Archive for the ‘Equity’ Category

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

An elevated level of equity would be ideal through the aspect of civil society as the center piece placed in between the economy, the state, and environment. From this perspective, each neighboring sphere to civil society is still necessary to keep sustainability in balance. Appropriately, though, the state, operated by the means of democratic governance, would garner the most attention since it in turn largely manages equity to civil society. As civil society becomes more of the focal point by the democratic institution it would allow such equity of access and discourse on a large body of thought and literature for the civil body to express its interest and mediation on the path towards sustainability.

Democratic institutions also allow advantages for a larger portion of civil society to take part in political freedoms and participation, which is also needed during this long enduring trek towards sustainability. Sustainability itself nearly focuses on the following three similar dimensions as of civil society: the social, the environment and the economy. Equity would naturally gravitate to this central core of dimensions and thus produce a more dynamic, growing and accessible opportunities for civil society, and sustainability.

As Gary L. Larsen puts it (more…)


Read Full Post »

[This post written by Chris White, Daniel Gray, Tony Smith]

The Coalition for a Livable Future‘s Regional Equity Atlas (REA) provides a wealth of information regarding the socio-economic conditions of Portland and the metro area. This tool is useful for research regarding many various aspects of the equity pillar of sustainability. One potentially useful aspect of this resource is the ability for small and large businesses to find new areas for investment and development. One example of a positive development is the Yellow Line expansion along Interstate Ave. in North Portland.

There have been significant instances where communities were not included in the planning stages of major development. The REA has made note of two major projects which have left the community feeling neglected. In the 1950s the construction of the Memorial Coliseum uprooted many members of the local community without proper compensation. Another example is the construction of I-5 which tore through the same community as the Memorial Coliseum had done a decade before.[1]

There is a significant difference between how proponents of these two projects approached the local community and how the MAX Yellow Line project was built. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[This post written by Noah Sharpsteen, Teddy Messan, Nigel Peltier, John Stephenson]

This discussion focuses on the Coalition for a Livable Future’s Regional Equity Atlas (REA) and will address the strengths and weaknesses of the atlas’ ability to provide/represent useful data in regards to equity. [1] More specifically, we will argue that the type of representation in use by the REA (visual representation) allows for the specific learning and recognition of the trends being presented, but, ultimately, the lack of certain kinds of information to supplement these maps limits the atlas’ availability to make substantive connections and provide for causal reasoning in regard to the different situations exemplified by the specific maps given.

The REA uses maps to represent data relevant to equity considerations. We believe that this kind of visual representation allows for the following benefits: 1) it provides a holistic approach so connections internal to the specific map can be made; 2) fosters ‘quick and easy’ correlation of ‘trends’ or ‘conclusions’ which makes the identification of problems much easier; 3) and allows for pattern-development which leads to a greater sense of organization for the reader.[2] We feel that these benefits apply within the REA as well.

Unfortunately, the ‘trends’ or ‘conclusions’ that are the resultant benefits of the use of visual representation are communicated poorly within the REA as a whole. (more…)

Read Full Post »

A student recently asked:

    How do we promote sustainable practices amongst people who don’t care about sustainability? Is it within our rights to force sustainable practices/actions on people who don’t care? Why do people who don’t care not care? Can they be changed? Should they be changed? (or is that infringe on their freedoms? Should we have that freedom?)

My response was that if we think of sustainability in terms of requiring democratic participation, forcing people to comply would run counter to this goal and be, therefore, unsustainable. However, has it ever been the case that 100% of the American population has gotten behind any initiative? The modern American democratic process regularly makes decisions that are supported by slim majorities of voters, and just five out of nine Supreme Court Justices can decide a case that will have repercussions for decades to come. Both of these outcomes take place within the American democratic process, but such majority decisions often results in a situation where quite a large number of people are put in a position of forced compliance with a policy or decision that they may not agree with. How does our working definition of sustainability account for this conundrum? Is it sufficient to our working definition to ensure that a process is in place that facilitates democratic participation, even if the outcome results in the dissatisfaction of a large minority of citizens (a minority that could potentially represent 49.9% of the population)?

Complexities abound as we probe these questions more deeply. If we attempt to specify these questions within a particular place, time, and situation, perhaps we might be able to discern some patterns about what causes people not to care about an issue someone else considers essential for sustainability. For example, do those who claim not to care have insufficient information about the topic? Are they being kept in the dark or being actively lied to? Do they have some kind of investment in or commitment to the status quo that they don’t want disturbed? Do they have an alternate definition of “sustainability” that isn’t being considered to their satisfaction?

