A worldchanging website

The Library has added a really impressive website to its “selections.” The site was brought to our attention by James Meyer of Opsis Architecture, Pringle Creek “Master Architect and Planner, Building Regeneration and Commercial Mixed-use Architect.” In other words, to imagine Pringle Creek without James's input is to start over.

Oh, yeah, the website. It is: WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future.

Interesting, a website with a long subtitle. Perhaps inspired by Borat.

Anyway, WorldChanging.com, whose publisher is Leif Utne, son of the founder of Utne Reader, a progressive magazine from way back,

. . . works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

Informed by that premise, we do our best to bring you links to (and analysis of) those tools, models and ideas in a timely and concise manner.

James Meyer also recommends TED. You might notice TED has a sponsor ad on WorldChanging. TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design." They put on a huge annual program in Monterey, CA, with big name speakers from various disciplines. The beauty part: listen and/or watch the talks from previous years on your computer, or download them to your iPod and listen while on the go. Sure, it would be fun to attend, but who has the time?


SLC Mayor is green innovator

This is a fascinating Grist Magazine interview. Sustainability, smart growth, economic opportunity, stewardship - it's all here. School of Rocky: An interview with Salt Lake City mayor and green innovator Rocky Anderson.

Mayor Anderson cut greenhouse emissions (with lighting retrofits and methane capture at the waste treatment plant and landfill), he enticed businesses to go greener (sending trained staff and volunteers to recommend efficiencies), he made the city more friendly for walkers and cyclists. He had a lot of opposition--but now he's more popular than ever. See what sustainability will do for you?

Some of these solutions are so readily in reach and so economically beneficial, yet still not being embraced by so many governmental entities, at all levels. It is a remnant of this thinking that good environmental practices somehow run counter to good business practices, or economic development interests. But people are starting to understand that good environmental practices, good business practices, and good long-term, sustainable economic development go hand in hand.

Mayor Anderson understands that green practices are economical (some more long-term than others). If it's economical, it's going to be popular across the political spectrum.

Two presentations by architect Nathan Good: An intro and an in-depth

Presented by Nathan Good
Thursday, March 8, 2007 (7:00 - 8:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 10, 2007 (9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)
Both are at the Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street (by Olinger Pool, North Salem HS)

On March 8, Architect Nathan Good will provide an introduction to environmentally benign and energy-efficient home design.

The March 10 presentation will be a more in-depth program, covering everything from site selection, building orientation and design concepts, to material options, indoor air quality and costs. The program will address both new and remodeled homes and is geared to a broad range of participants, including homeowners, builders and real estate professionals.

Nathan Good is the recipient of several design awards, including Sunset Magazine's Western Home Award and the National Association of Home Builders’ Custom Green Home of the Year. Last year, Northwest Home + Garden recognized Good as one of the top 50 architects in the Northwest. His website, www.NathanGoodArchitect.com, includes samples of his work.

[Nathan is Pringle Creek's Carbon-neutral Homes Design Collaborator.]

The presentation, sponsored by the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center and Marion County Public Works – Environmental Services, is free and open to the public. To register, call Jon Yoder at 503-391-4145.


Two new sustainability goals

Submitted by Santiago, Sustainable Living Center director

Pringle Creek will be adding two new "Sustainability Goals" to our list of 35.

36) Harvested Timber Used Onsite. Half-a-dozen fir trees, that either fell naturally during this year's big wind storm or had rotted-out bases and needed to be removed, were brought up the hill, decked and milled last week into dimensional lumber, which we will be able to use onsite. Kevin Caster brought in his portable sawmill and cut the trees into boards and large beams that we will be able to use in houses and buildings at Pringle Creek. Click here to see more pics. This use of onsite material eliminated the need for hauling uncut logs to a mill and back, and turned a "waste product" (problem trees) into the highest, most valuable use (functional lumber). Another example of the concept "waste = food".

