Why include 'sustainability' in the new Lake Oswego comprehensive plan?

Why floss your teeth, eat your vegetables, exercise, get a good education, develop moral standards for your life, save money for a house, raise great children? To avoid problems, reach our full potential, and have a better life.

The comprehensive plan is our effort to avoid problems, reach our full potential and have a better life. And we need it to be Sustainable. Economically and environmentally.

My own pitch today is that we have to give weight to the sustainability of both monetary and natural capital in Lake Oswego. If you burn up your natural capital, your economic prospects will go down. Keeping the parks, the lake, the rivers clean and the tree canopy over Lake Oswego is one level. But you can only save the rivers and the trees and turn down the temperature of the Earth by almost stopping burning fossil fuels, changing the types and ways we use energy, how we get around, how we run our businesses.

It's all connected - we're all downwind and downstream. I think we have to see the big picture of where we stand in an increasingly damaged natural world and do our part to make it better - make our local comprehensive plan do its part for a global comprehensive plan - plans, activities, incentives, and yes - code changes -that eventually lead us to net zero damage of our local and global natural capital - lakes, rivers, soil, trees, agriculture, air, weather and the diversity of life - to get to a point where we only emit as much chemical or carbon emission pollution as both nature and man can clean up.

So how do we do this?

Perhaps the biggest way is energy efficiency.

The McKinsey Global Institute released a study last year that shows that if we massively deploy energy efficiency across the economy, we won't have to build any new power plants and we will get all of our money back. Sustainability for free sounds pretty good to me. I am a business guy and a fiscal conservative, but I don't see any downside in making investments in smart sustainability that are going to pay themselves back off.

Over time, we can transition to live and work near net zero - no carbon emissions, no pollution, zero pollution, zero waste. That to me is the best definition of sustainable - a steady system that does not degrade and crash over time. Anything less and we are just fooling ourselves that we are OK, that our kids are OK.

To transition to net zero we need to get a lot smarter about the way we use water, energy, transportation, how we build, how we work. Some of us will do it on our own. Some of us will do it in our businesses to save money. But in order to keep all of us from destroying the natural capital of both our local area and the Earth as a whole, all of us will need to change the way we live. This is where writing sustainability into the comprehensive plan comes in. We need to transition to a steady state where we don't damage the natural world that we take for granted.

As the time for citizen input and preliminary planning on the Lake Oswego Comprehensive Plan comes to a close, it is time to make good decisions. I don't see writing sustainability transitions into the comp plan as big government or an extension of the Nanny State. I see it as making both environmental and economic sense. I see it as common sense. A comprehensive plan that is truly sustainable will make Lake Oswego a better place where we can reach our full potential and have a better life.

Matt Briggs is a Lake Oswego resident. These are comments that he delivered to the Citizen's Advisory Committee for the Lake Oswego Comprehensive Plan. Additionally, he just finished serving 3 years on the Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board, he made a movie called 'Deep Green - Solutions to Stop Global Warming Now' and has retrofitted his Lake Oswego house to be net zero for carbon energy use.

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