Friday, January 29, 2010

Calendar: Ghosts in your Genes

The structure of part of a DNA double helixImage via Wikipedia

Many good things happening at the Salem Public Library, but this one stands out:
Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center
Lecture Series

Environment and Disease: The Ghosts in Your Genes

7 p.m. Thursday, February 25, Loucks Auditorium

Dr. Michael Skinner of Washington State University will provide a general overview of endocrine disruptors. He will talk about how his research has shown that environmental factors change the expression of our DNA – but don’t change the underlying DNA sequences – and how these lasti ng eff ects can be passed
on from generation to generation.

Dr. Michael Skinner‘s research has been highlighted in BBC and PBS documentaries and selected in the top 100 discoveries in 2005 and 2007 by Discover.

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

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

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At last: Salem takes halting first steps towards better public outreach

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...This is the standard icon to indicate RSS feeds. Image via Wikipedia

A first step at last.

If you go to the City of Salem webpage and click on the little (nonstandard) orange envelope icon in the top right corner you will go to a subscription management page (which includes an explanation of what an RSS feed is) and you can sign up for one of three feeds (city news (press releases), police news, and fire news).

The implementation so far is clunky and very incomplete -- all the links on all the city's pages take you to the same place (instead of providing you with a feed for that page), the subscription management page, where there are (so far) just the three feeds (general city press releases, fire news, and police news).

So there is not yet a feed for the things that would be most useful to have promptly: land use applications, zoning change requests, development permit applications, etc. Presumably feeds for those are coming --- after all, we're "streamlining" the development ordinances now, so helping citizens learn of proposed land use changes as soon as they are proposed would go a long way toward making the process better.

If these feeds are implemented throughout all the city's web pages with an eye towards helping citizens stay current, these feeds could become quite helpful in promoting timely citizen participation.
Expand/Collapse Question: : 1. What is RSS? ‎(1) RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) feeds are free content feeds from websites that contain article headlines and summaries and links back to full text articles on the web.
Expand/Collapse Question: : 2. What are the benefits of using RSS? ‎(1) RSS is fast and sometimes easier than receiving updates in your email inbox. It doesn't clog your inbox with emails or require you to revisit websites that you're interested in. Instead, the information comes to you when you want it.

Click on the section title link to obtain the RSS URL, which you will see in the "Address" field of your browser. Simply copy this URL and follow the instructions for your particular news reader to subscribe.

Expand/Collapse Question: : 3. What tools do I need to use RSS? ‎(1) To start using RSS, you need a special news reader or aggregator that displays RSS content feeds from websites you select. There are many different news readers available, many of which are free of charge. Most are available as desktop software that you download and install on your computer.

There are some email programs that can handle RSS feeds (e.g., Thunderbird, Outlook, Groupwise, ...), there are browser-based plug-ins or extensions (e.g., Firefox, IE, ...) or self-contained applications to install (e.g., Feedreader). Another way for you to read feeds would be through a Web-based solution (e.g., Some programs are free and some charge a fee, so be sure to read the fine print on the software before installing it.

Several Web-based news readers are available as well.

List of news readers (Yahoo)
List of news readers (Google)

Once you have set up your news reader, you simply subscribe to the RSS content feeds you want.

The person to thank and to contact to suggest improvements is
Mike Gotterba, CSP
City of Salem
555 Liberty Street SE, Room 325
Salem, OR 97301-3503
503-588-6211 or
503-588-6255 or
cell 503-949-1015
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A serious message for the Dems

Possibly NSFW, depending on where you W.

The Healing of America: The one health care book to read if you're reading only one

Americans, learn from others?!? Are you mad? But seriously folks, great book.

He's an engaging writer and, in a fairly short book, manages to provide both a great overview of the principal systems for financing health care and a down-to-earth level view of how the systems work in practice (a perspective gained by actually seeking and getting, or not getting as the case might be, care in each of the countries).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One for Every Block Please!

Very nice.

Salem's One Fair World - Helping Haitian artisans

Immediate disaster aid is fine and necessary --- but even better to address poverty all the time by helping artisans get a fair price for their work, enabling them to escape aid dependency and to build a better life for themselves. One Fair World, Salem's nonprofit fair trade goods store (474 Court St., is an important part of that better way. Without a reliable market for their goods, artisans in impoverished countries have no way to provide for themselves:

Why CO2 cap and trade is a scam to allow Business as Usual

P.S. Warmest decade on record just concluded.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What LEED needs to become to become relevant

Tree Hugger - It is hard to believe, but this "mountain hut" in Austria needs next to no heating; it is all done with body heat, cooking heat and passive solar heat. it is an example of a Passivhaus design, built to a standard developed by the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, based on the work of Dr. Wolfgang Feist.

Green Builiding Advisor - An energy-efficient house without solar equipment. Designed by architect Christoph Schulte, this superinsulated home was the first Passivhaus building in Bremen, Germany.

More and more designers of high-performance homes are buzzing about a superinsulation standard developed in Germany, the Passivhaus standard. The standard has been promoted for over a decade by the Passivhaus Institut, a private research and consulting center in Darmstadt, Germany. . .

The Passivhaus standard is a residential construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor

Unlike most U.S. standards for energy-efficient homes, the Passivhaus standard governs not just heating and cooling energy, but overall building energy use, including base load electricity use and energy used for domestic hot water. . .

Although the Passivhaus Institut recommends that window area and orientation be optimized for passive solar gain, the institute's engineers have concluded, based on computer modeling and field monitoring, that passive solar details are far less important than airtightness and insulation R-value. . .

