Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chicken is on the Menu in Northeast Neighbors!

The NEN (Northeast Neighbors) Association is having its regular Monday 0700 red-eye meeting this coming Monday, February 2 at the usual place (Willson House, 1625 Center St. NE, follow the signs to the meeting room) and CITY (Chickens in the Yard) is on the menu! --- er, agenda.

So if you live in the NEN area (Salem neighborhood associations map) and your eyeballs function at 0700, why not attend the meeting and show some love for the idea of letting people have a good source of safe, inexpensive, high-nutrition food and soil improvement/waste recycling services (chickens, in other words).

And if you don't live in NEN, why not check out your neighborhood association and see if CITY will be making a presentation in your area as well? We're going to need support from all areas.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Urgent: Don't let the "Big Look" turn into the Big Grab

In some ways, you have to hand it to the pro-sprawl lobby --- they are absolutely relentless, and never quit working to undermine the land-use laws that have, despite their efforts, preserved much of the farm and forest land that makes Oregon a hopeful beacon for the years to come.

If the pro-sprawl lobby has its way, we will abolish the statewide land-use planning system and return it to the control of the local county commissioners --- an unmitigated disaster for wise land use and for farmland preservation.

If you can't come testify to how much you value Oregon's land use and preservation of farm and forest land, please see the note below about how you can make sure your voice is heard. This is a battle that has to be won each and every time the sprawlers muster for another charge; if we lose, we lose forever as some of the finest land in the world is paved and cut over.
Join us next Tuesday, February 3rd at 3:00 pm in Salem when the House Land Use Committee will hold a public hearing on the Big Look Task Force proposed legislation (HB 2229).

The task force has made several proposed changes to Oregon's land use planning program. Some changes we support, including a plan to have key state agencies develop an integrated strategic plan to coordinate land use, transportation and economic development efforts.

Unfortunately, the task force has focused much of their effort on a controversial proposal to allow counties to develop new criteria to redefine farm and forest lands. This proposal, not supported by any data from the task force, is based on the perception that unproductive lands have been mis-designated by counties, and that counties are prevented from correcting these errors. Counties can, and do, re-designate land from agricultural or forest to other categories. In fact, counties re-designated over 20,000 acres from agriculture to other rural uses between 1989 and 2007. If land is mis-zoned, counties should correct the zoning error, not come up with new definitions for farm and forest land.

Simply put, this Task Force proposal will lead to rural sprawl, increase global warming pollution from cars and trucks, and impact Oregon agriculture at a time when our economy is already in danger.

The Task Force report acknowledges that Oregon has a land use system that protects farm and forest land, contains urban sprawl, and manages growth better than anywhere else in the United States. The system can and should be improved, but it makes no sense to adopt proposals to weaken land use planning in Oregon.

Now is the time to tell the House Land Use Committee to support the task force proposals to adopt better strategic plans and new performance measures and to oppose allowing counties to re-define farm and forest land. Please come to Salem to testify in support of a stronger, more effective land use program for Oregon!

Time: 3:00 - 4:00 pm
Place: State Capitol, Hearing Room E, Salem
Date: February 3rd
Contact: Cheyenne Ross, Committee Administrator: 503-986-1734
Details: Arrive early and sign up to testify. For more information on the task force, please click here.
Don't forget: Please reply to this email and let us know if you are coming.

Thank you for all you do!


The Team at 1000 Friends of Oregon.

P.S. If you can't attend the hearing, please write a quick note to the committee on the importance of this issue. Send it to: Cheyenne Ross - Committee Services, 900 Court St. NE. Rm. #453, Salem OR 97301. Give your perspective on why our land use program needs to be strengthened!

Got nine minutes for a great film? Eat the Suburbs!

Very nice.

Want to be on the Citizen Patrol?

Interesting offer from the Salem Police Dept. If you want to make a contribution, get to know your city better, and maybe get some regular exercise, consider:

The Salem Police Department is recruiting volunteers to be a part of the Citizen Patrol. Volunteers in this position work in teams of two during various times of the day and night. They focus on areas experiencing high rates of crime, serving as extra eyes and ears for patrol officers. Citizen Patrol teams provide a presence in neighborhoods throughout Salem and report suspicious activity as needed.

Citizen Patrol volunteers will be required to complete a 30-hour training course prior to [before] their first scheduled shift in order to better equip and educate them for this assignment; volunteers also are expected to attend ongoing training.

The next series of training is set to begin in July. To learn more about this position or any of the other areas where volunteers serve the Salem Police Department, visit or call Jennifer Graber at 503-588-6499, ext. 1.

[Actually, the link given goes nowhere. You probably want to go here if you actually want to connect with SPD. Here's the SPD volunteer page.]

Have your say on Salem budget -- it's bloody, and going to get bloodier

(from the February 2009 "Community Connections" newsletter)


The City of Salem is facing an estimated $5 million in General Fund budget reductions for this coming fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2009. Despite layoffs, a hiring freeze, and last year’s service cuts, the City cannot continue to provide all current services with anticipated revenues.

Be a part of the solution! Join us in conversation:

• Monday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m., West Salem Roth’s

• Wednesday, February 18, at 6:00 p.m., North Salem High School Auditorium

• Saturday, February 21, at 10:00 a.m., South Salem High School Library

• Tuesday, February 24, at 6:00 p.m., McKay High School Commons (Spanish-speaking forum)

• Complete the survey on funding priorities any time at

The City is asking for your help as we consider service reductions. To be a part of the solution, tell us what you think before February 25. Take the funding priorities survey online today.

Where Salem must go

This is what we must do.

The only question is whether elected and staff officials in city and county governments (and the various flavors of intergovernmental groupings) will be leaders, bystanders ... or, worse, obstacles to progress. So far, prospects look dim for enlightened leadership -- if it's present in governments so far, it's remaining covert, possibly a wise strategy to avoid the immune system rejection of new ideas.

But we need to start, wherever these officials land. There is much work to do, little time, and resources will be increasingly strained.

As one of my advisors used to say, "Uh-oh, out of money! Time to think!!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Growing Food Locally is Key

In the coming tough times, food will be key -- and not just any food, but locally raised food from as close as possible, preferably grown right here in the heart of the Willamette Valley with as few industrial inputs as possible -- or else we get industrial commodity "phood" that is:

Less tasty -- and not as good for you

Industrially grown produce shows long-term nutritional decline

Posted by Tom Philpott

Talk to old-timers, and they'll often tell you that the tomatoes you find in supermarket produce sections don't taste anything like the ones they had in their childhoods in the '30s and '40s.

Turns out, they're probably not as nutritious, either.

