The Case of the Missing Bees

It’s a mystery, a scary one. From a NY Times article, “Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons:”

More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances.

Mysteries are fun, but this is not good. It might be terrible. We need our bees.

Cell phone towers and genetically modified (GMO) crops are both brilliant theories. It's easy to imagine those technologies causing unforseen bad consequences. Let’s hope it’s the cell phone towers. It might not be such a bad thing to take those down. Let’s hope it isn’t genetically modified (GMO) crops. A disastrous gene might be “out there,” uncontainable. Thanks a lot, corporate scientists. They'll probably try to solve the problem by genetically modifying the bees.

Anybody have any other brilliant theories? Let's hear 'em. Let's solve this mystery right here on the blog.


Welcome Back, Meyer

James Meyer, Pringle Creek’s Principal Planner, is a graduate of the UO School of Architecture, and now he is teaching there. And here. And at his office.

“The class is unique in that it will spend studio time in Eugene and on-site time in Salem, and we will be in the Opsis Architecture offices in Portland for midterm and final review of their project designs,” says James.

It is a graduate level design class titled Live-Work-Breathe. James will be co-teaching with Brook Muller, Dept. of Architecture professor. Their first on-site (Pringle Creek) class was held on March 4th. The students documented existing conditions and walked the area of the project where they intend to design nine live/work units.

Meyer had been in discussions with UO about the potential Pringle Creek offered for interdisciplinary study. The School of Architecture is considering creating advanced studies in broad based curriculum that focuses on building community within the rich ecological environment at Pringle Creek Community. This would be the first class.

“Teaching sustainable principles to a new generation of architects is very rewarding. It’s a great experience. Going back to Lawrence Hall (School of Architecture) in Eugene was great nostalgia,” says James.

Click here to see the course description.


What we did on Earth Day

The Earth Day party at Pringle Creek last Sunday was just about ideal. It was educational and thought-provoking, but best of all, it was just a really, really good time.

There were very intelligent students and teachers sharing their research on creek restoration and water quality in their local watersheds through the Adopt-a-Stream Youth Environmental Summit--their work is a beacon of light in our city.
Younger kids made newspaper pots, seed balls, and other art projects. Elementary school students with string instruments performed live with their music teacher, Diane, who also played a few songs with Blue Lightening, a Portland folk-rock group who stopped by on their way to Lefty's Sunday night.

Outside, we had several workshops throughout the day: Al gave a very entertaining and informative presentation on sustainable landscaping in his east coast straight-talk kind of way; Sally, who teaches science at Waldo Middle School, gave an excellent workshop on worm-bin composting; Mike, Kyle and Tim held a discussion on living car-free--all of them had chosen to use the bicycle as their primary (or only) means of transport for the past six months or more;
and our final workshop was by Josh, who is a senior at North Salem High School, and Bryan, who is a Flower Power Biodiesel Co-op member. They did a live demonstration on how to make your own biodiesel. Throughout the entire day, Tim was surrounded by a crowd, as various people mixed clay, straw and water into cob and began building a beautiful bench underneath the 1,000 year old Pacific Yew.

The day was inspiring; there are a lot of people in Salem doing very good things to make Oregon safer, cleaner, and more beautiful. Earth Day at Pringle Creek was a gathering of people interested in reducing their footprint on the environment, making our places more livable, and living happier and healthier lives... not just on Earth Day, but everyday.

A special thanks to everyone who helped make it happen: Deborah at the City of Salem, Marilee, Don, Mark, Tony, Elizabeth, Trevor, Sarah, Jackie, Mary Ann, Al, Sally, Mike, Tim, Kyle, Blake, Larry, Phil, Bryan, Josh, Marie, Rachel at Public Works,
all the dedicated students and teachers at Adopt-a-Stream, Pamela at OSU, Athena at NWEI, Blue Lightening, and Diane with her talented group of string-instrument playing kids...


More photos to come.


