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.