edge of town-- or used to be. I will say they are developing the stores to provide their necessities (which, of course, are trucked in) out there also, which I also bemoan but understand why it happens.
A lot of people pushed into a small area leads to more social contact problems as well as pollution. Letting them spread out helter skelter leaves no land left to grow food (not that most is grown loacally); so it's always a compromise. I hate to see areas I have loved developed into suburbs, but unless we stop growing in numbers, more of that does have to happen. The issue is doing it wisely. The end result often will please no one. Land use planning is still important for us all and I am grateful for Oregon's bill but it will never satisfy the need to see things stay as they have been.
Posted by: Rain | January 15, 2010 at 08:31 AM