Well said, Statesman Journal

Thank you Statesman Journal for a fine editorial in today's paper about Pringle Creek:

Explore the future of 'green' living in Salem:
New development will offer many energy-saving features

Out at Pringle Creek Community, the subdivision under construction on the old Fairview Training Center site, you can get a glimpse at what it would be like if every day were Earth Day.

Instead of felling most trees, the developers saved 80 percent of them -- then milled the rest for boards and put the sawdust on the community garden.

Instead of carving the site into building lots, they clustered homes and saved 35 percent of the land as open space for trails, parks and a village center.

Instead of sending oil-laden rainwater from streets into streams, they created porous roads and sidewalks that allow water to filter back into the aquifer.

Instead of relying on conventional heating systems, they plan to use geothermal heat, extra insulation, passive solar design and other features. Some homeowners even will sell excess electricity to PGE.

The list of energy-saving gizmos and design touches goes on and on. But just as important is the community's social design. With single-family homes, row houses, cottages and lofts, it is meant to appeal to a variety of ages and lifestyles (although still a fairly affluent slice). Community gardens and a wine building will beckon residents to get acquainted.

In short, it will be a place for people to not only save energy but recharge one another's batteries.

This development is a new concept in Salem, but it no longer is on the fringe. Three-buck-per-gallon gas makes transit-friendly development look smarter all the time. Plenty of folks, whatever their political persuasion, would rather take a family vacation than pay sky-high utility bills. Oregonians who fish and hunt share many environmentalists' concerns about loss of wildlife habitat.

Last month, the National Association of Home Builders singled out Pringle Creek Community for its Land Development of the Year award. That brought national attention to the project.

The group's members expect that 40 percent to 50 percent of the homes built in 2010 will be "green," according to a survey conducted last year. Local builders need to get with this trend or get left behind.

Buyers probably will pay a premium for the amenities at Pringle Creek Community. However, this development will serve as a living lab to bring ideas off the drawing board and into practice. That's likely to increase demand and bring costs down.

Such homes likely will save their owners money during the long run in heating and cooling costs. They may be more healthful to live in if they use products that don't emit toxic fumes.

Each year, Earth Day reminds us of the most important reason of all to conserve resources: Soil, trees, water and clean air are precious. We can't treat them like something to be used up in our own lifetimes. We must pass them along to the next generation.

That's an idea for mainstream Oregon. You can check it out, still under construction, this weekend.

Fred Kent interview

Back in 2001 I was part of a group of downtown advocates who arranged to have Fred Kent, co-founder of the Project for Public Spaces (in 1975!), come to Salem to share ideas on urban vitality and “place making.” It was a great day. We walked around Salem, had a conference at Willamette, and then Mr. Kent gave a presentation at the Reed Opera House in the evening. Kent got a bit frustrated after a meeting with the Salem's Director of Transportation at the time. They certainly had different views on the purpose of streets - which for Mr. Kent comprise the largest part of the "public realm" and should serve many purposes beyond just moving cars.

I recommend this interview with Fred Kent on the PPS website.

Q: People are looking for ways to involve themselves in their communities.They seek gathering places, more connections with the sources of food and other products they need, and the ability to walk and to ride bicycles. What is catalyzing this shift, and how do you see it affecting the city planning process in the future?

FK: Our urban areas are coming full circle. Over the last 100 years, we got off track. For centuries, we had compact urban centers. Then, industrialization and pollution made cities so unpleasant that suburbsgained enormous traction—and we started designing cities like suburbs.

. . .

Thoreau once said,‘There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.’ In this light, place making becomes a dynamic human function: it is an act of liberation, of staking claim, and of beautification; it is true human empowerment.” Many other people sounded this theme—that placemaking has to be done respectfully if we are to build communities we want to live in.

At PPS, we believe place making is an intensely human activity that naturally involves people of all ages, incomes, and cultures. The community itself must to be the driving force in creating a vision for making a place. Then, planners and designers can help the community turn the vision into a reality.


Trillion Dollar Storm

I heard a powerful presentation the other day (Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury on global warming at a SEDCOR forum) and was reminded of another. Storm Cunningham, author of The Restoration Economy, one of our book selections, made a big impression on me at an Urban Land Institute conference in 2002.

