Friday, February 27, 2009

A book of revelations for relocalizers: Outside Lies Magic: Regaining history and awareness in everyday places

A very nice book for helping learn to focus on the environment around you: the place you live, in other words. This book will help you become an explorer, making your walks and bike journeys through and around Salem more fun and more rewarding.

Click on the image for the full review (excerpted below) from the BookPage review.

Book Cover

Outside Lies Magic:
Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places

By John R. Stilgoe
Walker, $21
ISBN 0802713408

"Exploration is Stilgoe's theme in this pithy, spirited, heartfelt little book. For what they reveal about his preoccupations, it's worthwhile to list a couple of the author's previous books--Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb and Metropolitan Corridor: Railroads and the American Scene. Stilgoe is an explorer who knows full well that he doesn't have to journey to Surinam for the exotic or to Luxor for history. Sometimes the fantastic is merely the prosaic viewed in a new light. Stilgoe is a master at providing that thoughtful light. By doing so he illuminates the everyday world most of us live in, the world of strip malls and highways and back yards.". . .

Anyone who reads this book will inevitably view the interstate service station, electric wires, the rural mailbox, even lawns and pigeons with a new perspective. Seeing the world around you, rather than floating through it like a robot, alerts the eyes, jolts the brain--and challenges society. It's ambitious and rewarding. It's fun. "Whoever owns the real estate and its constituents, the explorer owns the landscape. And the explorer owns all the insights, all the magic that comes from looking." And who are the explorers? You and I.

Why the "High Speed Rail" spending will hurt rather than help Salem

Sam Smith is an acute observer of all things political and social for over 50 years in DC. His apt piece on the drawbacks of pouring billions into the latest high-tech gadgets when you haven't even got the basics is perfectly expressed.

Salem (like nearly all cities in America) needs to start focusing on providing the same level of transit that it offered in 1909, and quit pouring money into "intelligent highway systems," and other technotoys that simply amount to trying to keep the auto-dominated system we have.


There's nothing wrong with high speed rail except that when your country is really hurting, when your rail system largely falls behind other countries' because of lack of tracks rather than lack of velocity, and when high speed rail appeals more to bankers than to folks scared of foreclosing homes, it's a strange transit program to feature in something called a stimulus bill.

One might even call it an $8 billion earmark.

I watched this development with a sense of deja vu. Long ago, I was a rare critic of DC's Metro subway plans, not because I was against mass transit, but because it was a highly inefficient way of spending mass transit funds compared to light rail or exclusive bus lanes. At the time we could have had ten times as many miles of light rail for the same price of the subway system.

The other day I was struck by Metro bragging about its record ridership during the Obama inauguration. I was one of the few people in town who noticed that Metro had finally achieved what it had, at the beginning, promised the federal government would be normal. We needed a first black president to get that many riders. Further, Metro doesn't even have the capacity to handle that many people on a regular basis.

Other problems I correctly projected included the fact that Metro wouldn't really compete with the automobile but with its own bus lines, that it was more of a land development than a transit scheme, and that auto traffic would increase as the subway encouraged new buildings but that a majority of the new users of these buildings would still come by car.

I mention these examples because they illustrate the sort of complexity that transit planning involves, a complexity that rarely gets any attention in the media or by politicians. There's nothing like something as streamlined as a bullet to make everyone put away doubts, analysis and comparisons and just sit back and say, "Wow."

The problem became permanently embedded in my mind after I asked a transportation engineer to identify the best form of mass transit. His immediate answer: "Stop people from moving around so much." So simple, yet so wise and so alien to almost every discussion of the topic you will hear.

If we were really smart, we would be spending far more effort, for example, on redesigning neighborhoods so travel isn't so necessary. What if every urban neighborhood had minibus service to help people get to necessary services? Or a business center with high quality video conference and other equipment so that more people could work at home often?

Instead we are planning to spend $8 billion so that people who already travel more than they should can do it faster and easier.

Of course, there are plenty of political reasons for this. The extraordinary power of the highway lobby remains undiminished, as does the fear of the trucking industry that freight trains might take a major portion of their business away albeit making more sense economically and ecologically.

One map of proposed routes shows not only high speed service to Las Vegas, home of the Senate majority leader, but a surprising number of routes spreading out from the Chicago of Barrack Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

Admittedly these are just proposals. But the power and pressure are there. For example, Howard Learner, president of the Chicago-based high speed rail pushing Environmental Law notes that the Federal Railroad Administration thinks a plan connecting and 11 other cities is the project most shovel ready.

The ambitious project proposed for the Midwest would cover 3,000 miles in nine states. All lines would radiate from a hub in downtown. The cost of a fully completed Midwest network is estimated at almost $8 billion. . . Modern, comfortable, double-deck trains with wide seats and large windows would churn along at top speeds of 110 m.p.h. The faster trains would shave hours off trips, delivering passengers from one downtown to another hundreds of miles away. Amtrak trains in most of the Midwest now operate at up to 79 m.p.h., although average speeds are much slower, especially around Chicago due to freight traffic." And there's also the plan to electrify the route between San Jose and Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco.

The truth is that conventional rail and bus riders aren't powerful enough to get what they need. Even upscale liberals prefer air or high speed rail. In the end, there's no strong constituency for the ordinary rider.

As a result of such things, we can expect more than a fair share of hype and hokum as the high rail projects get underway. But here are a few real things to also keep in mind:

Building new conventional rail lines would have had a much stronger effect on the economy than merely speeding up existing routes. Beyond the benefits of construction and the system itself, there would be the economic opportunities created along the route, just as happened when we first built rail and our country at the same time.

Philip Longman in an excellent Washington Monthly article, writes: Railroads have gone from having too much track to having not enough. Today, the nation's rail network is just 94,942 miles, less than half of what it was in 1970, yet it is hauling 137 percent more freight, making for extreme congestion and longer shipping times."

When moving freight, speed is just not that important. An example can be found in a towboat pushing more freight up the Mississippi River than all the steamboats of Mark Twain's time. Why does this lethargic system work so well? Simply because it's not the speed but the capacity that matters. As long as what's on the barges keep coming, how fast it comes doesn't really matter.

Passenger rail capacity is also important. We don't know what the real capacity of these high speed systems will be but we can guess that the railroads won't have large numbers of spare trains waiting around for the Christmas season. Conventional rail uses easily coupled old equipment to adjust for peaks, but high speed rail is so expensive that it is more likely to fall short.

For example, Trains for America describes the problem with the high speed Acela: The trains now run with an engine at each end. While that step speeds turnarounds when the Acela finishes its route and then reverses direction, reconfiguring trains to add coaches would be very difficult and very time consuming, spokeswoman Karina Romero said. Amtrak also doesn't have any spare Acela passenger cars, so extending the trains would require buying more custom-built coaches, she said.

The trucking lobby. Philip Longman notes that "In a study recently presented to the National Academy of Engineering, the Millennium Institute, a nonprofit known for its expertise in energy and environmental modeling, calculated the likely benefits of an expenditure of $250 billion to $500 billion on improved rail infrastructure. It found that such an investment would get 85 percent of all long-haul trucks off the nation's highways by 2030, while also delivering ample capacity for high-speed passenger rail. If high-traffic rail lines were also electrified and powered in part by renewable energy sources, that investment would reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emission by 38 percent and oil consumption by 22 percent."

High speed trains can become a pollution problem. The progressive journalist George Monbiot has reported: "Though trains traveling at normal speeds have much lower carbon emissions than airplanes, Professor Roger Kemp shows that energy consumption rises dramatically at speeds above 125 miles per hour. Increasing the speed from 140 to 220 mph almost doubles the amount of fuel burned. If the trains are powered by electricity, and if that electricity is produced by plants burning fossil fuels, they cause more CO2 emissions than planes."

Where the Japanese model stumbles. A letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that "The population density of the major fast-train-using countries averages two-plus times that of Ohio (Japan's is 3.3 times); gasoline prices are 2.2 times the Ohio price; airport congestion is worse; and regulated airfares to convenient airports are higher than comparable U.S. destinations. What's more, arrival at a train terminal in a European or Japanese city often places you within walking distance of the major commercial and tourist locations. Not so in the United States. I have used high-speed trains many times and they are great, but building and operating them would be a major financial drain in Ohio.

The cost factor: Based on the only example we have in the United States, high speed rail is substantially more expensive and serves a wealthier class of riders. For example, making a reservation on one conventional Amtrak train from Washington to NYC today would have cost $52 less than the high speed Acela. More startling is that conventional business class is $16 cheaper than Acela even though in conventional business class you get more leg room, much more space to stow your gear, a free newspaper and free coffee and soft drinks. And all this costs you is one extra half hour ride under more pleasant conditions.

Cost of building high speed routes. Here's what the NY Times had to say the other day: "[The stimulus bill] will not be enough to pay for a single bullet train, transportation experts say. And by the time the $8 billion gets divided among the 11 regions across the country that the government has designated as high-speed rail corridors, it is unlikely to do much beyond paying for long-delayed improvements to passenger lines, and making a modest investment in California's plan for a true bullet train. In the short term, the money - inserted at the 11th hour by the White House - could put people to work improving tracks, crossings and signal systems." A completed California system alone is expected to cost about $45 billion.

A major reason for the high cost: building exclusive tracks for the high speed trains. Even though Acela, for example, can theoretically hit 150 miles an hour, it only averages 84 mph between NYC and Washington, in part because of stops and in part because it uses improved conventional tracks. It only hits full speed on about 35 miles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

But this raises an important and almost entirely undiscussed question. Is the huge expense of exclusive track high speed rail preferable to spending the money on expanding conventional service to many times more passengers?

Ridership - Costs are changing, however, thanks to other problems. Back in August, the Boston Globe cheerfully reported:

"Amtrak may add cars to its Acela, the fastest US passenger train, and raise fares as riders fill coaches on the Washington-to-Boston route, chief executive officer Alexander Kummant said. Demand for the high-speed service also may spur Amtrak to levy a surcharge to help buy additional equipment, Kummant said."

But with the new year, Trains for America was telling a different story:

"While Amtrak ridership, generally speaking, has continued to look fairly healthy despite the poor economy and lower fuel prices, the same cannot be said of the its Acela high-speed service on the Northeast Corridor. The recession has led to a decrease in business travel, prompting the company to reduce Acela fares in order to bring in more leisure travelers. From Bloomberg: Amtrak will offer one-way nonrefundable Acela business-class tickets for as low as $99 between New York and Washington, down from $133 or more, and as low as $79 between Boston and New York, from $93 or higher. The prices are available for travel from March 3 through June 26 and tickets must be purchased 14 days in advance.

Acela ridership dropped about 14 percent in January from the same month a year ago, and about 10 percent for the four months ending in January from the same period last year, spokesman Cliff Cole said in a telephone interview from New York.'

If anything, this highlights the huge variation in the services Amtrak runs. Standard routes, and in particular those considered long-distance, have continued to see high levels of ridership. One wonders if many travelers aren't fleeing air carriers and high-speed services like Acela for a cheaper, if longer, journey on a train."

Even before the downturn, however, the Acela ridership reports were less than stunning. For example, in the last fiscal year the conventional northeast coast regional service rose 9.5% while Acela ridershp only went up 6.5%. Seventy percent of the ridership along the northeast corridor remained with the slower, cheaper trains.

Meanwhile other conventional service was booming. The Keystone Service, which operates between Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York City, rose 20 percent. The Downeaster, operating several times daily between Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass., grew 31 percent, despite being slower than an express bus because of all of its stops. Chicago-Wisconsin Hiawatha service was up nearly 26 percent. And the Kansas City to St. Louis route grew more than 30 percent.

Some other traditional train routes that grew more than twice as much as the high speed Acela: Oakland-Sacramento, Northern California Capitol Corridor service, and Chicago-San Antonio.

Other uses: - Philip Longman, in his Washington Montly article, reminds us of alternative uses of conventional rail that seldom get mentioned. Some past examples:

"The Pacific Fruit Growers Express delivered fresh fruits and vegetables to the East Coast using far less energy and labor than today's truck fleets. The Railway Express Agency, which attached special cars to passenger trains, provided Americans with a level of express freight service that cannot be had for any price today, offering door-to-door delivery of everything from canoes to bowls of tropical fish to, in at least one instance, a giraffe. High-speed Railway Post Office trains also offered efficient mail service to even the smallest towns which is not matched today. In his book Train Time, Harvard historian and rail expert John R. Stilgoe describes the Pennsylvania Railroad's Fast Mail train No. 11, which, because of its speed and on-board crew of fast sorting mail clerks, ensured next-day delivery on a letter mailed with a standard two-cent stamp in New York to points as far west as Chicago. Today, that same letter is likely to travel by air first to FedEx's Memphis hub, then be unloaded, sorted, and reloaded onto another plane, a process that demands far greater expenditures of money, carbon, fuel, and, in many instances, time than the one used eighty years ago. . . . Another potential use of steel wheel interstates would be auto trains."

The big advantage of high speed rail is that the media, politicians and upper class love the idea and are happy to promote it without asking any of the hard questions. But it's worth remembering that after Washington and San Francisco blew huge sums on subways, city planners finally got wise and started looking at less expensive transit systems that were more efficient in every regard except speed. And so, Washington is today finally working towards having its first light rail route in 47 years.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about how the Obama administration is a second New Deal. But the first New Deal would never have spent huge sums on super trains for the better off; it would have expanded decent if unexotic rail service for ordinary folks. Today you can hardly even get Democrats to talk about such things.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Building a Resiliant World: Awesomely good TomGram

After the Green Economy, Green Security

How to Build Resilient Communities in a Chaotic World
By Chip Ward

Now that we've decided to "green" the economy, why not green homeland security, too? I'm not talking about interrogators questioning suspects under the glow of compact fluorescent light bulbs, or cops wearing recycled Kevlar recharging their Tasers via solar panels. What I mean is: Shouldn't we finally start rethinking the very notion of homeland security on a sinking planet?

Now that Dennis Blair, the new Director of National Intelligence, claims that global insecurity is more of a danger to us than terrorism, isn't it time to release the idea of "security" from its top-down, business-as-usual, terrorism-oriented shackles? Isn't it, in fact, time for the Obama administration to begin building security we can believe in; that is, a bottom-up movement that will start us down the road to the kind of resilient American communities that could effectively recover from the disasters -- manmade or natural (if there's still a difference) -- that will surely characterize this emerging age of financial and climate chaos? In the long run, if we don't start pursuing security that actually focuses on the foremost challenges of our moment, that emphasizes recovery rather than what passes for "defense," that builds communities rather than just more SWAT teams, we're in trouble.