In an article [PDF] published in the February 2009 issue of the HortScience Review, University of Texas researcher Donald R. Davis compiles evidence that points to declines in nutrition in vegetables and (to a lesser extent) fruits over the past few decades.

For example:

[T]hree recent studies of historical food composition data found apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in some minerals in groups of vegetables and perhaps fruits; one study also evaluated vitamins and protein with similar results.

He points to another study in which researchers planted low- and high-yielding varieties of broccoli and grain side-by-side. The high-yielding varieties showed less protein and minerals.

The principle seems to be that when plants are nudged to produce as much as possible -- whether through lots of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or through selective breeding -- they deliver fewer nutrients. It evidently isn't just the flavor that's become diluted in those bland supermarket tomatoes.

This is a fascinating insight. We should reflect that for at least 50 years, the best-funded agricultural researchers are the ones work to maximize yield -- that is, gross output per acre. Even now, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is expending hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to increase yields in Africa.

Rather than isolate and fetishize yield, perhaps ag researchers should learn to take a whole-systems approach: study how communities can develop robust food systems that build healthy soil and produce nutritious food.

(It should also be noted that last year the Organic Center compiled peer-reviewed studies finding that organically grown produce tends to deliver significantly higher nutrient levels than conventional.)

Business as usual not working all that well, actually

For an important insight into many of the trends discussed in this SJ story excerpt, see "Misplaced Blame: The Roots of Population Growth" by the Sightline Institute's Alan Durning and Christopher Crowther (free pdf download at that link). Now, the local update:

Child-welfare data grim
Marion and Polk counties continue to rank worse than the state average on most indicators of child well-being, a new report from Children First for Oregon shows.

In Marion County, one in five children lived below the federal poverty level in 2007, according to the non-profit group's 2008 County Data Book, released Tuesday. One out of every 50 children was arrested, and one in 25 teenage girls became pregnant.

Alison Kelley, the director of the Marion County Commission on Children and Families, said local social service agencies, especially food banks, are seeing a dramatic rise in requests for help. . . .

In Polk County, meanwhile, the rate of child abuse and neglect doubled, to one in every 75 children. One in three children was obese. And there were only 11 child care spots per 100 children — the third lowest number statewide.

One in six children in both counties was uninsured — the second highest rate in Oregon.

Statewide, 16.9 percent of children lived below the federal poverty level in 2007, and 12.6 percent of children were uninsured, the report showed.

But the group's statistics, mostly from 2007, don't reflect the more recent economic crisis, spokeswoman Cathy Kaufmann admitted. . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whad'Ya Know? (Not much, you?) -- Hurry, tickets going fast!

March 6, 2009 (Fri. night 7pm)

Salem, Oregon
- Thanks to our friends at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Whad'Ya Know? makes a break for the beautiful Northwest for a Friday night show at The Elsinore in Salem, Oregon. Tickets on sale RIGHT NOW! Call 503-375-3574 or go to the Elsinore Theater website.

Your Kids' & Grandkids' future if we don't act now: Hot and Hungry

Note that we're already at 385 ppmv and increasing at 1-2 ppmv per year, and increasing at an increasing rate.

Act now -- Support Transit (DeFazio-Nadler Amendment) in Stimulus bill

Please take action now to help secure increased funding for public transit.

We've just been informed that Congressmen Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have introduced an amendment to the American Economic Recovery and Investment Act that will go to the floor for a vote tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon. It would add $3 billion in additional funding for public transit above and beyond the $9.5 billion in the original economic recovery bill. This is our best chance to influence the outcome of the legislation.

Congress will consider and VOTE on this amendment in the next 18 hours. Please encourage your Representative to vote YES on this important amendment. (Click here for background information.)

Please act now! Call tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. Urge them to support the Nadler/DeFazio amendment, and don't forget to thank Rep. DeFazio, particularly if you live in his district!

First District -- Congressman David Wu -- (503) 326-2901
Second District -- Congressman Greg Walden -- (541) 389-4408
Third District -- Congressman Earl Blumenauer -- (503) 231-2300
Fourth District -- Congressman Peter DeFazio -- (541) 465-6732
Fifth District -- Congressman Kurt Schrader -- (503) 588-9100

Flood Water Issues in Salem: Battle Creek Flood Plain Management.

Are you interested in keeping Salem afloat? If water is your issue, then don't miss Flood Water Issues in Salem: Battle Creek Flood Plain Management.

There will be a discussion of the City of Salem property purchase for flood and storm water quality on Battle Creek. Find out what is possible on this property. With

* Peter Fernandez, Public Works Director, City of Salem,
* Nitin Joshi, Public Works Staff,
* Professor Susan Smith, Willamette University College of Law

"Ramifications of changing a Comprehensive Plan"

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 10,
6 PM to 8 PM
WHERE: Salem Public Library, Anderson Room (585 Liberty Street SE)

Sponsored by Friends of Battle Creek, a nonprofit organization concerned about the Battle Creek watershed.

CO2 is more like nuclear waste than acid rain

Have you insulated your house and slashed your driving?
Greenhouse gas levels currently expected by mid-century will produce devastating long-term droughts and a sea-level rise that will persist for 1,000 years regardless of how well the world curbs future emissions of carbon dioxide, an international team of scientists reported yesterday.

Top climate researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Switzerland and France said their analysis shows that carbon dioxide will remain near peak levels in the atmosphere far longer than other greenhouse gases, which dissipate relatively quickly.

"I think you have to think about this stuff as more like nuclear waste than acid rain: The more we add, the worse off we'll be," NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon told reporters in a conference call. "The more time that we take to make decisions about carbon dioxide, the more irreversible climate change we'll be locked into."

At the moment, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere stand at 385 parts per million. Many climate scientists and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have set a goal of stabilizing atmospheric carbon at 450 ppm, but current projections put the world on track to hit 550 ppm by 2035, rising after that point by 4.5 percent a year.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Awesome folks to check out

Thanks to a comment on the new year's chicken post, I just learned about a group dedicated to the kind of work that is already vital and that will be increasingly so in the coming hard times: Salem Locavores!

Friends of Straub: Free talk on Biomimicry, this Thursday 1/29

2008-09 FSELC Lecture Series: Denise DeLuca
"Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature"
Thursday, January 29th, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Loucks Auditorium, Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty Street SE, Salem
Solar cells that mimic leaves. Superglues from barnacles. Businesses that run like a redwood forest. Denise DeLuca will talk about the emerging science of biomimicry and give examples of technological and design innovations adapted from nature. A civil engineer, DeLuca is the Outreach Director for the Biomimicry Institute. Join us Thursday to hear about this fascinating topic.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More on RePowering Oregon

Especially easy for Salem area folks:

Implement Global Warming Solutions
RePower Oregon 2009 Campaign Rollout - Tuesday, January 27th

Join the diverse and growing coalition of Oregonians calling for immediate action on Global Warming. Attendees will include Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, state legislators, and Oregonians from the business, faith, low-income, and environmental communities.