Mr. Cunningham was a Green Beret SCUBA medic and is an avid recreational diver. He described the degradation of the coral reefs he had been returning to over many years. He then described a happy snapshot of environmental success when he saw some of the coral reefs being restored from near extinction by the commitment of governments, business, NPOs and ordinary citizens.

Cunningham put two and two together and discovered a trillion dollar economy that he believes is still largely unrecognized: the Restoration Economy. We really aren't building new highways and dams, we aren't building new cities (except in China). Professionals today are busy designing new solutions to old problems. Historic restoration, urban renewal, and restoring wetlands are examples. We are just beginning to face the need of repairing, restoring and revitalizing our existing infrastructure, environment and communities.

In no uncertain terms Cunningham told his ULI audience that their days of developing bare land--turning farms, fields and forests into subdivisions--were numbered. The good news: opportunities to make money were growing in “restoration,” this unrecognized trillion dollar industry.

In Oregon, businesses and governments are recognizing the economic benefits of leading the restoration economy. Being known for expertise in environmental stewardship, urban development, land use planning and progressive infrastructure development is gaining Oregon a prominent role.

But, like raising children, you can never rest on success. New challenges--and new opportunities--face us every day.


For your information

Just passing the word from Marion County Public Works * Environmental Services:

Saturday, April 21, 2007 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
They will accept PVC/vinyl plastics at the Salem-Keizer Recycling and Transfer Station, the North Marion Recycling and Transfer Station, and at the Brown's Island Demolition Landfill for free disposal. Earth Day-related and intended to raise awareness about the potential dangers of and alternatives to PVC/vinyl plastics.

April 21st from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Roth’s on Shaff Road, Stayton
April 28th from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Silverton Fire Station, 819 Rail Way NE
They will collect household hazardous waste, free to residents of Marion and Polk Counties. Businesses that generate less than 220 lbs. of hazardous waste per month will be charged $2.50/lb.
What to Bring: Pesticides, herbicides, antifreeze, weed killer, fuels, pool chemicals, solvents, spot remover, turpentine, mercury, paint thinner, oil-based paint, wood preservatives, rust remover, engine cleaners, poisons, acids and caustic cleaners.
What NOT to Bring: Latex paint, motor oil, and batteries (because they can be recycled at the curb or brought to recycling and transfer stations). Material containing asbestos, ammunition, explosives, fireworks, creosote-treated wood, medical waste, and radioactive material also won't be accepted. [Darn, what am I going to do with all these isotopes?]

Saturday, May 5th, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
In an effort to promote waste reduction by backyard composting, they are sponsoring sale of backyard compost bins below cost. The Earth Machine Composter, normally $80, will be sold for $28.50: at Fred Meyers in East Salem and Roth's Vista Market in South Salem; Copper Creek Mercantile in Keizer; Coastal Farm Store in Woodburn; and the Wilco Farm Stores in Silverton and Stayton.


Earth Day at Oregon Garden

Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s all free--admission to the Oregon Garden, including all Earth Day exhibits, lectures, and performances. The theme is “Sustainable Agriculture,” highlighting the roles of composting, recycling, renewable energy, energy conservation, sustainable plants, and soil and water resources in the farm, garden, or backyard landscape. A cool organization affiliated with OSU, called SPROut, (Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach) has organized this.

Pringle Creek (Sustainable Living Center director James Santana and others) will be there all day and will be giving a presentation--scheduled for 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. That will be the highlight; here is the rest:

  • Over 35 indoor exhibitors
  • Demonstrations, lectures, kids activities, and performances
  • Special early film screening of "The Real Dirt on Farmer John"
  • Kids (and adults) will be able to make a planter from recycled materials to take home
  • Solar energy and composting demonstrations
  • Book signings by garden authors
  • Local Oregon music groups to perform throughout the day
  • Specialty tours showing ‘behind-the-scenes’ of Garden areas
  • Click here for detailed activity schedule


Earth Day

Earth Day at Pringle Creek Community and the City of Salem Youth Environmental Summit--official schedule to be announced. Stay tuned.



