Posts Tagged 'Oregon'

Jeff Merkley For U.S. Senate

Jeff MerkleyJeff Merkley, of my home state of Oregon, is now one of the top hopes in the nation for the Democrats to take leadership of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday’s election results mean that he’ll be running against Republican incumbent Senator Gordon Smith in the November election. I want him to win!

I’ll be supporting Jeff with dollars and time, and so will my husband Thor. We got to meet him last summer at a big house party in the country. (A great thing about a state the population-size of Oregon is that elected officials and candidates are truly accessible to you.) When I shook his hand and spoke with him I was struck by his kind, sincere, soft-spoken manner. Jeff is not slick, not full of himself, not drunk with dreams of power. And his leadership as Speaker of the Oregon House has been excellent.

In theory, I favor bipartisan politics and avoiding the polarization that our two-party system creates. That’s one reason I support Barack Obama: he is inclusive and not entrenched in ideology. But it’s impossible to ignore that Democrats get global warming, and the urgency of acting on it NOW, while Republicans do not. While I could say the same thing about universal health care, and corporate responsibility, and ending the Iraq war etc., global warming trumps all those issues. Global warming threatens civilization itself, and dealing with it means retooling ourselves into low-carbon lifestyles. It’s doable.

photo courtesy of Thomas Le Ngo

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Driving A Prius In The Wild West

My job in transportation options has taken me, in a new Prius, to the high desert town of Bend, Oregon (recently named by American Cowboy magazine in its Top Ten list of wild-west towns). The Prius, mud-splattered from the Santiam Pass, is now dusted with snow as well, so it reminds me of an Appaloosa pony.

Appaloosa mare running
photo by emokidsdontcryx3

Oh, don’t I wish. Horses are cool.

So my Prius (actually my employer’s, not mine) informs me it is getting 46 miles per gallon on this trip. Excellent mileage compared to SUV’s, and of course with every gallon of gas we burn creating 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, I’m saving a few hundred pounds of emissions over driving an average car. Also, this hybrid handles and performs beautifully, front-wheel drive and all. The Prius is so popular in our motor-pool that I couldn’t extend my use of it to a third day.

The downside of not just the Prius, other hybrids and actually all gas and energy conservation measures is that if we don’t stay conscious of the reality of peak oil, we can easily offset our conservation measures to some degree by then driving or consuming more carelessly. The irony of our nation’s overconsumption is that it does not make us happier. Juliet Schor, the Harvard economist, shows this clearly in her body of research.

Bearing that in mind, I am parking my Appaloosa-colored Prius this afternoon and taking a vanpool with about ten colleagues over to Redmond, saving a few hundred more pounds of emissions. Kind of like taking a stagecoach in the days of the old West. I wish.

Doing The Unthinkable

Every household has its own little culture. Within Thor’s and mine, I did the unthinkable last night: I drove (did not walk) the 3/10 mile from our house over to choir practice.

This was not even in the Prius or other hybrid we have yet to purchase, but in our 1993 Nissan Sentra. As I was stepping out the door to walk to the church, I realized there was a hard, driving rain. Changing into rain gear would make me late. I didn’t want to be either late or soaked, so I jumped into the car for the 3/10 mile journey. Normal in many households; unthinkable in mine.

How would I respond to a ‘normal’ person’s charge of being obsessively PC (politically correct)? Well, my answer is about context and about the dismissive power of labels.

The context is that Portland Oregon (where we live) wins awards for being the Most Sustainable City in the nation. We are ‘early adopters’ in that arena, with excellent public transit, bike lanes, land use and biodiesel availability. So my household makes choices in a city-state context of sustainability.

Concerning the label of PC or any other label: it’s a form of dismissal. For instance, to say that New Yorkers are rude, or Southerners ignorant, dismisses them from further thought. It also makes them lower-than, less worthy than the one labeling them. “Portlanders not wanting to drive? How PC!” — and the speaker and listener toss away the notion of driving less, without thinking about what they’ve tossed.

That thing of not thinking is how we’ve landed in the global warming mess we’re in.

My work-day today involves getting input from my statewide transportation-options group about my idea of an Oregon residential energy tax credit (RETC, rhymes with Betsy) for carpooling, and then meeting up with a leader of the state’s Drive Less, Save More publicity campaign.

And you can bet I will not be driving to those meetings — though I’ll admit to my colleagues my slip-up last night :).

Skiing In A Snowstorm

I just returned from Crater Lake, Oregon, where Thor and I went on a three-day cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trip with a group of 22 organized by Portland Parks and Recreation. It was sparkly, low-consumption, deeply satisfying, a good outing for the diamond-cut life I keep learning how to craft.

To clarify, we had sparkly snow and sun on Sunday, but a snowstorm on Saturday. The conditions were a little scary, actually. To back up, I had only been on skis four times in my life, mostly in high school (three decades ago, now). How was this going to work out?

I almost titled this post “Techno-Dork Goes Skiing In a Snowstorm.” My mechanical and equipment-handling skills are weak, while my athletic ability is strong. I learned later that someone had murmured in the parking lot, “She can’t even handle her ski-bindings; how is she going to keep up?” But I kept up fine, in what a skilled fellow-skier said was intermediate/advanced terrain and conditions.

I think a good life takes certain leaps of faith, whether you’re setting out on a trip with strangers (they soon became my friends) or skiing in a snowstorm (I kept a positive attitude, worked hard and imitated what the experienced people were doing).

The trip was a joy, and I highly recommend these trips to others. With one exception, it embodied my current understanding of the diamond-cut life: being outdoors in the elements, in community with others, locomoting with our bodies rather than engines. I’ll write about the exception later this week.

 

Confession: I Love Church

Most of us have a closeted part of ourselves, a part we don’t readily reveal. For some, it is sexual orientation, or political beliefs. But for me, it is the fact that I love church and love to worship God there, with others.

Why am I shy about this, when I am not known for shyness in general? There’s more than one reason, but just one I can tackle before I walk over to my Methodist church at 6161 SE Stark (I’m writing on Sunday morning).

A progressive church-lover in Portland, Oregon (that would be me) is somewhat like a black person in a white school — prior to integration. There are few of us, and we find ourselves on the defensive. Our progressive friends associate church with political stances toward the poor, for example, that are the polar opposite of what Jesus actually taught. My friends are outraged. And I am too, but at those political stances, not at Jesus or God.

My confession here to the secular blogoshere is that I believe with all my heart in a loving Creator that cherishes you and me and every living thing on earth. At church, I’m practicing that belief. I feel it most strongly while singing the hymns (and if you want to experience some kick-ass lyrics, just pick up a copy of the New Century Hymnal and start reading).

I tell you, a person can find both comfort and fierce joy in this church thing. Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, describes it well in her nonfiction books, and even makes us laugh in the process.

I am a churchgoing believer, at the same time that I’m committed to sustainability and progressive politics. That is my confession. I’ll be delighted if you post a comment. I’ll publish it after I walk back from church. Related post: Consuming Jesus and the Diamond-Cut Life.