In Europe, most homes are heated with a boiler connected to a hydronic distribution system. Since residential forced-air heating systems are almost unknown in Europe, many Passivhaus advocates declare that their houses "have no need for a conventional heating system"ˇ - a statement that reflects the European view that forced-air heat distribution systems are "unconventional."ˇ

Thursday, January 21, 2010

UPDATE: It's not just the heat, it's the acidity (Part II)

pH scale showing common substancesImage via Wikipedia

Ho-hum, just another sign that we're approaching a collapse in the ecosystem in which all terrestrial life ultimately depends, no biggie ...
In addition to contributing to a global greenhouse effect, some of the carbon dioxide from cars, factories and power plants dissolves in the ocean, creating the same carbonic acid that gives soda pop its tang. The process makes seawater slightly more acidic, and also gobbles up carbonate, a basic building block of seashells.

The result can be an environment where shells dissolve, destroying plankton, marine snails and other small creatures that sustain the rest of the marine food web. Acidified water also can kill fish eggs and larvae.

Byrne and his colleagues developed a more precise way to measure pH, using a dye that turns from purple to bright yellow as acidity increases. On board the ship, they used instruments called spectrophotometers to measure the color change and nail pH levels 10 times more accurately than possible before.

Debby Ianson, an ocean climate modeler for Canada's Institute of Ocean Sciences who was not involved in the project, said the approach is a good one. "We need studies like this," she wrote in an e-mail.

As expected, the researchers found acidification was strongest in the top layer of water, closest to the atmosphere. Normal seawater is slightly alkaline, with a pH value of about 8. Over the past 15 years, average pH levels in the top 300 feet of the ocean dropped 0.026 pH units. That sounds tiny, but is equivalent to a 6 percent jump in acidity, Byrne said.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Time for a Repost: crucial 11 minute video

On the heels of Greg Craven's great talk in Salem last night, I was moved to dig up this video, posted a couple years ago -- about 11 minutes. Helps inform your exploration of "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" as Greg's excellent book puts it.

Update on Oregon's #1 Polluter: Too Little, Too Late

A coal-fired thermal power station. 1. Cooling...A coal power plant: Schematic for a weapon of global mass destruction. Image via Wikipedia

While it's somewhat good news that PGE is now proposing to shutdown Boardman, Oregon's top pollution source, in 2020, that's at least six years too late. The right answer remains 2014 at the latest.

Note that Salem's own M. Lee Pelton, President of Willamette University, earns a very handsome fee for sitting on the PGE Board. When you see him around, you might ask him why PGE claims to need a decade to convert Boardman to natural gas when everyone else around the world can get gas turbines built in two years or less (especially when siting them in an existing power plant facility) -- and ask him what he's going to tell his children and grandchildren about PGE's lackadaisical non-rush to get off coal in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for our urgent need to do so ASAP.

Here's an update from Environment Oregon.
Over the winter holidays, you took action asking the U.S. EPA to adopt the nation’s first major greenhouse gas regulations. I want to update you on several great things that have happened since.

On December 22, 2009, Environment Oregon and our citizen outreach team released its “America’s Biggest Polluters” report. The report highlighted Oregon’s biggest polluter, Portland General Electric’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon. Our press conference was a lot of fun with Santa Claus checking his list, checking it twice, finding the Boardman coal plant naughty, not nice. Also speaking was Jocelyn Orr, who is one of our citizen outreach directors; Robin Everett of the Sierra Club; and of course myself. You can watch a video of the press conference at Our report was also covered by The Oregonian and the Willamette Week.

Going into the Copenhagen climate summit, we knew that states had already made serious commitments to reducing global warming pollution, and our report showed that these state climate policies meant the Obama Administration was well- positioned to put down serious commitments to the international community. An important lesson was learned at Copenhagen: the world’s states and provinces will remain the laboratories of democracy and innovation in our fight to reduce global warming pollution.

The biggest thing happening right now in Oregon to combat global warming is the effort to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant. It’s amazing that as much wind and hydro power our state has, 40% of our energy still comes from coal, and nearly a third of that pollution is from PGE’s Boardman power plant. In addition, the Boardman coal plant has spewed out mercury-forming toxic air pollution that exceeds Clean Air Act levels for decades.

Environment Oregon, Sierra Club, Citizens’ Utility Board, Northwest Energy Coalition, Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ecumenical Ministries, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and many other organizations have been fighting to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant by 2014. PGE 30-year plan for its power generation is under review by the Public Utility Commission right now and PGE’s plan is to continue operating the Boardman plant over that timeframe.

Operating Boardman past 2014, let alone all the way to 2040, is simply unacceptable. PGE’s own plans, and our studies, demonstrate the most cost-effective year to shutdown Boardman is in 2014. The electricity can be replaced with a mix of efficiency, wind, solar, natural gas, and biomass. The key is to get these technologies built as quickly as possible.

Last week, we had a tremendous win. PGE announced it would pursue a 2020 shutdown of Boardman. (You can read my statement in reaction here.) While this isn’t nearly soon enough, it’s a great step in the right direction. Over the course of the next three months, Environment Oregon will be focused on drumming up public support from thousands of Oregonians just like you to show PGE and the Public Utility Commission that the public supports a 2014 shutdown.

PGE’s 2020 announcement couldn’t have been done without our support. And not only will we need your continued support for shutting down Boardman, but also for EPA’s ongoing rulemaking to enact the nation’s first greenhouse gas regulations. We’ve sent a few action alerts over the past couple weeks on how Senator Murkowski of Alaska is trying to block the EPA’s action. Hopefully you’ve already sent a message to Senators Merkley and Wyden.

