We currently import at least 90 percent our food from outside the Portland region, about $4.7 billion a year with related inputs included. We could increase our regional wealth by between $470 million and $940 million annually if we shifted between 10 and 20 percent of our purchases from imported to local foods.
Through his compelling article, Economically, we are what we eat, Bob Wise addresses those facts and examines the challenges of providing local foods in Oregon. He asks, if we are sitting in the midst of one of the world’s most food-abundant places, why is it so difficult to buy food grown here? The answer is that we import most of the food we eat. Bob considers ways to reverse this significant “leakage” dynamic. He proposes strategic solutions to findings from several recent research projects conducted by COC and regional partners that attempt to answer these questions: how we can support expanded agriculture to accommodate import substitution, what it would take to increase demand and supply of local food, how to help farmers keep a greater share of the food dollar and stay in business, and how we can increase our human and social capital to support the food economy.
The blog is the second in a series of six articles on import substitution on the Sustainable Business Oregon website.
, import substitution
Kudos to Ecotrust for taking on an important topic – examining one of the major public policy goals we seem to have set for society – economic growth.
For many years, economic growth (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) has been the leading indicator of progress, and how we compare ourselves to others internationally. Yet, many are begininng to recognize that this is, at best, a crude proxy. In fact, it seems that too much economic prosperity (wealth) has diminishing, and even negative effects on one’s overall well-being.
Ecotrust and their affiliate organization, Economics for Equity and Environment hosted a summit discussion today on The Design of Alternate Metrics of Well-being To Inform Policy Making.
The lead speaker was Juliet Michaelson was from the London-based Centre for Well-being, a program of the New Economics Foundation, or NEF. In her words, the work of NEF is to bridge research and policy-making. They are focused on environmental sustainability, social justice, and well-being.
To jump to the end, Juliet shared that their work since 2005 has resulted in this summary Five Ways to Well-Being:
1) Connect (check out the site and their slides; much prettier)
2) Be active
3) Take notice
4) Keep learning
Note that these are disconnected from employment, unemployment, underemployment, average annual income and other indicators or metrics we are used to seeing, using, reproducing, trending….
I feel fortunate to have been able to attend this event. Juliet and Kristen generously agreed to share the PowerPoint presentations from the event so I was able to listen wrather than take mad notes. However, some other notes before too much time passes, and to share with my office:
- Under the Mayor’s direction, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Mayor’s Office is wrestling with developing they key measures and metrics by which the new Portland Plan will be evaluated over time.
- Juliet acknowledged the challenge and result of normalization on a diverse community; City staff and I agreed that one one one dialog will be essential with people of very different backgrounds to check the level of shared, cross-cultural agreement on the indicators of well-being, or lack thereof.
- Thought leader in this subject Professor Helliwell at the University of British Columbia has summed up his decades of work as follows: “Close in trumps distant. Life is more local than people realize.” What does this imply for planning, for community? For our economic system, values and incentives?
- Reserachers at the NEF are honing in on “efficiency” relationships between the economic base of resource utilization, societal goals and human systems are a key indicator of greater well-being or happiness on individual and community scales. [Bob Wise was just emphasizing effeciency as a key challenge of our decade last staff meeting. Listen to Bob!]
- I wrestle with how people will respond to hearing that less consumption is better. I think of Renee Lertzman’s work on the subject of connecting with the environment, and recognizing the complexities of our emotional landscape in this regard.
- Check out the Happy Planet Index for more on that model, developed by NEF in 2005.
- Juliet also covered understanding well-being and the leading models. NEF integrates the basic two camps into a concept where well being emerges as a part of a system; and emerges when contributing systems thrive. “Flourishing” (functioning well and feeling good) is a concept that is widely used; nice term. Reseracher Martin Seligman summarizes flourishing as the state where there are: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and a sense of accomplishment.
- Juliet recapped leading findings around the causes and benefits of positive emotions. I like the term “learned optimism” but am still skeptical (though an optimist!).
- She covered Well-Being’s “Journey to Prominence” in the UK in a nice historical recap. Incubated from cities and caught national attention that is culminated in in Prime Minister David Cameron’s administration’s Foresight Project commissioning the work that resulted in the Five Ways of Well-Being. When PM Cameron launched the effort in November, 2010, he said “We’ve got to recognize officially, that economic growth is a means to an end.” Interesting.
- Check out Mappiness, a research project at the London School of Economics.
Since it is late, just one closing thought. I am amused to recall our own Declaration of Independence which is based on the need to defend our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Lots to think about.
For more information, contact Kristen Sheeran, PhD at www.e3netowork.org
, Sustainable Communities
The Global Warming Commission is seeking public comment on recommendations it adopted last fall as an Interim Roadmap to 2020. Help shape the state’s response to climate change!
Join us Thursday at a Portland-Multnomah County hosted event that will be led by Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen and Portland’s Mayor Sam Adams. Join other participants to discuss and critique parts of the Roadmap of particular interest to you in a collaborative process.
June 9, 6 – 7:30 pm, Multnomah County Building, County Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, Blvd, Portland, Oregon, 97214.
The Oregon Global Warming Commission is a 25-member commission created in 2007 by the Oregon legislature. It is charged with helping coordinate state and local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and making sure the state meets its climate goals. In 2007, Oregon adopted greenhouse gas reduction goals which include cutting greenhouse gases 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; and achieving a 75 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050.
“We hope Oregonians will seize this opportunity to help shape the State’s strategies for reducing greenhouse gases,” said Angus Duncan, Chair of the Commission. “The interim recommendations touch nearly every aspect of our lives in this state, from the cars we drive and homes we live in to how we manage our farms and forests. Oregonians can speak to these ideas in the evening workshops or by responding to the online survey.”
The Commission is asking Oregonians to take an online survey to provide feedback on the Roadmap to 2020 and on the state’s work to shrink the state’s greenhouse gas footprint. The survey can be taken at:
Feedback from the survey will be used to inform the Commission’s future work, and will be provided to elected officials and policymakers working on a response to climate change.
For more information on the Oregon Global Warming Commission and the Roadmap to 2020, please visit www.keeporegoncool.org.
Hope to see you there!
, Climate Change
, Land Use Planning
, Least Cost Planning
, Urban Design
Bob Wise is going to be a panel chair at the following PSU-City of Portland Symposium. Hope to see you there!
Save the Date
April 30 & May 1
Building University-Community Partnerships for a Sustainable Regional Economy
Join Portland State University President Wim Wiewel, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and other regional leaders to discuss how to create the most sustainable regional economy in the U.S. Hear from experts on how universities contribute to sustainability and help develop a collaborative model to reach shared goals.
Cost: Day 1 – $50, Day 2 – $25
Download the save the date flyer.
, Portland State University