Creating a Sustainble Future - February 2010
Notes from the February 2010 General Meeting with David Bragdon, Metro Council President; Michael Armstrong, Deputy Director of the Portland Bureau for Planning and Sustainability; and Dianne Ripley, Equity Agenda Coordinator for the Coalition for a Livable Future.
by Bev Wilson
What he said was a real mouthful. David Bragdon, Metro Council President, described sustainability as the ability of a society to continue doing what it’s doing without decreasing the possibility that the society will continue. He continued with the observation that our American lifestyle is not sustainable, we can’t continue economic policies of borrowing against the future, often at short-term gain vs. long-term values, and we can’t continue using up our finite resources. That stark truth underlined all that followed. The role of government is to encourage positive choices via legislation and taxes.
Metro Council addresses five policy areas:
- Transportation accounts for one third of our fossil fuel use. Metro plans and encourages public transport expansion and other transport options to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Metro manages our solid waste and we are recycling 57-58% of it. Metro is working to make it easier for us to recycle.
- Metro promotes the financial and environmental advantages of green buildings.
- Metro has used the money provided by bond measures to buy 10,000 acres of open land chosen by scientific teams aiming to protect watersheds, species, and access.
- Metro is charged with planning for our future population growth based on projected birth rates and in-migration. Metro plans to prevent sprawl by redeveloping existing neighborhoods, promoting urban density, and preserving farmlands.
Michael Armstrong, Deputy Director, Bureau for Planning and Sustainability, City of Portland, discussed many of these topics with additional points and emphasis on carbon emissions as part of the city’s Climate Action Plan as well as the Portland Plan.
The PDC’s economic policy of encouraging sustainability in new construction has led to 50% of these buildings receiving LEED certification. Portland’s land use and transportation policies are structured to shape where communities grow, and to encourage neighborhoods where residents can walk to community resources within 20 minutes. The city aims for 43 acres of ecoroofs, 1,000 new community garden plots, use of more locally grown food, and encouragement of retrofitting homes for less environmental impact. With 1990 as the base year, Portland has reduced carbon emissions faster than the US as a whole even as our population grew, but still falls short of the decrease that would avoid severe climate disruption.
Dianne Ripley, Equity Agenda Coordinator for the Coalition for a Livable Future, includes equity as a key component of sustainability. The Coalition has created a research-based Equity Atlas as a graphic way to illustrate how equity relates to social justice and fairness. The graphic showing the distribution of Afro-Americans in the metro area was followed by graphics showing where full-service groceries were located, and where sidewalks that kids could use to walk safely to school were located. Access to healthy food and the ability to walk to school would help reduce childhood obesity. Some members of the Coalition are healthcare organizations that view inequity as a marker for the decreased possibility for healthy lives.
Ms. Ripley described sustainability as a three-legged stool consisting of equity, environmental factors and economic outputs. Equity speaks to achieving sustainability by understanding how these issues interrelate. She said that Portland has tended to address racial segregation as an affordable housing problem. Ripley observed that people choose to live and work where they feel safe and comfortable, which in the past, was often in ghettos that may no longer exist. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has had helpful discussion across racial lines dealing with racial issues as products of the overlapping areas of concern mentioned above.