Today, "homeland security" and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that unwieldy amalgam of 13 agencies created by the Bush administration in 2002, continue to express the potent, all-encompassing fears and assumptions of our last president's Global War on Terror. Foreign enemies may indeed be plotting to attack us, but, believe it or not (and increasing numbers of people, watching their homes, money, and jobs melt away are coming to believe it), that's probably neither the worst, nor the most dangerous thing in store for us.

Outsized fear of terrorism and what it can accomplish, stoked by the apocalyptic look of the attacks of 9/11, masked the agenda of officials who were all too ready to suppress challenges by shredding our civil liberties. That agenda has been driven by a legion of privateers, selling everything from gas masks to biometric ID systems, who would loot the public treasury in the name of patriotism. Like so many bad trips of the Bush years, homeland security was run down the wrong tracks from the beginning -- as the arrival of that distinctly un-American word "homeland" so clearly signaled -- and it has, not surprisingly, carried us in the wrong direction ever since.

In that context, it's worth remembering that after 9/11 came Hurricane Katrina, epic droughts and wildfires, Biblical-level floods, and then, of course, economic meltdown. Despite widespread fears here, the likelihood that most of us will experience a terrorist attack is slim indeed; on the other hand, it's a sure bet that disruptions to our far-flung supply lines for food, water, and energy will affect us all in the decades ahead. Nature, after all, is loaded with disturbances like droughts (growing ever more intense thanks to global climate change) that resonate through the human realm as famines, migrations, civil wars, failed states, and eventually warlords and pirates.

Even if these seem to you like nature's version of terrorism, you can't prevent a monster storm or a killer drought by arresting it at the border or caging it before it strikes. That's why a new green version of security should concentrate our energies and resources on recovery from disasters at least as much as defense against them -- and not recovery as delivered by distant, fumbling Federal Emergency Management Agency officials either. The fact is that pre-organized, homegrown (rather than homeland) networks of citizens who have planned and prepared together to meet basic needs and to aid one another in times of trouble will be better able to bounce back from the sorts of disasters that might actually hit us than a nation of helpless individuals waiting to be rescued or protected.

Imagine redubbing the DHS the Department of Homegrown Security and at least you have a place to begin.

Homegrown Security for a Cantankerous Future

Homeland security, post-9/11, has been highly militarized and focused primarily on single-event disasters like attacks or accidents, not on, say, the infection of critical grain crops by some newly evolved disease or, as is actually happening, the serial collapse of ocean fisheries. Unlike a terrorist attack, such disasters could strike everywhere at once, rendering single-point plans useless. If Miami goes down in a hurricane, FEMA can (we hope) feed people via trucks and airlifts. If some part of the global food trade were to shut down, hundreds of thousands of community gardens and networks of backyard farmers ready to share their harvests, not warehouses full of emergency provisions, could prove the difference between crisis and catastrophe. Systemic challenges, after all, require systemic responses.

Food and security may not be a twosome that comes quickly to mind, but experts know that our food supply is particularly vulnerable. We're familiar with the hardships that follow spikes in the price of gas or the freezing of credit lines, but few of us in the U.S. have experienced the panic and privation of a broken food chain -- so far. That's going to change in the decades ahead. Count on it, even if it seems as unlikely today as, for most of us, an economic meltdown did just one short year ago.

Our industrialized and globalized food production and distribution system is a wonder, bringing us exotic eats from distant places at mostly affordable prices. Those mangos from Mexico and kiwis from New Zealand are certainly a treat, but the understandable pleasure we take in them hides a great risk. If you're thinking about what the greening of homeland security might actually mean, look no further than our food supply.

The typical American meal travels, on average, 1,000 miles to get to your plate. The wheat in your burger bun may be from Canada, the beef from Argentina, and the tomato from Chile. Food shipped from that far away is vulnerable to all sorts of disruptions -- a calamitous storm that hits a food-growing center; spikes in the price of fuel for fertilizer, farm machinery, and trucking; internecine strife or regional wars that shut down harvests or block trade routes; national policies to hoard food as prices spike or scarcities set in; not to speak of the usual droughts, floods, and crop failures that have always plagued humankind and are intensifying in a globally warming world.

An interruption of food supplies from afar is only tolerable if we've planned ahead and so can fill in with locally grown food. Sadly, for those of us who live outside of California and Florida, local food remains seasonal, limited, and anything but diverse. And don't forget, local food has been weakened in this country by the reasonably thorough job we've done of wiping out all those less-than-superprofitable family farms. U.S. agriculture is now strikingly consolidated into massive, industrial-style operations. So chickens come from vast chicken farms in Arkansas, hogs from humongous hog outfits in Georgia, corn from the mono-crop Midwestern "cornbelt," and so on.

Such monolithic enterprises may be profitable for Big Ag, but they're not going to do us much good, given the cantankerous future already inching its way toward us. When a severe drought in Australia led to plummeting rice production in the Murray River Basin last year, the price of rice across the planet suddenly doubled. The spike in rice prices, like the sudden leap in the cost of wheat, soy, and other staples, was primarily due to the then-soaring price of oil for farm machinery, fertilizer, and transport, though rampant market speculation contributed as well. At that moment, the collapse of Australian rice farming pushed a worsening situation across a threshold into crisis territory. Because the world agricultural trade system is so thoroughly interconnected and interdependent, a shock on one part of the planet can resonate far and wide -- just as (we've learned to our dismay) can happen in financial markets.

Think of the shortages and ensuing food riots in 30 countries across the planet in 2008 as grim coming attractions for life on a planet with unpredictable extreme weather, booming populations, overloaded ecosystems, and distorted food economies. The spike in prices that put food staples out of reach of rioting masses of people was soon enough mitigated by the collapse of energy prices when the global economy tanked. Make no mistake, though: food shortages and the social unrest that goes with them will eventually return.

And here's something else to take into consideration: Nations that suffer food shortages may, when their hungry citizens demand food sovereignty, protect their agricultural sectors by erecting trade barriers -- just as is beginning to happen in other areas of production under the pressure of the global economic meltdown. The era of globalized food production, whose fruits (and vegetables) we Americans have come to consider little short of our supermarket birthright, may contract significantly in the relatively near future. We should be prepared. And that's where a Department of Homegrown Security could make some real sense.

Most American cities, after all, have less than a week's worth of food in their pipeline and most of us don't stockpile, which makes city dwellers especially vulnerable to disruptions of the food supply. Skip your next three meals and you'll grasp the panic likely to arise if the American food chain is ever broken in a significant way. The question is: How can we address rather than ignore this vital, if underappreciated, aspect of homeland security?

Vertical Farms and Victory Gardens

Because cities are so dependent on daily food shipments, local food security in urban areas might well mean storing more food for emergencies; this would certainly be the old-school approach to disaster planning, and it has worked well enough over the short run. Over the long run, however, what makes real sense is to encourage urban and suburban community gardens and farmers' markets, and not just on a scale that ensures a summer supply of arugula and fresh tomatoes, but on one that might actually help mitigate prolonged food disruptions. There are enough vacant lots, backyards, and rooftops to host many thousands of gardens, either created by voluntary groups or by small-scale entrepreneurs. Urban farming could even go big. Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier recently unveiled his vision of a "vertical farm," a 30-story tower right in the middle of an urban landscape, that could grow enough food to feed 50,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood.

