|TREES: Transportation, Energy, Environment, Sustainability|
for Peak Oil
Protection and Restoration
for the Year 2025, Region 2050
is not efficiency, it is post-petroleum
June 2006: last gasp?
Sustainability does not mean efficient usage of non-renewable resources. Sustainability is not a hybrid car, or a 100 miles per gallon car - they are efficient, not sustainable.. Sustainability is not rhetoric that promises eventual shifts in City policies, land use codes or governmental budgets.
Sustainability refers to practices that can be continued year after year, generation after generation, without using non-renewable resources (oil, natural gas, minerals) and only using renewable resources at the rate that they are renewed (trees, soils, food, water, etc.)
Modern global industrial civilization is predicated on unsustainability, using an economic paradigm dependent on exponential growth. Virtually no one in the wealthy parts of the world is living "sustainably," although there are many who are trying to live with less impact on the Earth.
Economic sustainability would require us to refocus on local economic stability by supporting local businesses that reinvest their profits in the community. Rhetoric about sustainability that masks proposals for more out-of-state big box development is unlikely to build political support for the needed changes to cope with the looming crises of Peak Oil and climate change. Otherwise, this new rhetoric will be dismissed as mere "greenwash" and about as effective as the new "Lillis" building at the University of Oregon, which has a major part of its solar electric panels in the SHADE .... nice idea, but the implementation was poorly done, and not very effective.
Sustainability does not mean nice words or good intentions -- it refers to practices that your great-great-great-great grandchildren will still be able to do once the oil is gone.
No. 152 - December 2004
Beyond the Peak
Closing Address, by Richard Heinberg, to the First US Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions, Yellow Springs Ohio, November 14, 2004
There are many positive things that the City could do to prepare for Peak Oil.
The CERT program could be expanded to help neighborhood organizations teach gardening skills, energy efficiency, water storage and other tools for community resilience.
Unfortunately, the City's priorities are not for "sustainability" even if there is rhetoric for it.
We're building a new Bus Rapid Transit system next to new parking garages.
I've been in natural food businesses in three states that have been driven under by Whole Foods' predatory business practices -- now, thanks to the City's actions, it looks like that figure will be four.
Whole Foods is notorious for hiring union busters, for firing workers who want workplace democracy. It is not sustainable to ship food from Mexico and Chile to Eugene.
The riverfront property would be best used as urban agriculture, we will need this more than more pavement after it becomes extremely expensive to ship food long distances.
If the City builds more parking garages, gives land to big box developers, paves the riverfront and permits the second hospital north of the river, then I respectfully suggest that the city stop its rhetoric for "sustainability." Good intentions are nice, rhetoric is great, but how budgets are spent and plans are enacted is more important than words.
Sustainability does not mean turning over the entire economy to out of state and transnational corporations who take more out of the community than they put in.
Sustainability refers to practices that your great-great-great-grandchildren could still do.
It does not mean demolishing the Atrium building for a corporate chain store.
It does not mean eminent domain to destroy existing businesses or subsidizing the entrance of corporate predators into the region's economy. The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld a limitation on big boxes that was enacted by Hood River -- any serious and sincere effort for sustainability would include this practical, sensible solution.
You cannot have a mix of sustainability and unsustainability any more than you could have a mix of peeing and no peeing sections in a swimming pool.
Coherence and consistency between rhetoric and policy would be needed for the community to have the opportunity to cope with Peak Oil and climate change.
Finally, if you're going to do any eminent domain downtown, why not take the land from real estate developers who have largely abandoned their properties, and use their properties for the proposed new hospital.
Welcome to Eugene - we have two Wal-Marts!
Amazon Creek and Wal-Mart
A world of franchises - Eugene wants to look like California (this is a photo from the outer suburbs of San Francisco)
published in Eugene Weekly
Mayor Piercy's "Sustainable Business" task force is a project with great intentions that is dangerously misleading.
On Friday, December 30, 2005 task force co-chair Rusty Rexius told the Eugene City Club that the local timber industry was already practicing sustainability. Perhaps he has not seen the massive clearcuts visible from satellites, or is unaware that nearly every timber company in the region is spraying cancer-causing herbicides, even in the watershed that supplies Eugene's drinking water.
At Mayor Piercy's State of the City address, she gave an award to the local Staples franchise, despite the fact that their use of recycled content paper is minimal. (They sold higher content recycled paper and rechargeable batteries for flashlights a decade ago. Staples sells crap made in China, styrofoam cups and toxic cleaners - not sustainability.)
Perhaps these pseudo-environmental efforts misunderstand what "sustainability" means. It does not mean nice rhetoric and smug self-congratulation. It does not mean merely being slightly more efficient in our consumption of non-renewable resources. Sustainability would require living without fossil fuels and other practices that degrade the biosphere’s ability to sustain life. While it is important to recognize steps away from the brink, we must be honest about the vast gulf between our addiction to destructive behaviors and what sustainability would require to implement.
