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Don't eliminate the city's sustainability department

The bad news is that the way we live today is unsustainable.

This is true not only for us here in Lake Oswego but also for the United States and the world at large. Our lifestyle is unsustainable owing to the combined effects of a burgeoning population (7 billion and growing) coupled with growing levels of consumption. The two most populous nations in the world, China and India (combined population of 2.6 billion) are rapidly industrializing, seeking to furnish their people with the good things of life which we enjoy: electricity, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, roads and cars, along with a high-protein diet. All of these things consume fossil fuels and generate wastes that are building up to unprecedented levels.

At the same time we are consuming natural resources such as fresh water, arable land and timber faster than they can be replenished. Current estimates are that we are using 50 percent more resources than Earth can furnish on a long-term basis. The combined effects of resource limitations, climatic shifts and potentially profound ecosystems changes will eventually affect our lives here in Lake Oswego.

The good news is that we have the technology to live sustainably. Renewable energy, high-efficiency homes, buildings and appliances, sustainable forestry harvesting and a healthy diet produced in an ecologically sustainable way are all things we know how to do.

The really bad news is that we lack the political will to act. People inherently resist change.

Our lives are busy and stressful even without trying to make changes. Vested interests such as the fossil fuel industry have successfully delayed public acceptance of the root cause of climate change (our consumption of fossil fuels) in the same manner that the tobacco companies delayed public awareness of the cancers caused by the use of their products.

Over the past five years the public acceptance that climate change is real and is affecting our lives has slowly grown in spite of continued political debate of widely accepted science. Public understanding of the overall unsustainability of our worldwide culture is much more limited.

This is the context in which the conversation about eliminating Lake Oswego’s sustainability department should be had. We need to be doing more to position our city to thrive in the changes that are coming our way, not less.

A lot of work has been done to make our city operations more sustainable. We have reduced waste and carbon emissions, and continued to plan for our children’s futures, but there is more to do. Educating our public about our situation is critical. Closing down the city’s sustainability department is the wrong thing to do for us, for our children and for their children.

I urge concerned citizens to email the budget committee to make their views known, whatever they might be.

Gregory Monahan, Lake Oswego, is the co-chair of the Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board and incoming president of the nonprofit Friends of Luscher Farm. The above opinions are his own and do not reflect the positions of either the Sustainability Advisory Board or the Friends of Luscher Farm.

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