As our campaigns to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant and to enact federal greenhouse gas regulations proceed, I will be sure to keep in touch. In the meantime, keep reading the papers. I expect you will see our name frequently.

Brock Howell
State Policy Advocate
Environment Oregon
1536 SE 11th Avenue, Suite B
Portland, Oregon 97214
Cell: (503) 421-9936
Work: (503) 231-1986 x314
Fax: (503) 231-4007
Twitter: http://twitter/enviroregon
UPDATE: Letter to the Editor -- Well said!
Here they go again

PGE's announced plan to shut down Boardman in 2020 reminds me of Yogi Berra's quote, "deja vu all over again." In 1992, two ballot measures proposed to permanently shut down the Trojan Nuclear Plant due to a lack of high-level nuclear waste disposal and persistent corrosion in Trojan's steam generator tubes. PGE had operated Trojan for 16 years and desperately sought to keep it open. Yet four months before the election, it announced it would voluntarily shut it down in 1996 and any effort to close it before that time would cause massive cost increases, combined with blackouts and brownouts. Both ballot measures failed.

Six days after the election, a radioactive leak from a steam generator tube shut down Trojan. Then a leak from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission showed that NRC scientists had opposed a waiver allowing Trojan to operate in 1992 with its deteriorating steam generator tubes. On Jan. 3, 1993, PGE permanently shut down Trojan. No massive cost increases, blackouts or brownouts occurred.

Fast forward to Boardman. This coal plant is a dangerous polluter and the risk of catastrophic climate change is driven in part by the 5 million tons of carbon dioxide that Boardman emits annually. According to many scientists, we do not have much to time to prevent a tipping point in global warming. While PGE willingly admits that this warming is taking place, its actions are similar to the case of Trojan.

We should not let PGE gamble with our future. It has had more than enough time to massively invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Operating Boardman until 2020 spews 30 million more tons of carbon into the atmosphere, lasting a thousand years. The Sierra Club analysis is correct. PGE should close Boardman in 2014.

The writer is executive director of the Oregon Conservancy Foundation.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A harbinger of Spring's Abundance: Minto Island Growers CSA Signup

The Willamette River ValleyImage via Wikipedia

Salem is smack dab in the middle of the Willamette Valley and its superb growing conditions for myriad crops and animals. Living here means that, compared to most places, it's easy to enjoy food that is far fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than people can get elsewhere.

One of the best ways to do that is to join in as part of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) venture, such as the one offered by Minto Island Growers here within the Salem city limits. CSAs are different, because you're not a mere customer -- you're a shareholder, an investor who provides two vital ingredients for a successful small farm: patient capital and an eager market. Unlike a customer who trades cash for produce at the store (often from California, Chile, or even beyond), a CSA shareholder is an integral part of the operation, because you join the CSA and invest your capital up front, assuming some of the risk of the farming operation, while gaining the benefits of abundance and making small, human-scale farming remain possible in these days of very high land costs and excruciatingly tight lending.

In return for your capital investment, you get a regular produce box of whatever is in season, typically once a week in June - October, where your investment is more than repaid with interest with fresh, just-picked fruits and vegetables from right near home. You are still investing, not buying -- if there's bad weather and production is down, you will get a smaller box, and maybe some crops will fail entirely. But, on the other hand, when conditions are good, as they so often are here, you will get way more than the value of your investment share back as ultra-good eating.

CSA share investment opportunities go fast, because many people are learning to recognize a good deal when they see it, despite its slightly unconventional nature. There may be a few shares left in the Minto Island Growers' CSA -- check with them first. (And check out their newsletters from years past, where you can see the contents of each week's produce box.) But if not, keep looking and asking around--the more of us that want better food, the more people will want to provide it, and together we can restore local, responsibly grown food to our tables.

Another good way to promote good food is to help support the Salem Saturday Market by joining with and volunteering with the Friends of Salem Saturday Market. It's a fun group of local folks who are intent on polishing our local market, already a gem, into something even finer. They're looking for more folks to help out, and it's a great way for you to get plugged into the local food scene.
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Good rundown on our peak oil predicament

A bouncing ball captured with a stroboscopic f...Follow the bouncing economy -- oil prices drop, demand rises, prices spike, sending demand down with prices to follow, and so on. Note that the "good times" get less good each iteration of the cycle. Image via Wikipedia

Just like the Butterscotch Man couldn't run till he got warm and could only get warm by running, we're in a fix -- now that the easy oil is gone, the cost of getting the remaining (deeper, more distant, more sour) oil translates into a price that the economy can't sustain.

Excellent writeup on this in the mainstream press here.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Speaking of Limits to Growth

A LOVESalem foreign correspondent (from Bellingham, WA) writes:
With one minor exception, this well-written article is my public presentation in a nutshell. We cannot burn carbon we don't have, and carbon we cannot burn cannot contribute to global climate change. Furthermore, stimulus to make tons of green widgets at a time of declining energy supplies cannot succeed unless we deliberately reduce energy use (and economic activity) elsewhere in the 'economy.' Bad things are already happening in the world because of human-induced climate change, and I don't doubt we will burn as much of the remaining carbon as we're able, thereby causing even worse effects as we continue our grand climate experiment. However, some of the wilder climate possibilities constantly referred to in Copenhagen would require continued exponential growth (hence energy use) for the remainder of this century - and that is impossible. As Chris points out, creating a totally new energy infrastructure has always taken 2-3 decades - and that was in times of economic growth. The infamous 2005 Hirsch report emphasized that unfortunate constraint and warned of impending economic disaster because of the (then) upcoming oil peak; five years have now passed and we've basically made zero progress in creating any new energy sources and had one large economic hiccup. We've also bumped up against one of the limits to growth (oil supply), and it was unpleasant; soon our 'recovery' will bump into it again (if that recovery is actually real).

The one minor exception occurs in the very last part of the article, where Chris implies a need to reduce population. If he had read Catton's books "Overshoot" and "Bottleneck" he'd be able to complete the argument - that peak everything includes food and people (but apparently not fantasy). In the end, nature has always had her way, and always will. What we can do is guide as many toward that bottleneck as we're able to influence, and try to re-learn the ways of quasi-sustainable production of food and other stuff so that some humans actually pass through Catton's bottleneck.

Coincidentally, in a few hours I'll be attending a presentation continuing a topic from 2 months ago put on by a group calling itself "Great Decisions" - on the subject of the world food crisis. Fred Berman, a local "small" farmer and eatery owner, is presenting. - tooj
I'm not as optimistic as he is about economic collapse preventing us from the worst scenarios of runaway climate change --- recall that, because coal is so filthy, the UK is still the nation responsible for the largest share of the carbon emissions that are destabilizing our climate, even though the size of the UK was never large relative to the size of the US economy, much less the global economy of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

In other words, there are those who say economic collapse will save us from the worst because of reduced carbon emissions. I think it more likely that the dominant paradigm (that it's possible to have this thing called an "economy" that can exist and be healthy in a world of collapsing ecosystems) will continue long enough to burn enough coal that we'll see emissions go up even as economic activity goes down. If that's the case ... I'm reminded of Khrushchev's warning that, in the wake of atomic warfare, "the living will envy the dead."

UPDATE: I skipped a step -- remember, essentially all the IPCC projections IGNORE feedbacks from melting tundra and offshore methane clathrates, both of which are huge, huge, huge stockpiles of a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 is. We're already seeing arctic melting in Alaska, Siberia etc., and we're finding more and more methane bubbles all the time. As the atmosphere warms, the tundra will be releasing ever-greater volumes of methane into the atmosphere, accelerating the process. Once we warm the shallow oceans off the continental shelves, where the methane trapped in ice crystals is stored, then it's all bets are off for climate, as we have no solid way to know how many other feedback loops we'll trigger, including (in addition to those above), forest fires -- huge carbon reservoirs "drained to the atmosphere" in days, and droughts destroying tropical forests -- releasing all the trapped carbon in the soils.

Don't forget tonight, 1/19, at Salem Public Library at 6:30 p.m.

A talk by Greg Craven, creator of "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See" and the author of the excellent book "What's The Worst That Could Happen: A rational response to the climate change debate."

What higher ed will look like in a post-carbon world: The Communiversity

The "education bubble" -- characterized by the sprawling mismatch between the costs and benefits of higher education -- is going to pop because the only way the bubble can stay inflated is by piggybacking on other bubbles, the kind that have been popping left and right lately, and that seem highly unlikely to be able to reinflate now that we are comprehensively broke and without the cheap energy bonanza that, for the last two centuries, made "growth" nearly effortless.

UPDATE: Moody's doesn't like the prospects for higher ed either.

To a great extent, an abundance of wealth--the kind that supports institutions of higher ed--is nothing but a marker for the presence of an abundance of cheap energy. In fact, one would not be far wrong to state that money is little more than an accounting trick for tracking society's total throughput of energy. Only problem is that money, the accounting trick, appears to remain even after the energy has been converted from a useful, high-quality, low-entropy form into waste heat or waste materials. Thus, as we've ridden up the peak energy mountain, we've created a bigger and bigger mountain of money to account for all that energy. Now that the net energy available for use is declining faster and faster, the money is becoming, shall we say, dubious. Sure we'd all like some to use right away, but the days of intelligent people telling kids to assume tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for "an education" are rapidly drawing to a close.

It's interesting to reflect on how we'll recover from our fling with mass higher education -- here's one prospect for the future of higher education for a post-carbon world.

An intriguing experiment in community-oriented higher education is coming to Sandpoint, Idaho: it’s called the Communiversity. It’s not a college. It’s a cross-generational, interdisciplinary learning center.

From the Bonner County Daily Bee:

SANDPOINT — No one is using qualifying phrases like “instead of” or “apart from.” To the contrary, members of the local business, education and government communities are careful to note that they believe a proposed new plan for higher education will complement, not compete with, the Wild Rose Foundation’s pledge to build a University of Idaho campus here.

But with that plan on the back burner for more than two years now, excitement has shifted to a wholly different kind of university concept.

“It’s called a ‘Communiversity,’” said Connie Kimble, who oversees the individualized occupational training for the work-based learning program at Sandpoint High School. “It’s the same idea we’ve been talking about for years.

“The Wild Rose Foundation wanted to build a campus, but got stopped because of economic reasons,” she added. “In that case, a single entity would have driven things, but under this model, the community drives it.”

Kimble first heard about the Communiversity concept while attending an education seminar in Atlanta. The first such institution, she learned, got underway in 2005 when a Georgia firm called the Warren Featherbone Company donated 127,000 square feet of unused manufacturing space on seven acres of land to create a community learning center in Gainesville, Geo.

By the following year, the City of Gainesville had partnered with surrounding communities, as well as nearby Brenau University, the Lanier Technical College and the Georgia Power Company, to bring multiple financial and educational resources together under the single umbrella of the Featherbone Communiversity. Along with degree-oriented classes, the campus offered myriad continuing education and special interest courses, coupled with a business incubator that helped carry entrepreneurial dreams forward and an interactive children’s “Imaginarium” designed to spark a lifelong passion for learning.

