Portland

No Exit - How Low Car Life Will Save Portland When The Big One Strikes

No Exit - How Low Car Life Will Save Portland When The Big One Strikes

Bridges will tumble, rail lines will shut off and fuel will run low. But when the Big One strikes, 20-minute neighborhoods, bikes and even food carts may save Portland.

New rankings beg question: what makes Portland sustainable?

Can our ability to live healthily, prosperously and durably over multiple generations (my rough definition of sustainability) be gauged by simply totaling up new construction and how many gizmos it features, dollars spent, and the new kilowatt-hour reducing technology we build? Or should our analysis be a little more complex? Should we explore our actual behaviors, i.e., the actual effectiveness of the programs we incent, the way our buildings - LEED or not - get used and the type of demands we place on our power grid? Wouldn't that be the real measure of sustainability?

My un-scientific, un-journalistic assumption is that Portland would probably end up pretty far ahead on that sort of scale as well, but we -- everyone, but particularly journalists reporting on the environment -- might be well served by asking these sort of questions.

Do what I would do.

I'm going to someplace not Portland this weekend. If you feel like following me, you might head east of Idaho, south of the Hudson Bay, north of Mali and west of Bhutan.

However, if I were staying town, there are a number of things I might do:

  • Check out what the Cascades Volcano Observatory has to say about the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
  • Explore the Sunday Parkways in Northeast.
  • Make up for totally spacing last Saturday on National Train Day and ride the train somewhere.
  • Find a hammock to string up in my yard and whip together some micheladas.
  • Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring after eight years of constantly losing every copy of Tolkein's classic I get.
  • Write letters on my typewriter.
  • Head to the coast and see if there are any last minute yurt cancellations (doubtful).

Have anything else a would-be me should do? Let me know in the comments ... and share some ideas for later, when I'm actually not somewhere that's not where I am right now.

Ducking the Elephant in the Room

The day takes shape slowly. Getting out the door just happens. Once you do the bus is ten minutes late. Then, so is the MAX, but you don't mind. You've been quietly extricating yourself from time. You wait in the chill beneath an interstate, listening to teenagers gossip. Staring at the spikes lining the steel beams beneath the roadway you think perhaps a bit too long about pigeon deterrence.