Monday, July 2, 2007

Today's soapbox is decidedly... GREEN!

While I was fussing and cleaning and cooking dinner on Friday night (laying low after a gnarly encounter with some less than perfect Thai food… blah), I was listening to the City Club of Portland on OPB. I would say that 7 times out of 10, I find that program rather dry, and it serves as moderately interesting entertainment when I’m in my car driving somewhere. This past Friday’s topic however, was the future of transportation in our area.

It was neat to listen to the ideas and the concepts that people were throwing back and forth—Cars without drivers on our highways! Sustainable neighborhoods! Truck routes that bypass the city entirely! I felt like I was looking down the maw of a Jetson’s era space-age in which we climb into our cars, type our destination into our GPS-style mapper, crack open a good book, and, Voila!, are transported to our desired location a few minutes later. One of the guests speaking on the show (I missed the portion of the program in which they were introduced) noted that for the last couple of centuries, we’ve experienced a major transportation revolution once ever 50 years. The Car. The Train. The Airplane. Based on this theory, we’re overdue for some sort of major, society-shaping change. Interesting.

The thing that interested me most about the program was a description of a pervasive attitude that many developers and Americans have regarding agricultural land and farm land. This wasn’t something that those being interviewed claimed as their own, but rather something that they discussed.

What is an open field if not a future suburban development? “Empty space” where we find farms and forests is just an up-tapped cash-cow awaiting malls, box stores, parking lots and houses—in short: progress!!

Of course this perspective won’t be anything overt, nor will it be something that I imagine people go about shouting from the hilltops. Driving into Hillsboro and Beaverton from Forest Grove this weekend hammered this impression home to me, however. As we left Orenco Station and close in on the Streets of Tanasbourne, I noticed two or three small, single-family homes. They had yards, garages, driveways, the usual. Yet on either side of these homes leered giant new development. Townhouses, condos, strip malls, parking lots. I felt so sorry for the older couple out watering their lawn in the midst of all this progress.

I think as a society, we’ve forgotten the value of agriculture. Even in our “global society” on a local-level many communities are funded by industries such as farms, ranches, wineries, etc. Those “empty” fields are arteries for families, communities, and who micro-economies. What happens if that goes away? Can you grow wine grapes on the roof of your local Target?

Now, I’m not the more informed individual on this topic. Until I did a Google search of the US Government website, I thought that more than just 3% of Americans were employed in Agricultural labor. It doesn’t change my opinion that it’s important. I think that it’s something worth preserving if we can. Then again, there are a lot of battles out there and a lot of things worth preserving. But we can do our part. Please support legislation that enforces the Portland-area urban growth boundaries! Encourage affordable high-density living in the Portland area. Discourage sprawl! A sprawling cat is cute. Sprawling metro? Not so cute.

Ride your bike! Compost! Buy wind energy! Re-use Ziplocs!

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