Read Full Post »

I’ve recently been alerted to the existence of an online journal devoted to issues related to sustainability, Mother Pelican: A Journal of Sustainable Human Development.

Mother Pelican is a product of The Pelican Web, whose mission it is “to collect, organize, and disseminate knowledge on sustainable development, with especial focus on human development; and to publish the monthly, free subscription, open access Mother Pelican, a journal on sustainable human development.”

The Pelican Web website contains links to resources and also provides an outline of the organization’s research agenda:


Read Full Post »

Onward Oregon is

    part of growing grassroots movement to restore civic power to the people of Oregon and their communities. We envision a state where all of us can enjoy comfort and prosperity, equal opportunity and a beautiful and healthy environment. But this will not happen without your participation. Many Americans have forgotten that government is actually, “We, the people,” not—as some would have us believe—an alien, inept or untrustworthy entity. Let us reclaim our constitutional right to a truly democratic government. Our path is not left or right, but onward.

One of Onward Oregon’s current initiatives is their Mapping the Commons workshop series:

    Oregon Commons, a project of Onward Oregon, is presenting a series of workshops this fall as a step toward our larger goal of strengthening active stewardship of the commons — the gifts of nature and civilization we share across generations. Join us for “Mapping the Commons,” a fun and interactive workshop designed to help grow our awareness, our network and our commitment to serving the common good. Together, we’ll explore the many facets of the commons and identify opportunities to become more active as its caretakers.

Onward Oregon is hosting two of these free workshops this fall:Salem on Nov. 13 and Portland on Nov. 20.

Read Full Post »

Old AM radio tuner, photographer Claudio Divizia, 123RF Stock Photos (www.123rf.com)

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio program this morning was on the topic “Sustainable Oregon and Iraq.” This program featured discussion of two recent developments in regional sustainability efforts. The first was on the five-year agreement that Oregon State University and the government of Iraq entered into help Iraq’s universities in developing sustainable engineering and design programs. The second topic of discussion was on “EcoDistricts,” a new and evolving urban planning concept that seeks to coordinate various existing environmental, equity, and economic strategies in a particular neighborhood to foster cohesive, mutually-reinforcing positive outcomes.

This program this morning got me interested in reviewing other segments of two regional radio programs that I’ve found highly informative over the years, OPB’s Think Out Loud and KUOW’s Weekday. See below the fold for this list.


Read Full Post »

For the Fall 2010 academic quarter, we will be looking at sustainability in the Portland area (broadly defined) through the lens of equity.

I’ve facilitated these courses since the Winter 2009 quarter, and I’ve consistently found that the majority of students don’t immediately think of equity issues when considering sustainability; most of them readily think of economic and ecological topics, but not necessarily equity, social justice, etc. That students tend to come to class with this perspective suggests an opportunity to bring this dynamic to the forefront for educational purposes. This quarter, then, I sought to address this issue directly and engage my students more explicitly with one of the Brundtland Commission’s three co-equal pillars: equity.


Read Full Post »

I recently discovered a fascinating online project, “Native Perspectives on Sustainability: Voices from Salmon Nation,” run by Dr. David Edward Hall, professor of psychology at Portland State.[1] The website is an off-shoot of his PhD research.[2]

As indicated on the project website,


Read Full Post »

Patrick Emerson wrote a reply in the Oregonian on Aug. 8, 2010, in response to Jack Hart’s OpEd on the “fallacy of growth,” titled “Economic growth: The planet’s poor need sustainable expansion.”

Emerson has three primary crititiques of Hart’s assertion that growth is a fallacy:

    1) “Hart’s views reveal a wealthy-country bias about what growth means and fail to appreciate the perspective of poor countries.”
    2) “His characterization of growth is also inaccurate and perpetuates a common misconception about economic growth — that it necessarily means resource depletion.”
    3) “Finally, his anti-growth agenda would leave the world more imperiled: Economic growth represents the world’s best hope to meet the challenges of the future.”

Emerson provides examples supporting his three contentions that show how Hart’s definition of “growth” is overly simplified. With this over-simplification, Hart is then able to characterize growth, in general, as fallacious. However, with an over-simplified definition of growth, Hart has actually engaged in a fallacy himself — the “straw man” fallacy, whereby a contrasting point of view is misrepresented so that it can be refuted more readily.

In contrast to Hart, Emerson sees “sustainable growth” as a solution to poverty and inequality:

    Developing countries present a key challenge to a sustainable future because their growth often comes at a high environmental cost. When more than one in every 10 children dies in infancy, it is hard to prioritize the environment. It behooves the developed world, then, to create the proper incentives — through carbon taxes, technology transfers, grants and aid — so the poor countries of the world can achieve growth through sustainable practices.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: