Peter Newman, an environmental scientist from Perth, Australia, recently visited Portland, Oregon to gather materials for the book he’s writing on sustainability and urban development. He sees similarities between the two cities – they’re both on the countries’ west coasts, have transitioned away from their natural resource-based industries, and are national leaders in their focus on alternative transportation.
The goal for modern cities, as Newman describes it, is to move beyond “sustainability” to “resiliency.” The model of constant consumption needs to stop and cities need to be constructed in such a manner as to make this possible.
One of Newman’s main targets is a decrease in oil consumption and, not surprisingly, minimizing the use of cars. Building of suburbs should be scrapped in favor of denser urban settings than enable mass transit, walking, and biking.
As Newman told the Oregonian:
Suburbs on the fringe built with all the certainty of the future are now very uncertain because people living there sometimes have to spend 40 percent of their household budget on transport, and 40 percent is not sustainable. If you’re going from $3.50 a gallon gas to $6 a gallon, which is the price of fuel in Europe . . . many of these suburbs will be abandoned. They are not resilient.
Newman also took the US presidential candidates to task. While they have all chimed in that the country needs a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. however, according to Newman:
None of them actually say, ‘That means less oil.’ It tends to do with this vague goal about power plants and industry and stuff like that.
But less oil? That comes straight home with less cars, less vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in cars. There are no magic-bullet alternatives, like biofuels and so on, so we have to reduce VMT by 50 percent by 2050.
Photo via flickr by Magalie L’Abbé.