A peek at the peak

Peak oil, that is. Someday worldwide production of oil, which has increased for 150 years, will get to its highest level (peak), then decline. That decline will be bad news. There will still be lots of oil, but the price will go up up up.

When will “peak oil” happen? A number of smart, serious people say “now” or “in a couple of years." It’s controversial. James H. Kunstler wrote The Long Emergency (2005) mostly about peak oil. Click here to go to a page that has Kunstler's recent speech to the Commonwealth Club of California.

Kunstler was already well known to New Urbanists for his earlier books highly critical of suburbia. As you might guess, peak oil increases his disdain for sprawl. Here’s from the speech:

I wrote three books previously about the fiasco of suburbia. There are many ways of understanding and describing this. I now call it the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Why? Because it’s a living arrangement with no future. It was designed to run on cheap oil and gas and in a few years we’re not going to have those.

Kunstler's speech is a good introduction to peak oil. For more on this topic, and the inseparable looming disaster of climate change, I recommend The Oil Drum blog. Also interesting is this opinion piece, End of oil heralds climate pain, which expresses fear that peak oil won’t assist in saving the world from climate change.

When oil production starts to fall, the economic impacts could well be devastating. . . As the unemployment lines grow, the political will to tackle climate change may be sapped by the need to keep the lights burning as cheaply as possible.

Maybe. Or maybe the 'emergency' of peak oil will do something the long term threat of global warming hasn't--get people to start changing their ways.


Signed, sealed, delivered

Yesterday morning our plat was signed by Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson. The plat has been recorded with the clerk's office and we are now an official subdivision with legal lots to sell!!

Commissioner Carlson, by the way, lives in the Morningside area, so she is a neighbor of Pringle Creek Community.

Thank you Pringle Creek team, for transforming the master vision into a plat with saleable lots in a wonderful walkable neighborhood!

Left to right, Commissioner Patti Milne, me, Commissioner Janet Carlson and Commissioner Sam Brentano.


Torrent of spring events

Step It Up 2007: National Day of Climate Action
April 14. The message is "Step it up, Congress. Cut Carbon 80% by 2050," there are events planned for Albany, Corvallis, Wilsonville, Lake Oswego, Portland--or stay home and call your representative.

Coalition for a Livable Future 5th Annual Livability Summit
April 19, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., PSU's Smith Center Ballroom
This starts with a talk by Denis Hayes. "National Coordinator of the first Earth Day, Hayes has been at the core of the modern environmental movement since its launch. Hayes has served in top positions with numerous prominent academic institutions, non-profits and government agencies. As the current President of the Bullitt Foundation, he aspires to make the Pacific Northwest—the best-educated, most environmentally aware, most progressive corner of America—a global model for sustainable development."

Willamette University's First Annual Northwest Sustainability Conference
April 20-22. Creating Synergies: Community, University and Business
Presentations and panels are still being set. The vision is to "provide a forum for business leaders, professionals, scholars, students and activists from throughout the Northwest to share experiences, network and explore opportunities for collaboration. Friday April 20 will feature panels and presentations, and Saturday field trips will include visits to businesses and communities that are guided by sustainable principles [one of which is Pringle Creek Community]. On Sunday, April 22, an Earth Day celebration at Salem’s Rivefront Park will feature food, games and music."

Going Green: Oregon’s Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy
April 24, 7:30 a.m., Multnomah Athletic Club
This event, put on by Metro and the Oregon Environmental Council’s Forum for Business & the Environment, features "a panel of area professionals who specialize in helping businesses around the world “go green,” including business practices that lower carbon emissions. Dennis Wilde, a principal with Gerding Edlen, Wally Van Valkenberg, a partner with Stoel Rives, Phil Welker, Executive Director of Portland Energy Conservation Inc, and Steve Kokes, Strategic Director for Coates Kokes Advertising Agency, will comprise the panel."