Climate change and sustainability—Portland takes action

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Two simple concepts can help reduce confusion concerning the definition of sustainability or sustainable development. First,understanding sustainability means understanding that everything is connected—the economy, environment, community, and personal health. If one part of the system is stressed and disturbed, other parts will be disrupted as well. Second, everything we do today affects tomorrow—how we get to work, what kind of car we drive, what we recycle or throw away, what kind of food we eat, and what kind of buildings we inhabit. All of these actions have an impact on the natural resource base and influence what kind of planet our children will inherit. If we use resources efficiently and primarily use renewable resources, our children will inherit a healthier environment.

If we use up all of the cheap resources and pollute the streams, oceans, and air, then our children will have to clean up our mess. For the past 30 years, the City of Portland, OR, has made great efforts to address these issues. Portland sits at the northern tip of the Willamette Valley, on the banks of the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The city’s setting, among lush green forests, has instilled in Portland’s residents a deep-seated desire to protect natural resources, leading them to create a city where the built and natural environments prosper and thrive together. Portland’s focus on sustainable development results directly from the challenges and tensions that are created by this mix of urban and natural surroundings. With a newly restored and revitalized urban center, a steady influx of highly-educated young workers, a growing population now at 568,000, and a culture that celebrates individual expression, Portland is one of the most vibrant cities in the United States.

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