12-1, Press event in House Room 50. Stick around after the event to connect with campaign organizers and get involved.

3pm, Joint Committee for Environment and Natural Resources Legislative Hearing on Global Warming

RePower Oregon Lobby Day - Tuesday, February 10th

Take the opportunity to travel to Salem and learn how to most effectively lobby your legislator on fighting against global warming.

For more information contact Seth Moore at 503-278-1577.

Keizer Area Transit Advocates -- Step Up!

I just want to let you know so, that you could let others know, that I am not going for re-elect to the Transit Board this May for Keizer #2. [Districts map here.]

I encourage others that would like to help improve the transit service and its image to go for the position.

Anyone interested or have questions can contact me 503-949-1249 or Allan Pollack the Transit General Manager

Hersch Sangster

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Repower Oregon! (Healthy Climate Partnership)

You may have seen a flyer around with that headline -- if you didn't go, you missed the meeting on January 21. The website (where I found the quoted text below) is only half done -- with luck there will soon be a lot more activity and organizing.

Here's what they're selling. In a nutshell, it's: Good Jobs. Clean Energy. A Better Future.
In expanded form, it's:

The pitch

Two big challenges – a major recession and creating a clean energy future – share a common set of solutions with enormous opportunities for Oregon families and communities:

  • A cap on global warming pollution to transition to a clean energy economy and protect our children’s legacy.

  • Renewable energy to reduce our dependence on dirty coal and foreign oil.

  • Energy efficiency for homes and businesses to jumpstart the economy and cut energy bills.

  • Smart transportation choices to reduce congestion and gas bills and make healthier communities.

With the right investments and policies, we can put Oregon’s economy back on track. We can create thousands of good jobs while protecting existing industries and vulnerable communities. And we can position Oregon to be a global leader in the transition to a clean energy future.

And here's who "they" are:


For over 40 years, the Oregon Environmental Council staff and volunteers have worked across the state to advocate on behalf of all Oregonians. Their notable results have made Oregon a healthier, cleaner place for all of us, and for the generations to come.

The CUB mission is simple: to represent you, the residential utility customer. The Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon is the only group in the state funded by Oregon ratepayers to challenge rate increases and other matters brought before the Public Utility Commission and State Legislature by the private utility companies.

1000 Friends of Oregon was founded in 1975 by Governor Tom McCall and Henry Richmond as the citizens’ voice for sound land use planning. Their goal was to protect Oregon’s quality of life from the effects of uncontrolled growth, using the tools of Senate Bill 100, passed in 1973.

Climate Solutions' mission is to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment and bridging divides.

Environment Oregon, the new home of OSPIRG's environmental work, is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. Their professional staff combines independent research, practical ideas and tough-minded advocacy to overcome the opposition of powerful special interests and win real results for Oregon's environment. Environment Oregon draws on 30 years of success in tackling our state's top environmental problems.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is a non-partisan organization with a simple mission: educate voters about how their legislators vote on the environment and to hold these legislators accountable. OLCV has more than 3,000 members across the state and is recognized as a strong leader and effective watchdog for the environment.

In 1994, a broad coalition of public-interest organizations and energy companies created the Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) to actively promote development of the region's untapped renewable resources. RNP has proven to be a forceful advocate for expanding solar, wind and geothermal energy in the Northwest.

That's a fairly predictable grouping and a deep base of experience in working on environmental issues through the usual paradigm of trading needed reforms off against "being reasonable." The question is whether this group can catalyze a reaction that is either fast or radical enough to keep up with the fast-changing climate science and the ever-worsening situation in the physical world. That's the problem: climate change is a wicked problem, because our actions today and in the next few years are going to cast the dice for 40s, 50s and even into the 80s (2080s, that is) -- and we're not even fully aware of the reality now. We're watching the polar ice set records nearly every month now -- it melts faster, re-forms thinner, and reduces its overall extent inexorably, year by year, reducing earth's heat-reflecting ice cover and warming the oceans --- and threatening to unleash a massive positive-feedback loop at some unknown temperature that we may conceivably hit soon . . . or be approaching.

We're the blind men driving the Cadillac at high speed in the elementary school zone, that's for sure . . . even if we don't kill ourselves, we're going to put a serious hurt on the future generations.

So if you want to help answer President Obama's call to arms in his inaugural, working with this group might be just the ticket.

If you want more information sooner, you can reach Courtney at 408-505-2764 or

Bike Helmets, People!


Yikes again!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unsolicited Plug (UP) 1 -- First in a new series

Well, with the economy coming unglued and the next big wave of bank failures due any second (a wave much bigger than the ones we've seen so far), we're going to have to re-learn just how important it is to support those small, locally owned businesses that are essential to creating a vibrant and livable community.

Salem has some real gems amidst the sea of generica, and LOVESalem is going to start plugging some of these, albeit not systematically. That is, this isn't an advertising deal, but in the nature of a reminder that, if you want these to stay open, you need to find your way to them now and again when you need something in their line.

The first UP (unsolicited plug) is for a little hole-in-the-wall bakery on the north block of State St. between Front and Commercial, Cascade Baking Company. This superb bakery uses a wonderful wheat flour grown and milled here in the Northwest, "Shepard's Grain," which is grown by a cooperative of family farmers in Oregon and Washington using sustainable ag practices (most significantly, no-till, meaning that the dry, dusty winds of the Palouse don't send the topsoil into the air, because the ground is never scraped off for planting).

Also, it's got a great flavor. You can buy Cascade's breads at the store or at the Salem Saturday Market (which would be getting an unsolicited plug now, if it weren't closed until May, sniff, sniff), and you can sample it several restaurants in town that I know of.

Anyway, scope out the lovely array of breads that are baked fresh right here in Salem, using responsibly grown wheat.

Now, you can definitely find cheaper bread, and if calories per dollar is your only standard, then you will not only miss the health benefits of eating better food but you will miss helping a local business thrive and continue to enrich your home. Skip a latte sometime and put that together with what you usually spend on factory bread and get a loaf of real bread at Cascade -- you'll love it. (Alas, not much for the gluten intolerant!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Polls call for transit, maintenance, not more roads

Majority says funded projects should advance national goals, such as energy independence, in addition to creating jobs
WASHINGTON (January 15, 2009) – As Congress takes up debate over an economic stimulus package, a new poll shows that most Americans would rather use federal dollars to repair highways and bridges and improve public transportation than expand highways through new construction.

In addition, fully 80 percent of respondents said stimulus investments should not only create jobs, but also help the goals of reducing oil dependency, improving the environment and increasing transportation options, even if the job creation took longer. Only 20 percent agreed that stimulus funds should include only "road and bridge projects that can be started right away and create an immediate boost to the economy".

The stimulus questions were included in the 2009 Growth and Transportation Survey sponsored by the National Association of Realtors® and Transportation for America, and conducted Jan 5-7.

An overwhelming 80 percent believe it is more important that a stimulus plan include efforts to repair existing highways and public transit rather than build new highways. Forty-five percent of those polled said construction of highways should "definitely" or "probably" not be included in the plan.

Americans Prefer to Spend More on Mass Transit
. . .

The survey shows that Americans want Congress and the incoming administration to factor plans for reducing dependence on foreign oil, improving the environment, and increasing transportation choices into the stimulus package currently in development, even if it temporarily delays job creation.

Americans are also very interested in energy conservation. Eighty-nine percent agreed that transportation investments should support the goals of reducing energy use, with 58 percent agreeing strongly. Three in four of those polled also want the stimulus plan to support the reduction of carbon emissions that lead to global warming and climate change.

The telephone survey of 1,005 adults living in the U.S. was conducted by Hart Research Associates Jan. 5-7. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Transportation for America ( is a big-tent coalition of housing, real estate, environmental, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations.

"We believe it is possible to invest the stimulus money both wisely and quickly," said Geoff Anderson, co-chair of Transportation for America. "Because this is a down-payment on long term economic stability, it is critical that we don't just throw money at our problems. Voters are clearly asking that Congress and the Administration line up our investments with important national goals."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good thinking!

In the 70's, the "right on red" wave went through the states as drivers were increasingly frustrated by wasting gas sitting in front of a red light controlling an intersection where there was no cross traffic -- just a stupid light on a timer. Right on red and the even more daring left-on-red (which is permitted in Oregon in some situations) make sense.

What makes even more sense is letting bicyclists treat stop signs as "yield" signs, letting them roll through when appropriate or stop when appropriate. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is going to try and get the laws changed for Oregon to make this sensible improvement that will make biking easier and more desirable while having no real downside.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making Salem Safer for Children and Other Living Beings

It's time for a total ban on using cell phones of any kind while driving.

Protocol should be that response to any accident involving a motor vehicle should include a check to determine whether the person was using a cell phone while driving (whether hands free or not). If so, that is deemed presumptive evidence of driver fault for insurance purposes and result in the same penalty sequence as we apply to DUI drivers.
A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers

In half a dozen states and many cities and counties, it is illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving — but perfectly all right to talk on a hands-free device.

The theory is that it’s distracting to hold a phone and drive with just one hand. But a large body of research now shows that a hands-free phone poses no less danger than a hand-held one — that the problem is not your hands but your brain.

“It’s not that your hands aren’t on the wheel,” said David Strayer, director of the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah and a leading researcher on cellphone safety. “It’s that your mind is not on the road.”

Now Dr. Strayer’s research has gained a potent ally. On Monday, the National Safety Council, the nonprofit advocacy group that has pushed for seat belt laws and drunken driving awareness, called for an all-out ban on using cellphones while driving. . . .

Laboratory experiments using simulators, real-world road studies and accident statistics all tell the same story: drivers talking on a cellphone are four times as likely to have an accident as drivers who are not. That’s the same level of risk posed by a driver who is legally drunk. . . .

A Very Cool Organic Cotton T Shirt

Don't know of anyone in Salem selling these, so I just bought one direct (click on the picture).

A "Real New Deal for Energy, Economic and Environmental Recovery"

Plan Endorsed By Bill McKibben, Michael Moore, Randy Udall, Lester Brown.

SEBASTOPOL, CA, January 13, 2009 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- Post Carbon Institute today announced the release of "The Real New Deal: Energy Scarcity and the Path to Energy, Economic, and Environmental Recovery," a proposal to the incoming Obama Administration. 

The plan calls for responding to the current economic crisis with a massive policy and investment shift towards a fossil fuel-independent economy. Noting the urgency to address global fossil fuel depletion and climate change, the "Real New Deal" calls for a series of bold measures to electrify the transportation system, rebuild the electricity grid, relocalize the food system, and retrofit the nation's building stock for both energy efficiency and energy production. 

The plan's lead author is Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, author of "The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies" and an internationally recognized expert on fossil fuel depletion. Heinberg said, "While there are many 'new deal' plans being offered to President-elect Obama, our plan recognizes that declining fossil fuel supplies and rising greenhouse gas emissions put us at tremendous and immediate risk. Building more roads and bridges as a stimulus for jobs is the wrong tactic. We must re-engineer our country now to deal with the end of cheap energy and to stop catastrophic climate change." 

Bill McKibben, author of "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future," remarked, ""The world is up against real limits, limits that will define our future. We're running out of oil and we're running out of atmosphere, and those two alone will change the planet. Let's get ahead of the curve for once." 

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore declared, "I strongly endorse 'The Real New Deal.' The Obama administration takes office at one of the most critical moments in our history with a tremendous opportunity and a grave responsibility to take appropriate action." 

Debbie Cook, former Mayor of Huntington Beach, California and Post Carbon Institute Board President said, "I endorse 'The Real New Deal' as the only sane way to approach the twin challenges of fossil fuel depletion and climate change. We need a systematic, coordinated effort and we don't have any time to waste." 

Other endorsers of "The Real New Deal" include Randy Udall (renowned writer; director of Community Office for Resource Efficiency), Lester Brown (founder of Earth Policy Institute and Worldwatch Institute), David Orr (Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College), and Pat Murphy (founder of The Community Solution and author of Plan C). 

To view the full plan, visit 

Post Carbon Institute, based in Sebastopol, California, conducts research, develops technical tools, educates the public, and informs leaders to help communities around the world understand and respond to the challenges of fossil fuel depletion and climate change. 

Asher Miller, 
Executive Director
Post Carbon Institute 
707-823-8700 x109 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Better Livin' in Salem C.I.T.Y.: Chickens in the Yard

Fresh update on how you can get involved in comments HERE.

What else can you do that's this powerful?

If you are like most people -- 17 or over, over 110 pounds, and basically healthy and without HIV/STD risk factors -- you can and should be giving blood every 56 days.

Yet, only about 1 in 20 of the people just described bother.

What can you do that's as powerful as making it possible for as many as three people to live? Can you do it in an hour? At no cost? Of course not.

Think about it. Then call to set up a blood donation.

To donate blood or platelets, call 1-800-GIVELIFE (1-800-448-3543).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Real Auto-Bailout: Look at the cash drain of cars

From the WSJ:

A Real Auto Bailout: Escape Your Car

Whether you drive a hybrid or an SUV, your car is a cash-guzzler. Families trying to save real money should consider going without.

. . . . Forget lattes and store-brand cereal. If you really want to see where your money is going, take a closer look at your car. Foreign or domestic, it doesn't matter. It's a cash guzzler, and it is probably costing you more than anything else except your home.

How much? First there's the actual capital cost of buying the vehicle. Obviously people can spend as little as a few thousand dollars buying an old clunker. But most spend a lot more. And that initial cost is just the start. Now add everything from gas and maintenance to insurance, registration, taxes, tolls, parking, tickets and so on.

You'll be lucky if you're spending less than about $4,000 a year. Most people will pay a lot more. If you buy the vehicle with a loan, you'll have to pay interest. If you pay cash, you have to factor in the interest you would have made on that money if you had saved it instead. That's a real cost too, and a substantial one, though most people forget about it.

In 2007, the most recent year that numbers are available, the American Automobile Association figured its members paid about $7,800 a year on average to own and maintain their cars. That figure dropped to about $6,200 for small-car owners.

The AAA's numbers were tabulated before the surge, and recent collapse, of gasoline prices. It's hard to imagine gas prices will to remain at today's panic-level $1.60 per gallon for long. But even if they do, that will only cut the AAA's figures by about $400 annually.

These are not trifling costs. Drivers are hemhorraging money. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that in 2006 vehicles sucked down nearly 17 cents of every family dollar.

Maybe it's time for smart families to consider some really tough choices.

Life without a car may seem inconceivable. They are useful and can be fun. In most parts of America, you really can't survive without one. And they've been hammered into the culture and the national psyche.

But a lot of things are happening these days that nobody expected. Rules are changing. People need to make every dollar count.

Trading down to the cheapest car possible is one move. Dumping one vehicle from a two-car household is tougher to do, but offers real savings. Moving into a city with a downtown, and getting rid of your cars completely, can save you even more. When you factor in the savings, city real estate might actually work out in your favor. . . .

A most important insight

Building new roads as economic stimulus is like burning the siding and insulation in your house as a way to keep warm.

New Roads = New Pollution

President-elect Obama and Congress are working to pass a green-jobs economic stimulus package—but it is in danger of being hijacked by the road-building lobby, which wants billions of dollars for unnecessary new roads that would increase global warming pollution. Just 10 miles of a new four-lane highway lead to emissions that are equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 46,700 new Hummers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Really, really good short slideshow explaining a very simple idea

A brilliant, concise, entertaining animated lecture about single payer can be found at:

Genetically tampered food & Salem

If you were one of the huge throng at the Salem Progressive Film Series event "The World According to Monsanto," then you know what powerful emotions that tainted, untrustworthy food evoke, and you know how sophisticated the pro-gene tampering forces are, with their plans to basically wipe out all competing models of agriculture (especially organic -- hence, gene tampering to cause crops like corn and cotton to express BT, which will soon create a huge host of pests with full resistance to BT, one of the key tools for organics today).

Well, hold onto those emotions, because there are a couple of places you can channel that energy into useful work:

1) rBGH Free Salem
[rGBH = recombinant bovine growth hormone; "posilac(R)" in the movie.]

Meet with other folks like yourself who are concerned about the outrageous violation of a corporation like Monsanto not only tampering with the basic code for cows in order to more fully industrialize dairying in America (and eliminate as many dairy farmers as possible) but also lying, cheating, and lobbying (or is that redundant) to prevent consumers from having the ability to know when their food contains milk from cows doped-up with this insidious product.

Rick North of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility will be among those attending.
MORE INFO: Lori Beamer,

WHEN: Wednesday, January 29, 20209, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
WHERE: 2nd floor, Crystal Garden Bldg, 210 Liberty St. SE (above Tea Party Bookstore, corner of Liberty and Ferry -- and thanks to Tea Party for the great book table tonight!)

2) Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center host a discussion by four experts (including Rick North and Lisa Weasel, one of the speakers at the movie tonight).

Genetic Engineering [sic*] in Agriculture: Four Perspectives on Benefits and Hazards

WHEN: Thursday, February 5, 2009, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Salem Public Library (Anderson Room?) 585 Liberty St. SE
MORE INFO: Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility weblink

(* The "sic" is warranted because calling genetic tampering "engineering" implies a degree of control, predictability, and knowledge of consequences that is totally absent from the genetic tampering that corporations like Monsanto do. For these companies, the world is their laboratory -- literally, and damn the costs to everyone else.)

UPDATE: Nice post on Monsanto's subversion of the academic research agenda.

UPDATE II: A nice post on the inconvenient fact (for Monsanto) that gene-tampered foods won't help us deal with the climate crisis.

Gas Tax vs. Mileage Tax?

An Oregon enviro poohbah sent out this query:

Of Mileage and Gas Taxes
Jeff Alworth

I was pondering the question of the Governor's proposed mileage tax yesterday while listening to the rebroadcast of Think Out Loud. Because they are both related, the mileage and gas taxes are often discussed together. But, based on my pidgin economics, learned mostly on blogs, this seemed backward. Shouldn't you first ask what you're paying for and what behavior you want to promote? So I went to a econ blog and lo, the blogger was asking the same thing:

If you are proposing Pigovian taxes, then both make sense but address very different things. Driving a car imposes external costs through the impact on the environment, through the wear and tear on the roads and through the time cost of congestion.

A mileage tax addresses the wear and tear issue. People who drive will be assessed a tax that is equivalent to the cost of the road wear they are responsible for.... The gas tax is Pigovian in addressing the environmental impact of the amount of carbon emitted which is exactly related to the gas used.

It is clear that each tax is also a poor way to address the other issue, to wit: a gas tax is not a good way to address wear and tear because a Prius could do a lot of wear and tear with little gas and a Mustang could do little wear and tear with a lot of gas; and a mileage tax doesn't work, for the very same reason, as a way to address environmental impact.

But even if you're clear which about objective you're targeting, there are other ramifications. Take the mileage tax. People are innately queasy about having a government agency tracking their car--and reasonably so. What happens to this info? Who controls it and who can access it? Another feature of this proposal involves taxing you more for driving during rush hours or in congested traffic. Is this a reasonable penalty for people who already feel penalized by being stuck in traffic in the first place? Presumably, they'd avoid the congestion if it was avoidable. What behavior do you hope to incentivize here?

The gas tax, which is less complex, nevertheless has complications. On the green side of the ledger, it's a no-brainer. It acts as an incentive for people to drive more fuel-efficient cars or drive less. It penalizes those who use gas-guzzlers proportionately. But on other sides of the ledger, it's not so great. As lower-income people are forced further outside of the city core, transportation costs are borne disproportionatley by them. And it effectively amounts to a tax on rural residents who have no access to public transporation. It's true that the correlation between carbon production and taxes are directly relational, but again, are you penalizing people who can't change their behavior?

Hmmm. Your thoughts?

I've started several times to respond with cogent analysis and keen insights about the pros and cons of gas tax vs. mileage taxes ...

But I end up stopping because this whole discussion ignores the elephant -- heck, the blue whale -- in the driveway.

Somehow we've gotten snookered into having a discussion about how to get drivers to pump more money into pavement (or maintain the amount that they are pumping into pavement) without discussing the fact that the impetus for the whole thing --- the fact that fuel taxes only pay a small (and declining) share of what we're spending on roads --- means that we're sitting around spending all this energy discussing the smallest portion of the problem, rather than the largest part (the general funds and property tax millages spent on roads).

Before we discuss fuel taxes vs. mileage taxes vs. congestion pricing or whatever, we FIRST must resolve to do what so many Oregonians mistakenly think we already do: pay for roads with gas taxes (or their user-fee equivalents, mileage taxes/congestion pricing, vehicle excise taxes, etc.).

In other words, FIRST we must take general fund and property tax millages out of the equation -- eliminate these taxes. THEN we can have the good discussion about how best to allocate the cost of roads across the fees and taxes that come from road users (gas tax, mileage tax, congestion pricing, registration fees, vehicle excise tax and weight taxes). We can talk about adding fees for non-motorized vehicles (bicyclists) as well, such as the clever idea that all vehicles should be registered annually, with the fee based on weight.

Instead, somehow, Oregon environmental groups have decided to help preserve and extend the auto-dominated system by helping finagle more money for roads, instead of fighting to shift road funding onto road users.

And it's not true that people who don't drive should pay property taxes for roads or else they get an unearned benefit ("free rider"). People who don't themselves drive on roads pay their share of roadway fees/taxes through the prices of the goods and services they use. As we shift the costs of roads ONTO the roads -- rather than onto houses, farms, nursing homes, apartment complexes, and other property tax sources -- then we'll see shifts in the costs of goods and services that reflect the amount of transport that they require ... which should be the goal of any environmentalist (get the prices right) as well as any politician (cut general property taxes).

So while the ins and outs of gas taxes vs. mileage taxes can be fascinating sociologically and politically, the real answer is "Sorry, wrong question."

The right question is how fast we can cut taxes and millages that DON'T derive from road uses and how soon we can get to zero; on the way, we can have lots of good discussions about how to make up that revenue with the various use-based fees ...

Dealing with Waste in a Sustainable Community

Dealing with Waste in a Sustainable Community: A three part community forum series for dealing with waste reduction, waste management, growth and sustainable solutions
A series of three forums to be held at: William Paulus Lecture Hall
Willamette University College of Law, Salem, Oregon (On Winter St. just S. of State)

The dates are January 22nd, February 26th, and March 26th
6:30 pm :Registration and Displays
7:00 pm : Presentations Followed by Q & A

Forum One – Jan. 22, 2009
Oregon DEQ Waste Reduction Strategies
- Cathie Davidson, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Recycling Efforts in Marion County
– Alan Pennington, Waste Reduction Coordinator for Marion County Environmental Services
Creating Jobs and Saving Recources through Recycling
– John Matthews, Garten Services

Forum Two – Feb. 26, 2009
Incineration Dangers: From Nanoparticles to Nonsustainability
– Dr. Paul Connett, renowned expert on zero waste and waste incineration by-products.
Covanta/Marion County Waste-to-Energy Facility as an Integrated Part of the County's Waste Management System
– Jeffrey Hahn, Environmental Director for Covanta Energy Corporation

Forum Three – March 26, 2009
Marion County's Solid Waste Master Plan
– Jeff Bickford, Marion County Environmental Services and Doug Drennen, J.R. Miller Consultants
League of Women Voters of Marion/Polk Counties Waste Study: presentation of the League 2-year study including questions raised by the committee and response to the MCSW Master Plan recommendations.
– Deanie Anderson, Susann Kaltwasser, David Phelps, and Sharon Johnson

Forums Cosponsors:

League of Women Voters of Marion/Polk Counties

Friends of Marion County
Health Care Without Harm

Oregon Center for Environmental Health

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Oregon Toxics Alliance
Salem City Club
Willamette University – Center for Sustainable Communities

Sponsors will be collecting non-perishable food items for Marion-Polk Food Share at registration.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Whacked Priorities

What a mess --- Salem's got millions and millions to give to consultants to prepare a draft environmental impact statement for the third bridge boondoggle, but we can't keep the buses running on weekends or keep the library collections up to snuff, to the point where we're even turning away offers to DONATE subscriptions.
Thank you for your offer to purchase a gift subscription of "Chess Life" for the library. Normally, we process all subscriptions in August of every year, as we submit our requests to a supplier that manages all subscriptions in one order. Unfortunately, however, this year budget cuts forced us to refrain from adding any new subscriptions (including gifts) as the costs for maintaining and processing magazines is the primary expense we have in periodicals. Regrettably, we were also forced to cut nearly one-third of our current subscriptions (including gifts) in order to meet our budget this year, due to constraints in the city budget.

Thank you for your offer, however, and we will keep your email and offer on file for some time when we have more flexibility in our magazine subscriptions.

Recycle yourself too -- it's important

There's an awful lot wrong with the way we do "health care" in Oregon and in the US --- it's wildly expensive and we exclude many of the people who most need health coverage from having any because--that's right--they need health coverage! We routinely spend millions trying to deal with the effects of our failing public health infrastructure and the fraying of the social safety net that used to keep people at some basic level of health.

All that aside, the transplantation systems that have developed are a wonder and deserve your support. It's a sin that there are people buried with vital organs that could be used to restore another person's eyesight or give them many more years with their families.

So remember, recycle yourself too!

Oooh-oooh! Berry Pruning Workshop @ Oregon Garden

Berry Pruning Workshop
February 7th , 9am to 1pm
For those interested in home orchard gardening, Dr Bernadine Strik will teach proper berry pruning techniques. The hands-on workshop will focus on a variety of berries, including blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, currants and more. Cost $15, Garden members $10. Registration 503-874-8100. (pre-registration preferred)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Marion-Polk Food Share's Community Gardens Program

Merits your support. As we greet an uncertain future, the best thing we can do to help ourselves and our neighbors is keep the wolf of hunger away, preferably in a way that empowers people right here in Salem to take responsibility and pride in providing a more just, humane world.