Promoting vague ideals of “sustainability” without making serious changes to City policies, tax codes, building standards, land use patterns and other structural shifts is unlikely to accomplish much. “Sustainability” rhetoric that praises corporate greenwash and deforestation will merely create more cynicism.
The City of Eugene is contemplating free parking for hybrid vehicles. This is an interesting idea, but it should not be confused with the long term goal of sustainability.
Sustainability refers to practices that can be continued generation after generation, beyond the petroleum era.
Hybrid cars that get 20 kilometers to the liter (50 mpg) are innovations to be encouraged, but they are not sustainable, merely an efficient depletion of non-renewable fossil fuels. How will our society use the rest of the oil? more freeway culture or installing solar panels and windmills, a world war to control the oil fields or permaculture for nine billion people? The answer will determine the future of the human race.
If the City of Eugene is really interested in sustainability as something more than a marketing campaign, it would initiate serious efforts to study how the region will cope with declining fossil energy, climate change and possible economic crisis caused by these ecological limitations. Instead, local governments are wasting a million of our tax dollars on a scam called "Region 2050," which pretends to study how we will expand the Eugene/Springfield Urban Growth Boundaries over the next half century while ignoring any suggestions that oil depletion, water scarcity (caused by climate change) and other natural limitations will force an end to what is euphemistically called "growth."
Mayor Piercy could shift Eugene toward sustainability by canceling the City's participation in new and wider freeway projects (the $200 million West Eugene Porkway, I-5 widening plans at Beltline and over the Willamette River), changing the building code to require that new buildings must use solar energy (solar hot water and electric panels, plus passive solar design), and work for bioregional food security (protect all high quality soils, more community gardens, urban fruit trees, etc). Ideally, the new Piercy administration will examine ways to attract renewable energy manufacturers, who are more worthy of public support and more likely to provide long term jobs than the Hyundai/Hynix computer chip factory.
Having everyone live in downtown apartments might reduce the per capita usage of personal automobiles, but it could increase the dependence on transportation systems for food and other necessities if these citizens eat food grown in California, Mexico or Chile, instead of converting their lawn into a garden. A "sustainable" city would be one where a substantial percentage of food is grown in or near the town, something rarely included in surface level descriptions of sustainability.
If the city wants to move toward sustainability, it could change the building code to require passive solar design for new buildings, encourage or require solar panels in new construction, create more community gardens and help teach gardening skills, ban franchise stores and begin a process to attract renewable energy industries to the region. All of these (and many more) policies have been enacted in other communities and there is no technical or legal reason why they could not be implemented here.
Some additional solutions at the local, bio-regional and global levels are posted at www.permatopia.com
Mark Robinowitz, Eugene
Lane County's tourism promotion board claims that Lane County is the "Sustainability County," but in reality it is the "Clearcut" County.
Most of the countryside around Eugene is constantly sprayed by biocides (herbicides, pesticides, etc.)
The clearcuts of Lane County are visible from space.
Lane County is currently planning more highways to pave over natural areas - West Eugene Porkway, I-5 / Beltline expansion, Pioneer Porkway extension (now called MLK Parkway, after a man who said that urban expressways caused racist economic impacts), I-5 Franklin interchange, I-105 extension to Jasper Road (that one is built 100% with County funds), to cite a few examples.
The largest industries in Lane County are deforestation, Recreational Vehicles, and other unsustainable activities.
Eighty percent of Lane County farmland is growing grass seed for export to places like desert cities and China.
Lane County is currently spending a million of our tax dollars making elaborate plans to expand the Urban Growth Boundaries. This "Region 2050" study offers us three nasty proposals to metastasize the metropolitan region, yet pretends that the era of cheap oil will continue unabated by the year 2050. If the Lane County government truly cared about sustainability, they would redesign "Region 2050" to discuss how the bioregion will cope with the decline and end of the Petroleum era, since by 2050, most of the remaining oil on Earth will have been converted to carbon dioxide and toxic wastes.
Proposals to increase "ecotourism" in Lane County are not sustainability. Sustainable tourism is bicycle touring, not taking jet planes to exotic destinations. Perhaps if all of the "eco-tourists" arrived via Amtrak it would be easier to see the environmental label on this promotional effort. There aren't going to be any biodiesel 737s landing at the Eugene airport ... nor hydrogen powered hummers taking these alleged eco-tourists around the county to see our clearcuts. Perhaps the County would do better to refocus its energy on how the region will cope with the end of cheap oil, convert grass farms to growing food, fiber and seed oil, shift economic strategies to support renewable energy production, and other steps to mitigate the crash of petroleum dependency.
The voting records of the County Commission, the pollutants from main industries that run the County, the rates of deforestation in Lane County, and the delusion of its planners to pretend there aren't ecological limits to endless growth show that Lane County is the Clearcut County, not the Sustainability County.