Cultural historian and visionary critic Mike Davis has already wondered why our approach to homeland security doesn't draw from the example of "victory gardens" during World War II. In 1943, just two years into the war, 20 million victory gardens were producing a staggering 30-40% of the nation's vegetables. Thousands of abandoned urban lots were being cleared and planted by tenement neighbors working together. The Office of Civilian Defense encouraged and empowered such projects, but the phenomenon was also self-organizing because citizens on the home front wanted to participate, and home gardening was, after all, a delicious way to be patriotic.

Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark, reports that, within the de-industrialized ruins of Detroit, a landscape she describes as "not quite post-apocalyptic but… post-American," people are homesteading abandoned lots, growing their own produce, raising farm animals, and planting orchards. In that depopulated city, some have been clawing (or perhaps hoeing) their way back to a semblance of food security. They have done so because they had to, and their reward has been harvests that would be the envy of any organic farmer. The catastrophe that is Detroit didn't happen with a Hurricane Katrina-style bang, but as a slow, grinding bust -- and a possibly haunting preview of what many American municipalities may experience, post-crash. Solnit claims, however, that the greening of Detroit under the pressure of economic adversity is not just a strategy for survival, but a possible path to renewal. It's also a living guidebook to possibilities for our new Department of Homegrown Security when it considers where it might most advantageously put some of its financial muscle while creating a more secure -- and resilient -- America.

As chef and author Alice Waters has demonstrated so practically, schools can start "edible schoolyard" gardens that cut lunch-program costs, provide healthy foods for students, and teach the principles of ecology. The food-growing skills and knowledge that many of our great-grandparents took for granted growing up in a more rural America have long since been lost in our migration into cities and suburbs. Relearning those lost arts could be a key to survival if the trucks stop arriving at the Big Box down the street.

The present Department of Homeland Security has produced reams of literature on detecting and handling chemical weapons and managing casualties after terrorist attacks. Fine, we needed to know that. Now, how about some instructive materials on composting soil, rotating crops to control pests and restore soil nutrients, and canning and drying all that seasonal bounty so it can be eaten next winter?

It's not just about increasing the local food supply, of course. Community gardens provide a safe place for neighbors to cooperate, socialize, bond, share, celebrate, and learn from one another. The self-reliant networks that are created when citizens engage in such projects can be activated in an emergency. The capacity of a community to self-organize can be critically important when a crisis is confronted. Such collective efforts have been called "community greening" or "civic ecology," but the traditional name "grassroots democracy" fits no less well.

Ideally, the greening of homeland security would mean more than pamphlets on planting, but would provide actual seed money -- and not just for seeds either, but for building greenhouses, distributing tools, and starting farmers' markets where growers and consumers can connect. How about raiding the Department of Homeland Security's gluttonous budget for "homegrown" grants to communities that want to get started?

Here's the interesting thing: Without federal aid or direction, the first glimmer of a green approach to homeland security is already appearing. It goes by the moniker "relocalization," and if that's a bit of an awkward mouthful for you, it really means that your most basic security is in the hands not of distant officials in Washington but of neighbors who believe that self-reliance is safer than dependence. In this emerging age of chaos, pooled resources and coordinated responses will, this new movement believes, be more effective than thousands of individuals breaking out their survival kits alone, or waiting for the helicopters to land.

Actually, relocalization is an international movement and, as usual when it comes to the greening of modern society, the Europeans are way ahead of us. There are now hundreds of local groups in at least a dozen countries that are convening local meetings as part of the Relocalization Network to "make other arrangements for the post-carbon future" of their communities. In Great Britain, an allied "Transition Towns" movement has sprung up in an effort to spark ideas about, and focus energies on, how to wean whole communities off imported energy, food, and material goods. With a rising sea at its front door, the Netherlands has taken a further step. Its national security plan actually makes sustainability and environmental recovery key priorities.

In the U.S., "post-carbon" working groups are beginning to sprout across the country. In my backyard, right in the heart of red-state Utah, a diverse group of citizens calling themselves the Canyonlands Sustainable Solutions have come together to generate practical plans for insulating the remote town of Moab, 200 miles from the trade and transport hub of Salt Lake City, from future food and energy price shocks and supply interruptions. Such local groups are often loosely allied with one another, especially regionally, through websites and blogs that report on the progress of diverse projects, trade ideas as well as information, and offer lots of feedback.

The citizens engaged in relocalization projects have largely given up on federal aid and are going it alone. Still, think how much farther they could go if only a fraction of the $27 billion directed at state and local governments to enhance "emergency preparedness" in the 2009 Department of Homeland Security budget were given in grants to their projects. If we can afford to hand rural Craighead County in Arkansas $600,000 for hazmat suits and other anti-terror paraphernalia to defend cotton and soybean farmers from attack, surely we could provide grants for urban homesteaders in Detroit.

Food security, of course, is just one aspect of a green vision of homegrown (instead of homeland) security. Other obvious elements like energy and water security could also be re-imagined, if only official Washington weren't so stuck in the obvious. No doubt, somewhere out there on the Titanic this planet is becoming, the go-it-aloners, with no Department of Homegrown Security to back them, are already doing so -- and helping prepare us all as best they can for the realization that, right now, there are not enough lifeboats to carry us to safety.

Perhaps it's not so unrealistic to expect that someday, as a homegrown security movement builds and matures, it can capture a share of the federal funds that now go to such dubious measures as closed-circuit TVs and crash-proof barriers at sports stadiums, including $345,000 for Razorback Stadium in Arkansas.

In the meanwhile, let's encourage projects that are building resilience in communities as small as Moab and as large as New York City, while revitalizing local culture with a dose of grassroots engagement. Seed it, and feed it, and it will bloom. Along the way we will learn that when it comes to home, or land, or security, living in an open, inclusive, and robust democracy is not an impediment to defense but a deep advantage. Democracy, if only we nurture it, is the very soil of our resilience.

More like this, please: grow food on idle industrial zoned land

In the story about the latest setback for plans to develop the Mill Creek Site, some commenters at the SJ site hit on the right idea:
(first commenter): Plant food crops there this spring to help people out until this prime property is ready to be developed. There is water available on this property. Canneries are close by. Help out the area food banks. Why let this good farm land just sit when there are hungry people in this area and things will not get better for a while.

(responding): Excellent idea! Why not let those who want space to grow food but don't have room now have a small plot according to family size? They could pay a fee to cover water if needed. Maybe the community college or county extension or someone could offer classes on canning and freezing produce. Let's put that land to good use

For the young to save us, we must first save the young

It's no accident that most of the social dysfunction that imperils us skyrocketed in the last third of the 20th Century, since that is precisely coincident with the period in which television attained dominance as the primary social/recreational activity in the United States. Rather than bringing up children who slowly grew in competence and experience with age, we have kept kids trapped in a permanent adolescence even as their bodies race into adulthood, watching others have lives rather than learning to build one for themselves.

Of all the silver linings to be hoped for from the economic hardship period we are entering, the collapse of 24-hour television and television-as-babysitter is the one most devoutly to be sought. When the cable company reports that subscriptions are plummeting as people realize that they are hurting their kids with TV, that will be cause for hope.

Watching a lot of TV during adolescence, an alarming new study has found, can change a normal brain to a depressive one. The study, which tracked more than 4,000 adolescents as they grew up, found that for every extra hour a teen spends watching TV or playing videogames on an average day, he or she is 8 percent more likely to develop depression as an adult. Study author Dr. Brian Primack says that teens’ experiences help shape their developing brains, and that being parked in front of a screen often replaces positive social, academic, and athletic activities that give kids a sense of mastery and self-respect. Instead, he tells the Los Angeles Times, TV teaches kids to be passive, and to judge themselves against fictional characters whose looks and accomplishments seem out of reach.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Care to Breathe More Toxics?

A Must for your Thursday Night (2/26):

February 26, 2009
6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Willamette University School of Law
Paulus Lecture Hall -- Room 201

Covanta/Marion County Waste-to-Energy Facility as an Integrated Part of the County's Waste Management System -- Jeffrey Hahn, Covanta Energy Corporation

Incineration Dangers: From Nanoparticles to Nonsustainability -- Dr. Paul Connett, renowned expert on zero waste and harmful waste incineration by-products.

Sponsored by League of Women Voters of Marion/Polk Counties, Willamette University Center for Sustainable Communities, Salem City Club, Marion County, Friends of Marion County, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Toxics Alliance, Oregon Center for Environmental Health, and Health Care Without Harm

[One hopes this will be taped and made available online and through CCTV. Anyone with information about this, please post a comment.]

For more information, see this post about "Waste Incineration: The Self-Inflicted Wound." And there's the always-wonderful "Story of Stuff."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

T-1 until Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization launch

Hope to see you there.

For more information, see here.

Great idea -- statewide prescription drug take-backs

The problem is discussed here. Turns out, there's a bill here in Salem that would attack the problem at the state level. So do what the lady says: write your legislators.
We are forwarding a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would put a statewide drug take back program in place. The bill is SB 598 (copy attached). A short summary of the bill is attached also.

If you support this type of program, a letter to your State Senator and State Representative would be great!

Let me know if you have any questions…

Janet Gillaspie - Executive Director
Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies (ACWA)
537 SE Ash Suite 12
Portland, OR 97214
Phone: (503)236-6722
Fax: (503)236-6719
Here's the bill summary:

Oregon Drug Take Back Program – SB 598
Product Stewardship Model for Unwanted and Unused Drugs


Avoidable Poisonings

For the Oregon Poison Center, pharmaceuticals represent the most common category of exposure, resulting in 48% of calls, and represent the most serious poisoning incidents. Between 2000 and 2006, the hospitalization rate for Oregon children from unintended poisonings by drugs, medicines and plants increased 60%;
much can be attributed to prescription medications .

Prescription drug abuse, especially in teens

The number of teens abusing prescription drugs exceeds the number of teens using all other drugs combined, except marijuana and alcohol. Compared to the rest of the nation, Oregon ranks among the top ten states for:

Annual abuse of prescription drugs for all ages (228,000 persons per year);
Past year abuse of prescription drugs by youth 12 to 17 (34,000 persons per year); and,
Past year abuse of prescription stimulants (55,000 persons per year).

Teens get their drugs from friends and family –
not the street corner and not the Internet.

Water quality issues

US Geological Survey and Oregon DEQ water quality sampling indicates that trace amounts of various pharmaceuticals are found in Oregon’s surface water; focused studies have found pharmaceuticals in groundwater. The majority of drugs reach water through excretion.

However, a 2007 study by the Teleosis Institute in California reported that consumers did not use nearly 45 percent of what they were prescribed. Standard wastewater treatment methods are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals or other emerging compounds.

About one-third of the unwanted drugs are from hospice and long term care; these facilities generally flush unwanted medicines since no effective alternatives exist.


Drug manufacturers and distributors that serve Oregon would be required to plan, implement, and pay for a convenient way for Oregonians to dispose of unwanted and unused medicines in an environmentally safe manner.


A broad stakeholder group: started meeting in the fall of 2006 to examine the problem, including: State agencies (DEQ, Health Division, Oregon State Police, Board of Pharmacy), pharmacy owners, hospital pharmacists, local health officials, environmental public interest groups, local governments, pharmaceutical manufacturers, chain drug store owners, drinking water and wastewater utilities
Convening meeting: held in June, 2008 – over 125 attendees; product stewardship concept endorsed.

  • No additional cost to consumers.

  • Use a product stewardship model: manufacturers and distributors that supply drugs in Oregon craft system to recover and properly dispose of unwanted and unused drugs - consistent with past actions by Oregon Legislature.

  • Continues product stewardship type model similar to electronic waste recycling requirements of SB 737.

  • Drug take back programs are specifically mentioned as one toxic reduction tool that local governments should evaluate

  • Need a convenient system for both rural and urban Oregon.

Hear the C.I.T.Y. presentations to City Council

If you couldn't make the meeting last night, you can still make a HUGE contribution to the cause of making Salem a better place with your support for the Chickens in the Yard proposal.

First, you can hear the presentations by selecting Feb. 23, 2009 recording here. (You don't have to listen to the whole thing --- once you start the session playing, it offers you the option of skipping to any agenda item, in this case Public Comment, item 10).

Next, drop a postcard or letter to your city council member asking that the C.I.T.Y. proposal be turned into action. Someone stopped me at the meeting last night and said that they didn't know who their council member was -- if that's you too, you can find out here. A phone call works well too.

The C.I.T.Y. folks did a fine job --- now it's up to us to get the council to overcome the forces of inertia and help bring hens back into Salem.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Two new chances to weigh in on bus service changes

Salem — Cherriots has added two new public forums to be held in downtown Salem where residents can offer input on how the bus service can better meet the needs of the community.

The two new open houses are 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and April 24 at Courthouse Square, 555 Court St. NE. (Served by all routes terminating downtown.)

Cherriots' plan to redesign its bus service includes forums where members of the public can offer their suggestions.

The other upcoming open houses, which will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., include:
  • Feb. 25: Marion County Fire Station, 300 Cordon Road NE
  • March 2: Leslie Middle School, 3850 Pringle Road SE (Cherriots Route 22)
  • March 3: McNary High School, 595 Chemawa Road N (Cherriots Route 18)
  • April 27: South Salem High School, 1910 Church St. SE (Cherriots Routes 15, 22)
  • April 28: Marion County Fire Station, 300 Cordon Road NE
  • April 30: West Salem Roth's, 1130 Wallace Road NW (Cherriots Routes 10, 12, 19, 23, 24 and 25)
  • May 7: Keizer Fire Station, 661 Chemawa Road N (Cherriots Route 18)
People who are unable to attend a meeting can offer input by completing an online questionnaire.
People who need translations or sign language should contact Michelle Ambrosek at (503) 588-2424, Ext. 2066.

[Note the nice addition of Cherriots routes to the information on the meeting locations! Today Cherriots, eventually all public agencies and local governments will be so thoughtful!]

Saturday, February 21, 2009

See you at 7:45 tonight or thereabouts!

Chickens in the Yard (CITY) is rounding up people to come to the Salem City Council meeting this Monday, February 23, to speak during the open public comment period (i.e., not limited to agenda topics) that follows the scheduled business on the agenda. (See item 10 here.) A C.I.T.Y. leader sends:
. . . Re: the agenda for the City Council Meeting on Monday. Unfortunately, it is really long (5 pages). We can't speak until item #10; see the very last page. But I spoke with the City Recorder about this and she said some of the items will go very quickly. Her best estimate is that we will be able to start between 8:00 and 8:30. If we are not finished by 10:00, the council will vote to either stay late and keep going, or continue at another time.

Note to Speakers: If you happen to be speaking when/if they decide to wrap things up and cut us off, be sure to immediately request that we be placed ON THE AGENDA for the next meeting. Hopefully, this won't happen, but I wanted to have a plan just in case.

SEE YOU ALL MONDAY NIGHT - City Hall, 555 Liberty, Room 240!
So you probably don't have to be there right at 6:30 p.m. -- 7:45 p.m. is probably fine.

But please do come, and come early enough to make sure you're there to let the city council members know that it's important to you and that, even if you don't plan to keep any laying hens yourself, you want other people in resedential zones to be able to do so, for the benefit of themselves and of the community as a whole.

Note the map of Salem neighborhood associations that have endorsed the C.I.T.Y. campaign! And also note that just because other neighborhoods haven't doesn't mean that they don't have a lot of residents who would love to keep some laying hens -- each neighborhood has its own politics and personalities.

The Great God Auto Threatens Your Children

This is what building a society around cars produces --- note that the typically bureaucratic response suggests that the problem is caused by parents or not giving enough money to the medical-industrial complex. The Sprawl Machine doesn't just produce ugly places that will be impossible to use as energy becomes scarce and expensive -- it also hurts children, who are becoming crippled and debilitated by our development patterns that make walking and biking rare activities instead of everyday acts of a healthy young person.
Initiative Takes Aim At Obesity In Children

A coalition of health groups and insurance companies yesterday unveiled an initiative, billed as the first of its kind, to help battle one of the nation's biggest health problems: childhood obesity.

Officials of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint effort of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, said the initiative is designed to give children better access to health care to fight obesity. Participating insurance companies would pay for at least four visits to a dietitian and four visits to a physician each year to provide guidance to children and their parents on how to eat better and take other steps to reduce and control their weight.

More than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, raising fears that they could constitute the first generation in recent history to have shorter life spans than their parents. One of the biggest problems many families face in fighting obesity is getting insurance companies to pay for doctor visits and other care to help deal with the problem. . . .

And to this we say "Amen, brother, Aaaaaamen."

Post-Carbon Oregon has a great post talking about the weird inversion of priorities that makes us do more to guarantee a place for cars in Salem than people.

As an example, in Salem residential zones, you are mandated, by law, to maintain two off-street parking spaces for cars --- even if you don't have a car. This can include garage spaces or driveway spaces, or both. Think about what this says about our priorities and the way that cars have dominated our thinking for the past 60 years:
  • You're not required to have a garden, even though it's a certainty that residents must eat. In fact, you are prohibited by law from tearing up your driveway and growing food to feed your family in that space, even if it's the best spot you have for growing food.

  • And no matter how much southern exposure you have, you're not required to have a solar hot water heater, even though it's a certainty that you use hot water.

  • You're not required to have a bike, even though most trips we take are easily walked or biked.
Nope, one of the few things you MUST have is two cars full of parking, because the mindset reflected in our city code is that the Great God Auto Must Be Served.

So we're in a situation where the global economy is melting down and hunger is rising all across the state, but if you put a chicken coop on your driveway and an enclosure on the unpaved area next to the driveway to give the hens some room to roam, you are not only going to be fined for the heinous crime of trying to provide your family with safe, affordable food, you're also going to be ordered to remove the coop because you have infringed on Great God Auto's privileged position in Salem society.

Estimates are that, for every car kept overnight in the typical American community, there are fully seven parking spaces distributed around town to serve that car. If anything, that's probably low: Look at the sea of asphalt next to every big box building and strip mall, then add the two spaces per residence, then add the oceans of parking next to most newer churches, then add the acres of parking surrounding our high schools, then add the parking ramps and the big lots for office complexes, and the vast lots designed to serve auto commuters, then add all the on-street parking . . . .

No wonder our economy is so tattered --- we've taken a huge amount of Willamette Valley soil --- some of the finest in the world, in one of the best growing areas in the world --- and paved it over to serve autos. Providing all that parking makes things spread so far apart that people feel that they have to use a car, thus powering the cycle further down the drain.

In return for this weird act of auto worship, we get to deal with the pollution and runoff issues, and we get a distorted tax system because speculators holding valuable prime land off the market pay artificially low taxes on that land because it's not "developed" -- in other words, they throw down some gravel and use the land for parking because we assess property based on current use rather than on the land value if developed appropriately.

This means that people who do develop their land further pay more in taxes, while those who keep land right in the heart of town as parking lots pay very little.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How to get involved with STIR

If you can' t make the initial launch meeting on Wednesday, February 25, but want to be involved with the Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR), drop a line with your contact information and your main areas of concern to STIR at

What are some of the areas that might be of concern to people as they consider how we can transition to a low-energy/low-waste lifestyle? Things like
  • Food -- how can we feed our families if it's no longer possible to use diesel powered trucks to bring in foodstuffs on a continuous basis?

  • Home economy -- how can we afford our shelter if utility bills keep climbing up and unemployment rates keep following along?

  • Climate -- what kind of world will we be passing on to the next generation if we've destabilized the climate that has been fairly stable and benign for all of recorded history?

  • Education -- what will schools look like when massive buildings that require constant heating or cooling are unaffordable, like the fleets of polluting yellow buses? What will secondary (and post-secondary education) need to be when a far greater share of daily life must be devoted to growing food?

  • Transportation -- how are we going to remain connected to friends and family when we no longer enjoy an abundance of cheap energy and most families can no longer afford the family car, while most cities can't keep up with the costs of maintaining roads?

  • Long-term care -- how we will be able to care for elders and people with disabilities if the desires for community-based care runs into the fast-diminishing resource base of families and governments unable to provide for the care of people still working or struggling with subsistence and unemployment?

  • Faith communities -- how will churches, temples, and mosques built during a time of cheap and abundant energy operate when people are no longer able to afford to travel great distances to mega-sized facilities or to heat and cool them?

  • Public safety -- how will police, fire, and ambulance services be provided when energy costs hamstring their vehicles and taxes can't keep up with energy costs? Will Oregon be able to keep spending more and more on prisons when the cost of utilities shoots up?

  • Medical care -- how will we provide access to medical care when energy costs keep shrinking the available resources and undermining the economy that is not even able to keep up with health care expenses now, before the energy pinch really takes hold?

  • Environmental protections -- how will we pay to treat and pump wastewater and maintain waste treatment facilities in a shrinking rather than expanding economy?

  • How will we cope with increasing frequency and severity of crop-destroying severe weather events, both floods and droughts?

  • Etc. etc. etc.
You get the idea.