Kimble returned from Atlanta convinced that she had seen the direction for higher education in her own community.

Quick, easy, humane mousetrap

A vicious killing was recently reported close to LOVESalem HQ -- of an errant mouse who found its way into the house of a person who very strongly preferred otherwise.

Well, timely this then. Click the illustration to go to the writeup.

Monday, January 18, 2010

To be ignorant of history is to remain forever childlike

The State of Oregon and the Washington Territo...Image via Wikipedia

A LOVESalem field correspondent sends news of this delightful citizen-powered community building project:
Local historian Virginia Green and the Salem Heritage Network (SHN, pronounced "Shine") are proud to present "Shine on Salem 150." This project will highlight 150 years of Salem government, culminating on Oct. 22, 2010: the 150th anniversary of Salem's city charter.

Join us each day on the SHN blog as we highlight one year in Salem history. Each day, we will also provide a different event, meeting, visit or other activity for Salem residents to learn and participate in their city.

Visit the Salem Heritage Network blog every day starting Monday, January 22, to learn new tidbits about the City of Salem and find interesting things to do:

A press release follows below. For more information, please contact Virginia Green at or (503) 581-6221.

Stephanie Matlock Allen
Salem Heritage Network

SHINE on Salem 150

Beginning on January 22, 2010. Salem Heritage Network will begin highlighting each of the 150 years of Salem’s municipal history, one year each day, continuing for 150 days.

Each day’s feature will be headed by the year, followed by a notation of two or three important world events of that year.

Next will be an illustration of a local event in that year. The black and white historical photographs are from the Oregon Historical Photograph Collections of the Salem Public Library, administered by volunteers led by Don Christensen. Tom Green, Jr. took the contemporary color photographs.

The historical event will be described in a brief paragraph.

The feature will conclude with the location of the photograph and an invitation to visit the present-day site or to attend a civic activity associated with this event.

Since this is an internet blog, there is opportunity for comments by any viewer. It is hoped that this will become a community effort, with many new events and personalities added.

The purpose of this feature is not only to recall local historical events, but also to introduce the city government itself. Several Departments, as well as Boards and Commissions, have offered information about their founding and their activities.

Both our cultural heritage and the present organization of our city government are very much part of our daily lives. This online feature can suggest ways to participate in our current community services and help direct the course of our city’s future ~ perhaps for the next 150 years.

Some history

Salem began in 1842 as a classroom, the Oregon Institute, now Willamette University. The pioneering Methodist missionaries founded the school. In that year their settlement near Wheatland was moved to Mill Creek.

In 1844, the church discontinued the mission and appointed William Willson as agent to sell off lots to "worthy individuals" in order to raise money for the Institute and attract settlers to the new town, which they named Salem. Willson drew up the first plat of Salem, covering an area thirteen blocks by five blocks, bounded by the Willamette River and Mission, Church, and Division streets. The Marion County Clerk recorded the plat in 1850.

Salem became the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851. The Oregon Territory became a state in 1859. The process of Salem’s incorporation as a city began in 1857, but was a controversial issue, and the charter was not granted until October 22, 1860, 150 years ago. This is the date we are celebrating on the website as the feature “SHINE on Salem 150.”
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Bloomington shows how it's done: Preparing for the Post-Oil World

Bloomington, Indiana's peak oil task force report starts with this great attention getting page:

oil is everywhere

roofing paper ● heart valves ● asphalt ● crayons ● parachutes
telephones ● dishwashing liquid ● transparent tape ● antiseptics
purses ● deodorant ● panty hose ● air conditioners ● shower
curtains ● shoes ● volleyballs ● electrician's tape ● floor wax
lipstick ● synthetic clothing ● coal extraction and processing
bubble gum ● running shoes ● car bodies ● tires ● house paint
hair dryers ● pens ● ammonia ● eyeglasses ● contacts ● insect
repellent ● fertilizers ● hair coloring ●movie film ● ice chests
loudspeakers ● basketballs ● footballs, ● combs/brushes
linoleum ● fishing rods ● rubber boots ● water pipes ● motorcycle
helmets ● fishing lures ● petroleum jelly ● lip balm
antihistamines ● golf balls ● dice ● insulation ● trash bags
rubber cement ● cold cream ● umbrellas ● inks of all types ● paint
brushes ● hearing aids ● compact discs ● mops ● bandages
artificial turf ● cameras ● glue ● shoe polish ● caulking ● tape
recorders ● stereos ● plywood ● adhesives ● toilet seats ● car
batteries ● candles ● refrigerator seals ● carpet ● cortisone
vaporizers ● solvents ● nail polish ● denture adhesives ● balloons
boats ● dresses ● non-cotton shirts ● perfumes ● toothpaste
plastic forks ● hair curlers ● plastic cups ● electric blankets ● oil
filters ● floor wax ● Ping-Pong paddles ● bras ● water skis
upholstery ● chewing gum ● thermos bottles ● plastic chairs
plastic wrap ● rubber bands ● computers ● gasoline ● diesel fuel
kerosene heating oil ● motor oil ● jet fuel ● marine diesel and butane.

Thanks to Goal One Coalition blog for pointing it out -- as GOC says, the Bloomington folks did a fantastic job:

The Task Force report – Redefining Prosperity: Energy Descent and Community Resilience - calls for a reduction in community oil consumption by 5% per year in an effort to realize a 50 percent decrease in consumption in just 14 years. The targeted rate of decrease in oil consumption is along the lines laid out by the oil depletion protocol.

Suggested strategies for achieving the reduced fuel consumption goals include:

  • Explore new energy sources, greater efficiencies and conservation opportunities for the following energy-intensive municipal services: water and wastewater treatment; law enforcement and fire protection; heating and cooling municipal buildings; and trash removal and recycling. Immediate attention should be given to off-grid water production to meet minimum community needs.

  • Promote economic relocalization. Our community’s reliance on a steady supply of inexpensive goods from as far as halfway around the world makes us vulnerable to a decline in inexpensive oil and/or shortages. Producing and processing more goods within the community fosters greater security in a post-peak world while strengthening the local economy.

  • Intensify the City’s emerging focus on form-based development, so that residents can easily live within walking distance of daily needs, such as grocery stores, schools and pharmacies.

  • Increase home energy conservation and aim to retrofit 5 percent of housing per year.

  • Establish community cooperative rideshare programs.

  • Advocate for greater local, state and federal funding for public transit.

  • Accelerate local food production by training more urban farmers and removing legal, institutional and cultural barriers to farming within the city.

  • Plant edible landscapes throughout the city.

The Task Force’s vision is for a city where “most residents live within walking distance of daily needs; most of the food required to feed residents is grown within Monroe County; residents can easily and conveniently get where they need to go on bike, foot or public transit; most of the community’s housing stock is retrofit for energy efficiency; and local government provides high-quality services to its residents while using less fossil fuel energy.”

(h/t to Goal One)

Great idea!

Until the cars stop running, we'll have to share most roads with them. Here's a very nice urban detail that will make that wait much nicer.

(h/t Progressive Review)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lest we forget: The Klan in Oregon

PULASKI, TN - JULY 11: Fraternal White Knights...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As part of the week-long Willamette University MLK Celebration 2010, Salem Public Library will host a screening of The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon 1920-1923. The newest release of local documentarian Thomas Coulter, the film details the meteoric rise of Klan activity in communities around Oregon in the 1920s.

7 p.m. Wednesday, January 20
Loucks Auditorium at Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. SE
Free and open to the public

Following the screening, Coulter will be joined by Willamette University Professor of English and Film Ken Nolley, local historian John Ritter and community member Willie Richardson for a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with the audience.

The evening is sponsored by the City of Salem Human Rights & Relations Advisory Commission, and the Willamette University‘s MLK Celebration 2010 Committee and the College of Law. More information about the event is available from the City of Salem’s Human Rights & Relations Office at 503-540-2371.

More information about all the activities planned from January 18-28 in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is available online at or from Willamette’s Office of Multicultural Affairs at 503-370-6265.
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Another Capitol Idea: Madison, Wis. leads the way on reusing schools


A project that will transform a vacant school building on Madison’s Southside into a state-of-the art urban agriculture and community center campus.

The exterior areas of the site will include the following components:

Community Gardens serving the local neighborhood

Education Gardens serving as an outdoor classroom for students from around Dane County

Edible Landscape including perennials such as nut and fruit trees and berries

Innovative Storm Water Management that views stormwater as a resource

Rain Gardens for infiltration of stormwater

Permeable Surfaces for parking and walkways to increase stormwater infiltration


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Decent summary: Answering denialist nonsense

There are a lot of garbage, tin-foil-hat arguments out there purporting to prove that climate change is a fiction cobbled up by the left to provide a reason for establishing control over all aspects of the economy, outlawing freedom, hot dogs, and Chevrolets . . . . You only need to read the Statesman Journal regularly to see a regular parade of them (and not only in letters but also in insane columns by such icons of science as George Will).

Scientific American has a pretty good rundown on these and the responses from, you know, actual scientists.

Also, James Hansen of NASA has an excellent new book out that makes a compelling case for getting off coal ASAP: "Storms of My Grandchildren: The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity. It's not a page turner because of the writing (he's not the most compelling writer) but because of the urgency of his message: we are on a collision course with our own industrial wastes which are likely to force Earth's climate out of its stable, pleasant state and force it into a much more extreme state that we're not going to like very much at all.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Update: more restrictive stryofoam recycling rules?

A LOVESalem community correspondent kindly alerts us to a change in the recycling policy at the Fresh Start market, the only place in town that will accept styrofoam for recycling:
January 11, 2010 - The Fresh Start Market had signs posted on their styrofoam collection bins that they can no longer take anything but the block styrofoam. This must have just happened, I was there before Christmas.
Recall that there were already some restrictions:
Accepted: Only clean, dry block packaging foam, meat trays or egg cartons.
NOT Accepted:
  • Packing peanuts (Call 503-588-5169 for reuse options. Most shipping stores will accept them for free if clean.)
  • Packing foam with tape on it
  • Construction foam
  • Foam that bends in half without snapping
So it appears that we're now down to "Clean, dry block packaging" period. Still, having a convenient cheap way to recycle those infernal things is a real good thing.

Also, while you're at Fresh Start, don't forget to go inside and check out their offerings -- which include Salem's-own Willamette Valley Fruit Company pies and frozen berries at excellent prices! YUM!!

Something to watch for this year

Missed this last year -- will definitely be on the lookout for it this year: Friends of French Prairie's big bash.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One of those times when The Mustache is right

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...Living proof that you can fool some of the people all of the time. Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Friedman is a truly ugly, soul-dead person who will surely roast in eternity for having exulted over the prospect that innocent Iraqis would be slaughtered en masse by an invading US force determined to invade an Arab country -- and he didn't really care which one -- simply to say -- in his words -- "Suck. On. This." to Arabs. Not to mention his criminal writing.

But he's been quite good on energy in the last few years, leaving aside his weird "World is Flat" delusions and recognizing the urgent need for a stiff, rising price on carbon and investments in carbon-free energy. This is one of his better pieces.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

How to have less crime and less punishment

A must-read for times of state budgetary crisis -- which is Oregon's permanent, structural condition. The link above is to a NYT magazine article on the ideas covered in the book (click cover image for more on the book itself).

Every one read this!

And What shall I WriteImage by tomswift46 via Flickr

What a great, humane act of kindness here, by William Zinnser, whose books on writing should be required reading for anyone who goes anywhere near the task of teaching kids anything:
I have four principles of writing good English. They are Clarity, Simplicity, Brevity, and Humanity.

First, Clarity. If it’s not clear you might as well not write it. You might as well stay in bed.

Two: Simplicity. Simple is good. Most students from other countries don’t know that. When I read them a sentence that I admire, a simple sentence with short words, they think I’m joking. “Oh, Mr. Zinsser, you’re so funny,” a bright young woman from Nigeria told me. “If I wrote sentences like that, people would think I’m stupid.” Stupid like Thoreau, I want to say. Or stupid like E. B. White. Or like the King James Bible. Listen to this passage from the book of Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all. [Look at all those wonderful plain nouns: race, battle, bread, riches, favor, time, chance.]

Or stupid like Abraham Lincoln, whom I consider our greatest American writer. Here’s Lincoln addressing the nation in his Second Inaugural Address as president, in 1865, at the end of the long, terrible, exhausting Civil War:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right [eleven straight one-syllable words], let us strive on [active verb] to finish the work we are in, to bind up [active verb] the nation’s wounds, to care [active verb] for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan [specific nouns],—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Here’s another American President, Barack Obama, also a wonderful writer, who modeled his own style on Lincoln’s. In his memoir, Dreams from My Father. a beautifully written book, Obama recalls how, as a boy,

At night, lying in bed, I would let the slogans drift away, to be replaced with a series of images, romantic images, of a past I had never known.

They were of the civil rights movement, mostly, the grainy black-and-white footage that appears every February during Black History Month. . . . A pair of college students . . . placing their orders at a lunch counter teetering on the edge of riot. . . . A county jail bursting with children, their hands clasped together, singing freedom songs.

Such images became a form of prayer for me [beautiful phrase], bolstering my spirits, channeling my emotions in a way that words never could. They told me [active verb] . . . that I wasn’t alone in my particular struggles, and that communities . . . had to be created, fought for, tended like gardens [specific detail]. They expanded or contracted [active verbs] with the dreams of men. . . . In the sit-ins, the marches, the jailhouse songs [specific detail], I saw [active verb] the African-American community becoming more than just the place where you’d been born or the house where you’d been raised [simple nouns: place, house]. . . . Because this community I imagined was still in the making, built on the promise that the larger American community, black, white, and brown, could somehow redefine itself—I believed [active verb] that it might, over time, admit the uniqueness of my own life.

So remember: Simple is good. Writing is not something you have to embroider with fancy stitches to make yourself look smart.

Principle number 3. Brevity. Short is always better than long. Short sentences are better than long sentences. Short words are better than long words. Don’t say currently if you can say now. Don’t say assistance if you can say help. Don’t say numerous if you can say many. Don’t say facilitate if you can say ease. Don’t call someone an individual [five syllables!]; that’s a person, or a man or a woman. Don’t implement or prioritize. Don’t say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation. Writing is talking to someone else on paper or on a screen.

Which brings me to my fourth principle: Humanity. Be yourself. Never try in your writing to be someone you’re not. Your product, finally, is you. Don’t lose that person by putting on airs, trying to sound superior. . . .

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away

Some arrogant outfit called "Clear" -- some sort of wireless internet scam -- sends junk mail to LOVESalem HQ, despite our energetic efforts to get on every "Do Not Call" and "Do Not Mail" list in existence and our total lack of interest in supporting any business that is converting forests to landfill material by sending junk mail to unwelcoming non-customers.

But to top it off, they reveal themselves to be deceptive liars to boot.

In clean, normal-size print in the body of the letter you see this:
CLEAR is simple
Just plug and surf. No appointment, no installation visit and no annual contract required.
But lo! Down at the bottom, in the middle of a dense paragraph SIX-POINT GREY-ON-WHITE-BACKGROUND type, you can, with a magnifying glass and strong lighting, barely make out
Requires $35 activation fee with a one-year agreement.
So just remember: CLEAR -- a firm you clearly don't want to support.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January Best Bet: The Salem talk not to miss

Greg Craven, an Oregon HS teacher in Corvallis, wrote the one book to read on climate change if you're reading only one -- a concise, well-written, often amusing, and compelling argument for getting off the dime on responding to climate change.

He's going to speak here in Salem at an Audubon Society meeting and YOU are invited to attend this free event.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Audubon Society, Salem Chapter Meeting

Greg Craven will focus on the central themes of his just published book, "What's The Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate." He offers a concise way of thinking and making decisions about climate change amidst all the claims and counterclaims.

Bill McKibben, long time environmental activist and author, has said, "The book trumps most of our accounts of the global warming crisis, partly for its good humor and straight forward logic and partly because the author has actually figured out what actions make sense."

Greg Craven graduated from the University of Puget Sound with majors in Asian Studies and Computer Science and from Willamette University with a Master of Arts in Teaching.

Audubon Society chapter meetings are held in the Anderson Room, in the basement at the Salem Public Library on Liberty at 6:30 PM and the program generally starts around 7 PM.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Salem's Third Auto Bridge Fantasy is Finished. Kaput.

Predicted Sea Level Rise by 2100Image by climatesafety via Flickr

Story here.
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Community garden for McRae Park?

Community GardenAn example of a community garden. Image by Sbocaj via Flickr

Residents of Northeast Neighbors (NEN) should note the following alert and call for feedback:
NEN Board seeks neighborhood input on idea for community garden in McRae Park

This fall, the City of Salem asked for ideas for Salem Park Improvement Fund (SPIF) projects, as the first step towards awarding what is expected to be around $60,000 in matching funds for projects in Salem parks. In October, the NEN Board passed a proposal to submit for review the general idea of converting the north-most section of McRae Park (where the horseshoe pits are now, north of the paved path) into a community garden area.

The SPIF reviewers have evaluated the ideas that various neighborhood associations submitted (an estimated $150,000 worth) and are preparing to call for the actual
applications towards the end of January 2010. A big part of the scoring for SPIF grant applications will be the level of support in the neighborhood for the proposed projects. So that's what we'd like to hear from you -- what you would see as the pros and cons of the idea.

Community gardens are typically mechanically deep-tilled by machine once a year, in the spring when the ground is dry enough to be worked. Compost is normally applied to all the plots at once, either along with the spring tilling or during the fall garden cleanup.

Except for tilling and composting, each gardener works their own plot, deciding what to plant and taking care of all the tending (weeding, watering, harvesting), although it's common for gardeners to help each other too. The gardeners work together to decide on things like the kinds of sprays and fertilizers that can be used, how big plots should be, how plots should be assigned, requirements for work parties, etc.

What would you think if the northern-most part of McRae park was turned into a community garden area, where people could grow annual flowers and vegetables in small plots? Note that this would require either totally removing or relocating the horseshoe pits within the park. The initial project costs, which would be funded from the SPIF grant, matched with volunteer labor, would include running a water source to the garden area, building some kind of secure storage for garden tools (probably just a secure fenced enclosure), and creating a bin system for recycling and reusing composted plant waste that the garden would generate. [Ongoing costs for city water would be paid by the gardeners at the site.]

The NEN Board will discuss this idea further and plans to decide whether to move forward with the SPIF application at the January 19th evening meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Willson House on Center Street. If you want to offer encouragement or raise concerns about the idea, you are invited to attend that meeting. If you are unable to attend but want to offer your views, you can contact any of the NEN board members and they will ensure that your thoughts are part of the discussion.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts about this idea.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

gallons per mile better than miles per gallon

A gas can that has a marked capacity of one U....Image via Wikipedia

Although many of our problems are not easily solved, we can still make progress on most by paying attention to how our human perceptions and ways of thinking --- evolved for a very different, non-technological environment --- deceive us.


Duke University - Posting a vehicle's fuel efficiency in "gallons per mile" rather than "miles per gallon" would help consumers make better decisions about car purchases and environmental impact, researchers from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business report in the June 20 issue of Science magazine.

Inspired by debates they had while carpooling in a hybrid car, management professors Richard Larrick and Jack Soll ran a series of experiments showing that the current standard, miles per gallon or mpg, leads consumers to believe that fuel consumption is reduced at an even rate as efficiency improves. People presented with a series of car choices in which fuel efficiency was defined in miles per gallon were not able to easily identify the choice that would result in the greatest gains in fuel efficiency.

For example, most people ranked an improvement from 34 to 50 mpg as saving more gas over 10,000 miles than an improvement from 18 to 28 mpg, even though the latter saves twice as much gas. (Going from 34 to 50 mpg saves 94 gallons; but from 18 to 28 mpg saves 198 gallons).

These mistaken impressions were corrected, however, when participants were presented with fuel efficiency expressed in gallons used per 100 miles rather than mpg. Viewed this way, 18 mpg becomes 5.5 gallons per 100 miles, and 28 mpg is 3.6 gallons per 100 miles â€" saving 2 gallons, which, in today's gas prices, saves $8 over 100 miles and $800 over 10,000 miles. The improvement from 34 to 50 mpg reduces gas consumption from 3 to 2 gallons over 100 miles and saves only half as much gas and money.

"The reality that few people appreciate is that improving fuel efficiency from 10 to 20 mpg is actually a more significant savings than improving from 25 to 50 mpg for the same distance of driving," Larrick said.

Soll noted that replacing a large vehicle that gets 10 mpg with one that gets 20 mpg reduces gas use per 100 miles from 10 gallons to five, a 5-gallon savings. Replacing a small vehicle that gets 25 mpg with one that gets 50 mpg reduces gas use per 100 miles from 4 gallons to 2, a saving of only 2 gallons.

"Miles per gallon is misleading and can play tricks on our intuitions," Soll said.

"For families and other owners of more than one type of vehicle, the greatest fuel savings often comes from improving the efficiency of the less efficient car," Soll added. "When fuel efficiency is expressed as gallons per 100 miles, similar to what is done in other countries, it becomes clear which combination of cars will save a family the most gas.

"We believe that everyone should try to be as fuel efficient as possible. For some people, that may mean driving the most efficient car available, such as a small hybrid car, but for others it may mean finding the most efficient option possible within their chosen class of car," Soll said. "There are significant savings to be had by improving efficiency by even two or three miles per gallon on inefficient cars, but because we communicate in miles per gallon, that savings is not immediately evident to consumers."

The authors recommend that consumer publications and car manufacturers list efficiency in terms of gallons per 10,000 miles driven. "This measure makes it easy to see how much gas one might use in a given year of driving and how much gas, and money, can be saved by opting for a car with greater efficiency," Larrick said.

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