Friday, June 19, 2009

Yes, appears so: Threat to Minto Ag acreage pulled from June 22 agenda?

2nd Update: Transportation and Parks Director Mark Becktel sends:
This is to let you and your folks know that the staff report to Council has been pulled and will not go before the Council tonight (Monday 6/22/09). We have requested additional time from the USDA/NRCS to work through some issues regarding the conservation easement, both related to issues your group brought up and concerns our legal department has with the easement language itself.

I will let you know when the staff report is scheduled to go before the Council in the future.
ORIGINAL: It's not clear why or how it happened, but the agenda for Monday night's City Council meeting (June 22) has chickens (action in the consent agenda to refer it over to the planning commission, as was decided some three weeks ago on May 26) but nothing about the proposed easement-for-cash trade that would lock up precious farm land on Minto Island.

Note that there already a Master Plan for Minto that calls for continuation of agriculture. (Oddly, not available on the city website.) More than that, there's also a City of Salem Parks Master Plan, which proposed more trails on the island, trails that this easement deal would prohibit.

So it may be that there's good news, and the city staff has realized that you can't just junk the master plans created with lots of citizen participation just because the feds wave some freshly-printed borrowed money at you.

Updates posted here as soon as available. Meanwhile, the map above is Figure 4 from the City of Salem Parks Master Plan. Note the proposed "primary" trails on Minto that have yet to be developed -- and could never be if we accept this "stimulus."

Garden and Other Transition Assets Tour -- can we come by your place?

Soil Born Farm: Organically GrownGood big label and a sign with information about the crops -- nice! Image by Annie&John via Flickr

WANTED: You to show off your garden [or other sustainability assets]!

Transition Salem is planning a series of self-guided bicycle tour maps to highlight local food gardens and sustainable living assets. Many of Salem's bicyclers share our interests in gardening and healthy living, and are active participants in our community. The tour will be free of charge to all bicyclers. Transition Salem is in the initial stages of planning how the tour will unfold, so suggestions are welcome.

We anticipate having several bike routes, allowing riders to chose different difficulty level for the ride. We would still like to plan routes which will allow riders to see as many of our gardens as can be seen, and speak with garden owners when possible. This will be be a great opportunity to cross pollinate ideas, skills, and possibly even resources.

What do I need in order to display my garden as part of the tour?
  • Provide your address [and any information you have about best biking routes to it]
  • Is your garden viewable to people driving by and viewing from the street, or do you need to be present to guide people?
  • What days would you be available to talk about your garden? (At this point this is of less importance, as we haven't narrowed down the time frame further than July – September. We are intending that the tour be ongoing for a number of weekends, or perhaps even weekdays, so we're not thinking that someone would have to be there at all times.)
  • Give us a quick description of your garden, or list items of interest in your garden. Perhaps list the gardening techniques you are using (for example: square foot gardening, permaculture, biointensive, raised beds, gray water irrigation, etc.)
  • Anything else of interest. [We're thinking of features that will be assets during the Transition period we're entering: For example, your chicken coop, solar panels, solar hot water heater, rainwater harvesting systems, solar or manually powered water well, passive solar design features on your house, your greenhouse, your container gardens, etc.]
It would also be helpful if you could label the plants in your garden, and in any other way provide visual clues to items of interest. As a bonus, it may also be helpful if a few people could:
  • Provide water/liquid to bicyclers
  • Provide printed material on other events, gardening tips, and items of community interest.
And last of all, be prepared to meet lots of interesting new people, and perhaps a few of your neighbors you haven't had a chance to talk with before!

If you want to know more, to help plan the tour, or to offer your place as a stop along the way, shoot us an email.

Transition Salem will begin developing a new webpage at, but until then, go here for to learn more about us.

If you know of someone else who might be interested in displaying their garden or other features of interest, or if you have ideas of how I can contact other gardeners please let us know.

Happy Growing!

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The promise of the future: Voided by our cleverness

KASSEL, GERMANY - JANUARY 24:  Human skeletons...When they dig up the bones of people from this era, will they think of us kindly? Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Since time immemorial, the promise of the future has always been that, overall, on a global scale, each generation will be better off than the prior ones. Humans are clever, and they share what they have learned with other humans, so even young humans can access the hard-won knowledge and experience of many generations of prior learning. Moreover, our lives are short but material goods last a long time -- meaning that the wealth of the ages slowly builds up and people enjoy the results of prior generations' efforts that way too.

Earth, the only habitable planet known, is perfectly suited to support human life in relative ease and comfort. Every day, unfathomable riches of solar energy arrive, for free. Reserves of solar energy, concentrated and distilled over millions and millions of years were provided under the ground, for free. Plants and animals in symbiotic relationship maintain the atmosphere at just the right level of oxygen. If used judiciously, those solar energy reserves (known as fossil fuels) can provide all the energy needed to provide an abundance of comfort and decent livelihood for all people.

But alas! Humans are clever, rather than wise.

As a result, we have voided the promise of the future.

Because of the way we use energy, the future for many generations will be much worse than the present.

Worse, our response to this sickening realization -- that we are the first generation in 200 million years of human evolution to leave our posterity with a degraded future prospect at every point on the globe -- is a combination of angry or sullen denial and magical thinking, where we lunge after "solutions" that are really just doing more of what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Meaning that each generation will not only be worse off than we are, for the foreseeable future, but that the degrading trend will continue, with each generation leaving their own progeny (and the progeny of all other humans alive at the time) with an increasingly unstable climate, in an environment of increasingly scarce energy, with increasingly short food and water supplies.

We cannot avoid some of this. Earth's climate is far too vast to right itself immediately, even if we were to stop pumping millions of years worth of carbon into it entirely in an instant -- the carbon we've already pumped in will continue to make itself increasingly felt for a thousand years.

But we can stop making it worse. But it would require living as if we owed something to the future, rather than only to ourselves. So, while there is little cause for hope, there is something we can do: Transition. Not a guaranteed solution or even a "solution" at all -- but a way of adapting to our predicament and learning to live so that we don't leave our children an even more limited and difficult future life.

Here in Salem, a small group (the Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization) has begun to meet to organize the necessary transition to a more local, low-energy, low-emissions future, as part of a global network of Transition Towns that is growing every day.

STIR is poised to become Transition Salem and to begin developing strategies for the transition and an energy descent action plan for our region. We are meeting every other Wednesday at Tea Party Bookshop (corner of Liberty and Ferry in downtown Salem) at 7 p.m. with the next meeting on July 1. If you would like to become an active participant in helping with the transition, you are invited to join us.

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