37) Create the Edible Landscape. Last week, we planted 200 fruit trees in the community orchards. The early blooming cherry and pear varieties were planted alongside the streets and pathways, so come springtime they will have an incredible visual impact. The long, symmetrical rows make nice view corridors, and the orchards will be a pleasant place to stroll through. The best part, however, is that the landscape is not only beautiful, but functional and productive too. The orchard, combined with the community gardens and 50+ blueberry bushes, gives us an edible landscape and a local source of food that we know for certain will be chemical free and fresh. And it can't get much more local than your own neighborhood. Columnar apples were planted so that, if gardeners want to, they can cultivate between rows for multi-layered, permaculture gardening. Additionally, hedgerows will be planted alongside the gardens and orchards to attract pollinators, provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and act as a wind screen. All of our plants came from local orchard suppliers (the beauty of living in the Willamette Valley). We planted Oregon Curl Free Peach, Bing Cherry, Jubileum Cherry, Stella Cherry, Comice Pear, Chehalis Apple, Enterprise Apple, Liberty Apple, Lodi Apple, Golden Sentinel Apple, North Pole Apple, Brooks Plum and Ubileen Pear.


Energy-intensive food

We hope you’re not already bored by media coverage of global warming, because it’s a topic that is going to be with us for awhile--as in “geologic time”. Energy, environment, population, food, individually and together, will be on the front burner from now on.

We wrote, recently, that buying locally grown food would reduce your carbon footprint. Below, from an interview with Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, some discussion of just how energy-intensive agriculture has become.

McNally: Our current way of feeding ourselves in America is unsustainable. Everything on our plates travels an average of 1,300 miles to get there. We've rigged all of our economic systems and our agricultural systems as if energy would never run out.

Homer-Dixon: Here's a statistic that I came across in writing this book that really astonished me. We've quadrupled the human population in the last century, from 1.5 billion to 6.3 billion, in part because we've had a lot of cheap energy. In particular, that cheap energy has allowed us to increase the amount of energy in our food production systems by 80 fold.

McNally: So it takes 80 times more energy to feed four times more people.

Homer-Dixon: Exactly. We've created a food system, a water system, and cities that are fundamentally dependent upon a resource that is not indefinitely available.

So buy local. Better yet, grow some backyard carrots or participate in Pringle Creek’s community gardens.


Give the people what they want

Atlanta is widely recognized as one of America's best examples of sprawl - but are home buyers really getting what they want? No, according to a new study by Georgia Tech. The study is the subject of this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, Study: Demand for Walkable Communities Unmet (PDF).

Builders of expansive suburban subdivisions may say they're just satisfying market demand, but the market isn't satisfied at all, the study says. Instead, there is a significant, unmet demand for developments that make it easier to walk from place to place.

"In all, about a third of metro Atlantans living in conventional suburban development would have preferred a more walkable environment, but apparently traded it off for other reasons such as affordability, school quality, or perception of crime," the report says. It defines a walkable environment as one in which distances between destinations are comfortably reachable on foot, and the street network is well-connected rather than full of cul-de-sacs.

The researchers also looked for people on the flip side, who may have wanted more of a suburban environment, but that pent-up demand was insignificant, said study author Larry Frank.

People want more from their homes than square footage - 33% of home buyers are looking for walkable neighborhoods with different housing choices and a stronger sense of community.


Straub Lecture

Environmental Changes and Human Well-Being: Information and Hope

Presented by Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Thursday, February 22, 2007, 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Salem Public Library’s Loucks Auditorium

The path-breaking Millennium Ecosystem Assessment synthesizes scientific knowledge about the ways in which people benefit from “ecosystem services” such as water and air purification, climate regulation, the provision of seafood and crops, the protection of coastlines from storm damage, and places to enjoy nature. Professor Jane Lubchenco will discuss the state of ecosystem services and the innovative approaches being used to retain critical services while meeting the needs of current and future generations. A lead author of the assessment, Dr. Lubchenco is Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University. Her many honors include a MacArthur (‘genius’) Fellowship and the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

You might want to put this Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center lecture on your calendar. Dr. Lubchenco was named, in 2002, one of the fifty most important women in science by Discover Magazine. She founded the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program that “teaches outstanding academic environmental scientists to be effective leaders and communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector.” She currently serves as Chair of the Advisory Board.

You may have understood the first time--I didn't--but based on a little reading in Dr. Lubchenco's pages on the OSU website, ecosystem "services" in the above lecture summary refers to beneficial processes that nature has provided. Maybe those services will be diminished if we're not more careful. I'm interested. I'm going.