Our society has, since WWII, been organized almost entirely on the implicit assumption that there will always be an abundance of cheap energy, and that fundamental assumption has colored every other public and private decision. We have built a society that appears robust but is actually quite fragile, as the recent fling with $4 gas showed --- a few months of high gas prices brought the world economy to its knees and revealed what a house of cards our real estate/finance system actually was. The price shock is causing so much demand destruction --- a/k/a economic pain --- that oil prices have plummeted, but they will remain low only so long as the economy is tanking.

If any or all of these concerns make you think that it's time that someone took some action to prepare answers to them, then please come to the STIR launch and join in. But if you can't, at least drop a line and note which issues are the top ones for you (especially ones not mentioned above).

An outstanding explanation of our credit collapse

Since the Salem economy is being rocked hard by the real estate meltdown and the resulting wave of bank collapses, it's helpful for us to understand how we got here, and this outstanding short video does a tremendous job simplifying the explanation without leaving out important parts of it. From the site:
"The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oregon Bike Summit -- be there, aloha!

Watching Salem's mayor and someone from Gov. Ted's office accept two very cool Sanyo "Eneloop" (energy looping) power-assist bikes --- the first two in the US from Sanyo --- today, I saw a flyer for the Oregon Bike Summit, to be held right here in Salem in April. Cool.

Joe at The Bike Peddler reports that he has ridden the very-similar hybrid power-assist bike from Giant and that it's a very nice bike and that he is happy to order it for those interested.

I'm going to ask Joe to get one for me for Mrs. Walker because it's perfect for her needs now that we live real close in here in Salem: she needs a power boost for riding when dressed for work without working up a sweat, but a real bike for riding as a bike the rest of the time (unlike the eGo that we're selling on Salem's Craigslist, which was for commuting only).

Salem could lead: pharmacy take-back ordinance

Here's a great idea -- make pharmacies take back any unused prescription drugs and handle reissue, disposal, or other disposition properly (that is, in a way that keeps the drugs out of the water -- and NOT with incineration, which just sends the contents into the air).

For example, many expensive drugs could and should be gathered together and given out to provide meds for people who can't keep up with the exorbitant costs of medicines.

Salem, with some of the best water of any city in the world, should take the lead on this, educating people not to flush unused meds and passing an ordinance requiring pharmacies and stores dispensing meds (Costco, etc.) to take back any unused prescription meds and to ensure proper reuse or disposal.
Be rid of unused meds, just not down the drain
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First, do not flush.

Disposal of unused medication has -- like many of the drugs themselves -- unwanted side effects. People on all sides agree that dumping leftover meds down the drain or toilet can turn them into pollutants.

An Associated Press investigation last year found trace amounts of many prescription drugs -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- in the drinking water of 41 million Americans.

What to do instead?

"It's kind of a Catch-22," says Ken Wells, a pharmacy manager at Safeway and president of the Oregon State Pharmacy Association. "You're darned if you do and darned if you don't."

Flushing drugs entails environmental risk, Wells says, yet tossing them into the trash could allow them to fall into the hands of illicit users.

Federal guidelines say: Mix prescription drugs with an unpalatable material, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in the trash in plain cans or sealable bags.

An unlikely coalition of the American Pharmacists Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its own "crush, don't flush" rule last year: "Crush the medicines in a plastic bag, add coffee grounds, sawdust or kitty litter, seal the bag and put it in the trash."

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality recommends keeping waste drugs in their original containers, removing the patient information label and taping the lid on if it's not child-proof. Then put the drugs in a plastic sealable bag, inside "durable packaging that masks the contents (such as a brown cardboard box)" and add to the trash as close to pickup time as possible.

But the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies objects to that advice, saying it can cause pollution, either by leaching from a landfill or by failing to discourage people from dumping drugs into the toilet.

"It's pretty complicated -- and it doesn't compete very well with a flush," says Janet Gillaspie, executive director. "If we don't want people to flush unused drugs down the toilet, we need to give them a system that's convenient enough to convince them to use it."

Her group touts a "product stewardship" model, based on the take-back system for recycling used electronic devices. "In other words, ask the people who make the product to be responsible for disposing of it when it doesn't get used."

Reminder: Show up and be counted next Monday night to support C.I.T.Y.

Reminder from: SalemChickens Yahoo! Group

Our formal presentation at City Hall!
Monday February 23, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location: Council Chambers, City Hall (click link for map -- Council Chambers are in the massive Albert Speer-like structure between Commercial and Liberty, just south of Pringle Creek).

This is the big event we've all been waiting for.
We need to fill the room with supporters. Bring all your friends, PLEASE!
It starts at 6:30 pm.

You can review all the reasons for allowing urban hen-keeping here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In an apartment or otherwise without access to space for a garden?

Then you should check this out. While there are grounds for reservations about soil-less growing systems (such as the fact that we don't fully understand how trace minerals that come from natural soil influence our health and the nutrition profile of plants), there's simply no doubt that, given a choice between no garden and an indoor soil-less garden (hydroponic or aeroponic), you are much better off with the soil-less garden.

People need to wake up to some hard facts: The economy isn't in a "downturn," and it's not going to "pick up" anytime soon. The sad truth is that we have experienced the first in what are likely to be many economic contractions driven by the fact that our demand for resources is overwhelming our ability to extract them and to manage the waste products of all that consumption. And all the theorizing in the world about economic stresses won't take your mind off the fact that you're hungry if you haven't made provisions to grow some food.

Even if your living situation means you can't take many steps for food security (such as convert your lawn to growing food, planting fruit and nut trees, learning to put food by), you can still grow fresh greens indoors, and those greens can make a positive difference, both for your family's diet and for giving you something to trade with.

Important Idea: Green our transport infrastructure with stimulus money

1000 Friends has an important letter to Gov. Kulongoski here.

For those who have thought of Pringling

They're trying to figure out why sales are dead. Respond to if you like. If you've looked at Pringle Creek and want to comment here, that's also welcome.
Thank you for your previous interest in Pringle Creek Community.

We were hoping that you would assist us by sharing some of your thoughts and opinions about the community.

Below are a few questions that specifically interest us:

- Have you visited Pringle Creek Community before? If so, what were your first impressions?
- What do you like / dislike about the community?
- Are you still considering becoming a part of the community?
- What has prevented you from becoming part of the Pringle Creek Community to date?
- What would need to happen for you to consider building a home a Pringle Creek Community (e.g. new pricing, change in the economy, view a model home, have a built home to purchase, etc)?

If you would like to discuss your thoughts over the phone please do not hesitate to contact me at 503.400.1322.

Thank you for your time and thoughtful response. Your opinion is extremely valuable to Pringle Creek Community.

Mckenzie Farrell
Pringle Creek Community
T: 503.400.1322

Salem, Oregon Stimulus Watch

How many of these "shovel ready" projects (gag, the new jargon) reflect the new reality of scarce energy, rising energy prices, and the need to radically reduce greenhouse emissions?

A Worthy Cause

Salem has a group, Friends of Two Bridges, working on an important issue: finishing up the Union Street ped/bike bridge and getting a ped/bike connection from Riverfront Park to Minto Island. They have a web presence now, so check 'em out and help out if you can.

How to Contribute:

You can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Salem Parks Foundation, P.O. box 5764, Salem, OR 97304 and put a note on there earmarking your gift for Friends of Two Bridges.