We need community gardens in every Salem neighborhood and especially big and vibrant ones at every school and church, where members of those institutions can work with local people to ensure that everyone has access to enough food. We will all need the skills that are being lost as the older generation---the one that grew up when Victory Gardens were cool the first time--passes on and the younger folks don't know what to do with basic staple foods.

We live in what could be an agricultural paradise, but only if we start realizing that grass should only be grown in small areas and that, for most buildings, the most beautiful landscaping is the one that helps fight hunger.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Here in Marion County, Oregon's top ag county, we are blessed to still have a vibrant agricultural community and, mostly, supportive laws that make loss of farm and forest land far less common than it would otherwise be.

But we are far from food secure. There is still hunger in Salem and the Valley, and we live in a country that is teetering on the brink of an economic abyss, as we learn that empires that squander all their money on military exploits and posts in distant lands come undone at the center, when their currencies no longer command respect and their disregard for agriculture, the basic project of civilization, comes back to haunt them.

Here is a great piece by two giants, guiding us to the right path. The message is clear and correct--cities like Salem will be, and can be, no healthier than the agricultural lands that support them.

A 50-Year Farm Bill

THE extraordinary rainstorms last June caused catastrophic soil erosion in the grain lands of Iowa, where there were gullies 200 feet wide. But even worse damage is done over the long term under normal rainfall — by the little rills and sheets of erosion on incompletely covered or denuded cropland, and by various degradations resulting from industrial procedures and technologies alien to both agriculture and nature.

Soil that is used and abused in this way is as nonrenewable as (and far more valuable than) oil. Unlike oil, it has no technological substitute — and no powerful friends in the halls of government.

Agriculture has too often involved an insupportable abuse and waste of soil, ever since the first farmers took away the soil-saving cover and roots of perennial plants. Civilizations have destroyed themselves by destroying their farmland. This irremediable loss, never enough noticed, has been made worse by the huge monocultures and continuous soil-exposure of the agriculture we now practice.

To the problem of soil loss, the industrialization of agriculture has added pollution by toxic chemicals, now universally present in our farmlands and streams. Some of this toxicity is associated with the widely acclaimed method of minimum tillage. We should not poison our soils to save them.

Industrial agricultural has made our food supply entirely dependent on fossil fuels and, by substituting technological “solutions” for human work and care, has virtually destroyed the cultures of husbandry (imperfect as they may have been) once indigenous to family farms and farming neighborhoods.

Clearly, our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.

For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billons of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.

Any restorations will require, above all else, a substantial increase in the acreages of perennial plants. The most immediately practicable way of doing this is to go back to crop rotations that include hay, pasture and grazing animals.

But a more radical response is necessary if we are to keep eating and preserve our land at the same time. In fact, research in Canada, Australia, China and the United States over the last 30 years suggests that perennialization of the major grain crops like wheat, rice, sorghum and sunflowers can be developed in the foreseeable future. By increasing the use of mixtures of grain-bearing perennials, we can better protect the soil and substantially reduce greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel use and toxic pollution.

Carbon sequestration would increase, and the husbandry of water and soil nutrients would become much more efficient. And with an increase in the use of perennial plants and grazing animals would come more employment opportunities in agriculture — provided, of course, that farmers would be paid justly for their work and their goods.

Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities.

This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs.

Wes Jackson is a plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer in Port Royal, Ky.

Our dire situation

Salem seethes with discontent about its livability, most of which is traceable to our sprawled-out footprint and our failure to overcome the consequences of auto-sprawl, which reduces quality of health and enjoyment of life throughout the city. The only answer the traffic engineers and planners have to the problems they have caused by putting the needs of cars ahead of everything else is to do more of it --- more lanes, more bridges, more signals, you name it. If you were to look at how Salem and most other cities actually spend money and set priorities, you could be forgiven for thinking that USA stands for United States of Automobility.

The folks who choose to live in Polk County, many in West Salem, deem themselves entitled to a $600+ million dollar bridge because, for a short period each weekday, traversing the Marion/Center span isn't instantaneous. Yet, stand at those bridges at rush "hour" (closer to 1/2 hour) some weekday and count the number of cars with just one occupant -- it's the vast majority.

Meanwhile, a city resident thinks that keeping some weekend bus service is a "frill."

So in the same paper we have folks complaining about the costs of providing transit services with property taxes and yet calling for hundreds of millions to be taken from all property owners to build a new bridge.

Luckily, the collapse of the Ponzi-economy has probably eliminated the fantasy that Salem can afford any part of the bridge scheme. Thanks to the credit collapse, it will be quite hard to fund anything--- even worthwhile projects that would reduce our carbon footprint and provide meaningful investment for the long term (rather than just a short term bump for bridge building). So a new Willamette River Bridge is probably not in the cards. The only question is how long it takes for ODOT and the local folks to wake up from the dream of ever-expanding pavement and to start facing up to the real task of the 21st C.: how to modify and improve the infrastructure left over from the massive buildout of sprawl in the last half of the 20th C. so that cars become optional again.

Bellingham & Whatcom County leading in race to prepare

Government and business leaders in Whatcom County, and around the world, are looking toward weaning the country off its reliance on oil. That means some local residents are looking to generate their own power as well as their own food. Bellingham Herald 01/04/2009

Still Time to Join

Northwest Earth Institute study/discussion groups are excellent ways to meet interesting people, increase your knowledge and sustainability resources, and to build connections in the community.

Menu for the Future: Northwest Earth Institute Discussion Groups in Salem - Winter 2009

Tuesdays – January 13th to March 3rd 2009, 6:30PM to 8PM at the Tea Party Bookshop

Saturdays – January 17th to March 7th 2009, 9:30AM to 11AM at the Marion-Polk Food Share

To register, call Melissa at (503) 566-4159, or e-mail

$20 refundable book deposit

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Biomimicry: Elegant simplicity

If there's one idea that Salem needs a lot more of, it's this: imitating nature in how we design our habitations and communities, not to mention our industrial processes. More great stuff from the Salem Public Library and the Friends of the Straub Environmental Learning Center.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

An Introduction to the Concepts, Tools, and Power of Biomimicry
7 p.m. Thursday, January 29 Loucks Auditorium

Biomimicry is a method for studying and then emulating nature’s best materials, forms, processes, and strategies to develop sustainable design solutions. Emulating
photosynthesis in a leaf to design a better solar cell is an example of this “innovation inspired by nature.” The core idea is that animals, plants, and microbes have already
solved many of the design challenges that engineers and architects grapple with today.