Complete and compact neighborhoods

Here are a couple related items that demonstrate the great work being done by Sightline Institute (formerly Northwest Environment Watch), a Seattle-based think tank founded in 1993 by Alan Durning. First, from Sightline’s “Daily Score” blog, a post about new research that shows kids grow up healthier in walkable neighborhoods.

That item links to this item from Sightline’s sustainability toolkit, “Build Complete, Compact Communities:”

Growing in well-planned neighborhoods improves our health and economy, saves our time and farmland, strengthens our communities, and conserves our natural areas. Poorly planned growth wastes all those things.

Building complete, compact communities—the opposite of poorly planned sprawl—yields an impressive array of benefits. It multiplies transportation options, allowing northwesterners to rely less on private vehicles and imported fuel.


The IPCC Report: How bad is it, Doc?

Our one and only planet is big, 25,000 miles around, but it has just a tiny little layer of atmosphere. From downtown Salem it’s about the same distance up to outer space as it is sideways to Silverton. Hence, the atmosphere can only take so much human burning. We do a lot of burning. It causes a greenhouse effect and traps heat.

That’s right, it’s us people, almost for sure, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report #4 “Summary for Policy Makers” that was released the other day.

Almost no doubt that people are the cause, so let’s move on to How bad is it? Can we humans prevent major awfulness if we make some changes? This New York Times article, Science Panel Calls Global Warming ‘Unequivocal’ (brought to our attention by Pringle Creek's project architect, Mark Kogut of Opsis; thanks, Mark), provides some analysis of the report's assessment.

[The report] said warming and its harmful consequences could be substantially blunted by prompt action.

While the report provided scant new evidence of a climate apocalypse now, and while it expressly avoided recommending courses of action, officials from the United Nations agencies that created the panel in 1988 said it spoke of the urgent need to limit looming and momentous risks.

Whew, sounds like if we can make some big changes, we can keep the planet comfortable. Some details are provided:

The new report says the global climate is likely to warm 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reach twice the levels of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.

Many energy and environment experts see such a doubling, or worse, as a foregone conclusion after 2050 unless there is a prompt and sustained shift away from the 20th-century pattern of unfettered burning of coal and oil, the main sources of carbon dioxide, and an aggressive expansion of nonpolluting sources of energy.

And the report says there is a more than a 1-in-10 chance of much greater warming, a risk that many experts say is far too high to ignore.

Scary, that last sentence. In another article the NYT talked to more experts who believe the IPCC report is too optimistic: Even Before Its Release, World Climate Report Is Criticized as Too Optimistic.

And here, from the ABC News website,
Climate report fails to highlight extent of global warming, Flannery says.
That is Tim Flannery, paleontologist and mammalogist and author of the excellent book, The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth and here are his alarming words:

But Professor Tim Flannery says the report's findings are conservative and the real impact of global warming will be felt much sooner. "The actual trajectory we've seen in the arctic over the last two years if you follow that, that implies that the arctic ice cap will be gone in the next five to 15 years," he said. "This is an ice cap that's been around for 3 million years."

Finally, to localize the issue of global warming, The Oregonian talked to Washington State Climatologist, Phil Mote, who worked on the IPCC report, for this (also from Mark Kogut) article, Life as we know it gets blame for global warming [no longer available].

The finding [in the IPCC report] is the most definitive to date in declaring that natural climate cycles do not account for the sharp rise in temperatures since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

The claim also has sharp meaning in the Pacific Northwest, which depends heavily on mountain snows and melt-off for its yearlong water supply. Much of that snowpack is now at risk, making this one of the nation's most vulnerable areas to climate change, according to regional scientists contributing to the report.

Although the IPCC's "Summary for Policymakers" does not mention the Northwest, Mote said the implications are clear for a region dependent on winter snowpack for irrigation, power, fish and urban water supplies.

Mote -- the lead author of the yet-to-be-released full report's chapter about snow and ice changes -- said previous studies have shown that the Cascades' snowpack has been decreasing since the 1930s, resulting in lower summer streamflows.

"Those are a primary consequence of a warming climate," said Mote, "and poses challenges for water resource managers, agriculture and hydropower."

Mote, the state climatologist for Washington, said the past 10 years in the Northwest have been the warmest since record-keeping began in the 19th century.