OR, even easier:

Got an American Express card? You can sign up to use Giving Express to make one-time or monthly contributions using your AMEX card, so you don't have to write a check or find a stamp. There are over 1,000,000 nonprofits working on a plethora of issues registered with Giving Express. The Salem Parks Foundation is listed -- in fact, it took less than two minutes to find the listing for Salem Parks Foundation and to give a $5 monthly gift earmarked for Friends of Two Bridges via Giving Express.

(Note that plenty of other worthy Salem area nonprofits are listed there too -- so check it out.)

Speaking of electric bikes

Click on image for larger version

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Washing Machine design top-rated for energy efficiency

And now, a brief commercial message

An ad on Salem Craigslist for an eGO electric commuter/errand/RV bike offered here in Salem.

A great idea in Salem

Representatives Read and Bailey Kickoff Energy Efficiency Plan - February 18th

On Wednesday, February 18th, Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) will kick off their energy efficiency plan, the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act, which will help homeowners and small businesses make energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades.

They will be joined by Rep. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene), Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Roseburg) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act of 2009 (EEAST) is a bipartisan effort to foster large-scale energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades in existing homes and buildings. The plan would help meet Oregon's energy challenges while creating jobs.

February 18, 2009
11:30 AM

Capitol Press Room, #43, Salem, 503-986-1442, 503-986-1427

Monday, February 16, 2009

What do you want from your transit system?

A very important series of meetings coming up -- your chance to tell the Cherriots Board what you want from the system. Attend one, several, many, or all of them, and share your ideas and perspectives on how the Cherriots Board should deal with the defeat of its second operating levy in a row.

Redesigning Bus Service/What Does the Community Want

  • Feb 19 Thu 6:30 – 8:30 PMWest Salem Roth’s (1130 Wallace Rd NW)
  • Feb 25 Wed 6:30 – 8:30 PM Marion County Fire Station (300 Cordon Rd)
  • Mar 2 Mon 6:30 – 8:30 PM Leslie Middle School (3850 Pringle Rd SE)
  • Mar 3 Tue 6:30 – 8:30 PM McNary High School – Cafeteria (595 Chemawa Rd N) note that this meeting will also discuss Keizer Transit Center Planning.
Next after that is a series of meetings for the public to
OPEN HOUSE – Review Service Proposals/Voice Your Preference

  • Apr 27 Mon 6:30 – 8:30 PM South Salem High School (1910 Church St SE)
  • Apr 28 Tue 6:30 – 8:30 PM Marion County Fire Station (300 Cordon Rd)
  • Apr 30 Thu 6:30 – 8:30 PM West Salem Roth’s (1130 Wallace Rd NW)
  • May 7 Thu 6:30 – 8:30 PM Keizer Fire Station (661 Chemawa Rd N)
There are also a number of regular Cherriots Board/Committee meetings that are always open to the public. These meetings are all at the county office building next to the Court Street Transit Center, where Cherriots HQ is located:
  • Regular Cherriots Board meeting is on Thursday, Feb 26, Meeting starts with a work session at 5:30, with the regular board meeting (and opportunities for public comment) at 6:30 PM (Senator meeting room, first floor).
  • The Cherriots Planning & Operations Subcommittee will meet on Tuesday, Mar 3 at 1:30 PM, 5th Floor (Cherriots Admin Office – Large Conference Rm).
  • Mar 12, Thu, (Both meetings in 5th Floor Conference Rm)
    2:30 PM/Specialized Transportation Subcommittee
    4:00 PM/Finance, Admin & Marketing Subcommittee
  • Mar 26, Thu (Both meetings in Senator Hearing Room, first floor).
    5:30 PM/Board Work Session
    6:30 PM/SAMTD Board of Directors Meeting

  • Apr 2, Thu (Time TBA)/Budget Committee Training Session (5th Floor Conf. Rm).
  • April 7, Tue (5th Floor Conference Room) 1:30 PM/Planning & Operations Subcommittee
  • Apr 9, Thu (both in 5th Floor Conference Rm)
    2:30 PM/Specialized Transportation Subcommittee
    4:00 PM/Finance, Admin & Marketing Subcommittee
  • Apr 9, Thu, Time TBA/Budget Committee Orientation (Senator Hearing Room)
  • Apr 14, Tue, 6:00 PM/Budget Committee Meeting (Senator Hearing Room)
And if you want to run for the Cherriots Board, here are some dates you should be aware of:
  • Mar 19, Thu, 5:00 PM, Filing deadline for District Candidates
  • Mar 23, Mon, 5:00 PM, Deadline for submitting Candidate Statements for inclusion in county voters' pamphlet
You probably need to contact the County Elections Office for information on which districts are up for election and how to proceed if you want to run.

Salem Sustainability Calendar, back half of February 2009

There's a lot of sustainability events in these next few weeks that merit your attention and participation. Please come out and help out in as many of these as you can, starting with

==> Tonight, 2/16, Marion-Polk Food Share's Community Garden planning meeting, details here.

==> Tomorrow, 2/17, Salem City Council will consider a plan to expand bicycle access in the Salem City core by permitting bikes on sidewalks:

One change would allow bike riders to ride on the sidewalk in an area bounded by Front, Cottage Union and Trade streets. The change would give bicyclists easier access between Salem City Center and Riverfront Park.

The second change would allow bicyclists, skateboarders and roller skaters to ride on designated Salem Civic Center property, making it easier to connect between Liberty and Commercial streets NE on the south side of Mirror Pond.

Salem City Council meetings are open to the public. The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at the Vern Miller Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. SE.

==> Wednesday, 2/18, City of Salem Town Hall meeting to discuss the giant budget hole we're in and hear citizen priorities, North Salem High School, 6 - 8 p.m. You can be sure that plenty of people will be out to argue for continuing business-as-usual priorities, which would only worsen our situation in terms of adopting to the new reality. Come out and speak up for investments in sustainability.

==> Monday, 2/23, C.I.T.Y. (Chickens in the Yard) presentation during public comment period at the Salem City Council meeting (at City Hall, 555 Liberty St. SE). The agenda won't isn't released until the Friday before, so it's hard to say exactly when the public comment period will start; it might be as later than 8, but we still need as many people as possible to come to City Hall and show the council that people are determined to get the city to quit harassing people who want to keep a few laying hens (instead of, for example, pit bulls or loud barking dogs or pot belly pigs). Council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at the Vern Miller Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. SE.

==> Wednesday, 2/25, Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR) -- meets at 7 p.m. at the Straub Environmental Learning Center (take A St. off 14th; SELC is right next to Olinger Pool, just south of North High; you can also get there via the pedestrian bridge over the creek that connects the High School to the pedestrian path along 12th St.)

==> Friday, 2/27, Oregon League of Conservation Voters Marion County Chapter invites you to Grand Vines (Corner of Court and High Streets) to hear from Cherriots Board member Lloyd Chapman about efforts to generate support for multi-modal transportation in Salem. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Salem-Keizer transportation, how the recent service cuts effect Marion County and what you can do to as a transit supporter.

==> Saturday, 2/28, Terra Gardens on Cordon (just north of State) is offering a free talk on caring for fruit trees from 10 a.m. to noon.

Word to the Wise

Click on poster to link to a sobering, important talk about why the poster is so vital.