This presentation will explore the whats, whys and hows of biomimicry: what biomimicry is; why we look at nature as model, mentor, and measure; examples of innovations inspired by nature; and how you can begin to integrate nature’s strategies into your own design process to create sustainable structures.

Presenter Denise K. DeLuca is outreach director for The Biomimicry Institute. In
this position, Denise is working to advance the tools of biomimicry and facilitate the integration of biomimicry into university-level education.

The presentation is free and open to the public through the support of the Charla Richards-Kreitzberg Charitable Foundation, Salem Public Library, City of Salem, and Marion Soil and Water Conservation District. More information is available from the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center at 503-391-4145 or at

The Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center is a Salem-based non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education.

Also --- two weeks earlier, at Straub:

2008-09 FSELC Amateur Naturalist Series: Urban Tree Care
Thursday, January 15th, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street, Salem
$5 per person, RSVP required


Lisa Olivares, Environmental Education Specialist
Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center
p: (503) 391-4145
Mailing Address: 765 14th Street NE, Salem, OR 97301

Calendar: More great stuff at Salem Public Library

Want to save money and have fun? Use your library more--we have a good one:

Like music?

The Midnight Serenaders look great. All of $5.

Feb. 6, 2009

$5 in advance/$7 at the door
On sale NOW at all Library Circulation Desks
The Midnight Serenaders perform an infectious blend of old-time jazz and early swing, offering up a sweet collection of songs and tunes from the early 20th century.

Fronted by guitar slinger/crooner Doug Sammons and ukuleleplinking chanteuse Dee Settlemier, this Portland, Oregon-based sextet transports audiences on a melodic, swing-crazy trip to the dance-happy era known as the Jazz Age.

Got kids? Help them discover the world beyond the video screen:

The Library’s “No TV in Salem Week” and the Great Library Camp-In have moved to January! Children who make and keep a pledge to turn off their TVs will be eligible to come with a favorite adult for a fun evening followed by a sleep over in the library.

The “Let Your Imagination Soar” Great Library Camp-In will begin Friday, January 30, with campers returning home after an early breakfast on Saturday, January 31. Youth Services staff and volunteers will entertain campers and their families with crafts and activities, including helicopter spinning, paper plane folding, spaceship soaring from 6:30-8 p.m. At 8 p.m., everyone will gather in the Loucks Auditorium for a special performance by Will Hornyak, storyteller extraordinaire.

To get in on the action, interested children and their families should pick up their “No TV” pledges at the Youth Services Reference Desk or at the West Salem Branch. Pledges must be returned to the Library by Sunday, January 25 for children to be eligible to come to the Camp-In.

Then, children who are keeping their “No TV” Pledge may make their reservations for the big event beginning Tuesday, January 27 at the Youth Services Reference Desk in person or by phone at 503-588-6088.

Another Great Resolution for 2009: Don't be a 'consumer'

Some people have been beating this drum for years. Nice to see someone in a major paper get on the bandwagon for refusing to define ourselves as "consumers:"

It's Time to Drop The Consumer Label

One of my New Year's resolutions is to stop referring to myself as a consumer.

The idea for the resolution actually came from reader Tom Krohn, who suggested that it's not just the country's spending habits that need to change for the better, but the language we use to describe who we are.

"We Americans are so used to being referred to as 'consumers' that we comfortably fall into that role and do so conspicuously," Krohn, a retired Navy submariner living in Arkansas, wrote to me. "Imagine an epitaph that read, 'Michelle Singletary -- A Wonderful Consumer.' Not very satisfying, is it?"

No, Tom, it's not how I want to live, or die.

We use the word consumer when referring to ourselves even when the topic isn't about consuming. But look at the word consume. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, consume means "to do away with completely; destroy, to spend wastefully; squander."

And yet we are no longer citizens but consumers. This recession has proved that things have to change, and still the message from many of our leaders continues to be that consumerism -- consumers -- will save the day. To be a consumer is equivalent to being a good American.

Consumerism has become a basic component of our American citizenship, contends Lizabeth Cohen in "A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America."

"By the end of the Depression decade, invoking 'the consumer' would become an acceptable way of promoting the public good, of defending the economic rights and needs of ordinary citizens," writes Cohen, a Harvard University professor.

We track closely the results of the Consumer Confidence Survey. Ever wonder why it isn't billed as the survey of confidence among the American people -- moms, dads, engineers, teachers, social workers, bus drivers, doctors, church-goers, etc.? It's not billed that way because we've come to gauge where we stand -- for good or bad -- by people's purchasing intentions.

Why is our confidence driven down by how much less we can spend?

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. That's bad because much of that spending was made possible by the overuse of credit -- other people's money. Our economy is a mess today because too many people -- individuals and corporate executives -- believed it was financially savvy to use other people's money. In many ways, the country has participated in a colossal Ponzi scheme. A scam we obviously couldn't sustain. We ran out of other people's money. That's what makes a Ponzi scheme fail. You can't get any more cash.

Since the Great Depression, we've embraced and celebrated our consumerism. We have mantras such as "I shop, therefore I am."

I once was part of this madness. In my early newspaper career I had a column called "Born to Shop." I defended my passion and the reason for the column by arguing I was bargain shopping and therefore saving myself and others money.

But you never save when you spend.


When you buy things on sale you are still spending money.

National holidays are celebrated by shopping. We have Veterans Day sales. That's how we honor our servicemen and women -- by shopping, by consuming more stuff.

And we are passing this legacy of consumerism on to our children. More children go shopping every week than read, go to church, participate in youth groups, play outdoors or spend time in household conversation, according to consumerism expert and Boston College professor Juliet B. Schor, author of "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture."

"Although children have long participated in the consumer marketplace, until recently they were bit players, purchasers of cheap goods," Schor writes in her book. "That has changed. . . . Children's social worlds are increasingly constructed around consuming." Schor adds: "Contemporary American tweens and teens have emerged as the most brand-oriented, consumer-involved, and materialistic generation in history."

Our children are courted as consumers even before they have full-time employment.

"The kind of consuming people have been encouraged to do is undermining, not enhancing, our economic situation," Schor said in an interview. "And all this consumption has become financially and ecologically unsustainable. Doing more of the same makes those long-term problems worse, even if it props up some failing enterprises in the moment."

Rather than keeping things the same, why don't we again become producers?

"Households and the country need investment, not consumption," Schor said. "We need to invest in energy conservation, degraded ecosystems, a sustainable food system, education, community building, human connection and skills for everyday living."

Aren't you weary of being a consumer with all the accompanying debt it requires to keep up this occupation? If so, make 2009 the year you stop defining yourself as a consumer.