Posts Tagged 'Portland'

Heat Wave: Slow Down

Here in Portland, Oregon we’re expecting 95 degrees today, which for our mild climate is a major heat wave. How to cope with it? I suggest we do what people did for theGlobal Warming Coping Mechanism 99.9% of human history prior to the invention of air conditioners. They slowed their pace down so they wouldn’t overheat themselves. And played in the water whenever possible, like the young lass here running through a sprinker.

Air conditioners use outsized amounts of energy. My home doesn’t have one, but just fans. Even Portland, with the benefit of hydropower from Bonneville Dam, still gets about half of the energy in its grid from coal plants. Coal-burning causes the carbon emissions that cause global warming. We need to reduce our emissions. That’s what all the green fuss is about. Let’s stop fussing and start changing.

I’m frustrated that OregonLive, the online edition of the state’s major newspaper, is carelessly saying on its front page “Crank the AC.” (I just posted a comment challenging that wisdom.) If your health is precarious or you’re prone to heatstroke, AC makes sense. If we’re able-bodied, let’s use the sense God gave you and behave differently at 95 degrees than we would at 65 degrees. That means moving more slowly and being less active than usual. It’s a good time to be languorous instead, and sensual.

For myself, I’m driving in my new hybrid to Opal Creek Ancient Forest for the weekend. Only natural air conditioning there. I’ll go running on the trails and cool off in the creek. The Opal Creek cabins and lodge are actually off the electric grid, using a Pelton wheel micro-hydropowered system supplemented by a good-sized set of photovoltaic panels (solar panels). Is that cool, or what? photo courtesy of adwriter

EcoProm: My Favorite Leaders

Part of the diamond-cut life, in my view, is taking responsibility for our democracy by being politically involved. We need candidates who support sustainability. That plus my fondness for sociability and community is the reason I host a table of ten each year at the EcoProm, also known as the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) ‘s annual dinner for the environment.

Sam Adams and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

City Commissioner Sam Adams has OLCV’s endorsement (also my vote) in the race for mayor of Portland. People say he tends to hold grudges, but I found him gracious and forgiving when I forgot to let him speak last summer at a transportation-options awards meeting. (I apologized profusely.) Sam’s my man.

Jackie Dingfelder, Judy Steigler, and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Jackie Dingfelder, running for Oregon state senator, is on the left and Judy Steigler (center) of Bend is running for the Oregon house of representatives. I got to know Jackie a bit recently at a house party, and discovered she shares my passion for renewable energy, transportation options and green-collar jobs. Judy is on a similar page; they both have OLCV’s endorsement and my own.

Alison Wiley and Scott Bricker at OLCV EcoProm 2008

I first met Scott Bricker, above, when he did legislative affairs for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Now he is its executive director, and Portland, with a whopping 6% of its population commuting via bicycle and another 10% using bikes as their secondary commute-mode, just earned the first Platinum rating in the nation for its bicycle-friendliness. Scott’s excellent leadership has much to do with that.

Chris Smith and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Chris Smith (aka Citizen Smith, above) is running for Portland city commissioner, and is strong on sustainability in general and transportation options in particular. I like both him and another excellent candidate running for the same seat, Amanda Fritz (not pictured).

Katherine Arnold and Alison Wiley at OLCV EcoProm 2008

Katherine Arnold, above, is a Beaverton city commissioner up for re-election, and has OLCV’s endorsement as another green elected official. She is one of the good folks who helped approve my motion for the Leadership Beaverton program to add a Sustainability Day to its curriculum. I had the pleasure of serving with her for a time on the board of Leadership Beaverton (until my new job and commute to Salem led me to resign from that commitment).

My cool blog assistant, professional photographer Hanmi Meyer, took all these photos. Thanks Hanmi!

The Maven of Green Careers

I just received a nice comment from Klara on “Why Bother? Three Great Reasons“. She is moving here to Portland soon and like many Portlanders, new and old, she is passionate about sustainability.

I imagine that also like many, she wants to find green-collar work, i.e. a job in sustainability. I’m going to refer her to a certain career counselor, Vicki Lind, the town’s unofficial maven of jobs in sustainability.

I used Vicki’s services frequently in the several years it took me to transition my career to the cool place it is now, promoting transportation options. Besides doing one on one counseling and job-seeking clubs, she does a one-day workshop for people seeking jobs in sustainability, through The Oregon Natural Step Network. She’s asked me to speak on the panel of people who successfully transitioned their career.

Portland Needs CRAGs, not Craigslist

Don’t get me wrong; I think Craigslist is cool. But I’ve recently learned from the Business of Green blog about CRAGs, which I think are even cooler.

CRAGs are Carbon Rationing Action Groups, active mostly in the United Kingdom, so far. People join to become mutually supportive and accountable about lightening their carbon footprint.

Why do I find this so relevant? All my experience tells me that it’s only when you watch and measure a thing that you reduce it. (A household’s financial spending is one good example.) And the average carbon footprint in the U.S. , roughly 18,000 tons, is about twice that in the U.K., and four times that which CRAG folks generally set as their goal.

Thor’s and my electricity bill shows us our electricity consumption is 53% of the norm in our area. But we don’t have any measuring stick for our transportation emissions, nor any idea of what our green friends’ overall carbon footprints are in relation to ours. Friendly competition can be a fun and healthy thing.

Here are my next steps: I’m going to talk about starting a CRAG with folks at the Alice B. Toeclips bicycling awards event tonight, and my Green Girls dinner group next weekend, and with my new ski-trip friends when we next get together. And I’ll report back within early April about how the CRAG idea is coming along.

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 :).

The Five-Carat Commute

On the first day of my new job in Salem, Oregon yesterday, I left my house in Portland before 6 a.m. and got home about 6:4o p.m. I spent three hours and forty minutes total on the commute, including walking to and from the Capitol Mall to my building.

Ye gads. To think that millions of people around the world do this for decades of their lives in order to earn a living and provide for their families. I respect the patience and tenacity this kind of commuting takes (I have usually taken the bus downtown or worked from home).

So why is mine the five-carat commute? My five carpool partners, who keep me from doing the long drive by myself, save me money and reduce my carbon footprint. (Well, I’ve met two of them so far, since not everyone goes to Salem daily.) They are friendly and fun and make the drive go by quickly. I alternate between conversation, reading and working on my laptop. My quality of life gets to remain high due to my carpool.

To find out how much money you could save by carpooling or using other travel options use this commute calculator. Note: I found my carpool through Carpool Match Northwest.

Focus The Nation: Largest Teach-In In U.S. History

This Thursday evening my husband and I will participate in Focus The Nation, a nonpartisan teach-in and movement to address global warming that has been embraced by Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarznegger and more than 1,600 campuses nationwide.

This makes it the largest teach-in in our nation’s history, which I’d say is a right-sized strategy to deal with the largest problem we’ve ever faced.

Our friends Eban Goodstein, an economics professor, and his wife Chungin have worked (volunteered) their tails off for eighteen months to organize this national teach-in and dialogue with elected politicians about global warming solutions for the U.S.

Do you want effective action on climate change instead of just more and more descriptions of the problem? I suggest you get involved in Focus The Nation, too. If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area then get your free ticket to the January 31st evening event at University of Portland’s Chiles Center. Other locations, click here to see what’s happening near you.