Monday, August 9, 2010

crc bridge project, round two: the bigger picture

Here we go again:

Consider that Portland's metro area population is expected to double by 2030, and that a number of folks who work in Portland live across the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA (where there's more affordable housing, but also, unfortunately, more suburban sprawl). Consider that people are moving here in droves in spite of brutal unemployment (hovering near 12 per cent) and that, in spite of Portland's "bicycle chic", most of them are coming here in cars. Consider that freedom of movement and cheap cars and gas are the status quo, and that we don't like to have discussions about population control and rationing of resources in polite, or any other, company; and you have a connundrum of epic proportions.

It's clear that the present Interstate Bridge won't meet the needs of a region growing this quickly. It's old and needs repair or replacement. To simply repair it is to deny the growth that is happening right before our eyes. To replace it is to give in to the inevitability -- and unsustainability -- of unchecked growth.

While lots of folks want to think that this is just an argument about a really big bridge, it's really a discussion about population growth and our society's unchecked use of resources -- a discussion few people are willing to have in a serious and thoughtful manner.

Can this degree of growth in our region be sustainable?
If so, how?
If not, can we have an intelligent discussion of population and resource planning that won't make us look and sound like Fascists, or worse?
Good luck.


Ken said...

Great point you make about population control not making it to the level of serious consideration. Seems our in-built drive to procreate may be our undoing. I'm usually an optimist, but not on this topic. I can't count the number of times I've attempted to discuss the question, "what is the right number of humans?", to find it bounce off deaf ears. And these attempts were made with otherwise rational, intelligent people. Seems most are incapable or unwilling to acknowledge the idea of managing our own numbers. Meanwhile, the petri dish gets more full.

bikelovejones said...

Another consideration that has been raised in this discussion is that the "American Dream" we've all been raised on was a falsehood from the start. Maybe 150 years ago it was possible for everyone to get their forty acres and a mule; today it's not possible for everyone to have a nice house in the suburbs, or even a condo in the city.

Such "security" simply falls down in the face of so many things: raging unemployment with no improvement in sight; the inevitable extinction of a middle class and the redistribution of wealth so that 10% of Americans control more than 60% of the privately held wealth; and of course our growing population, especially among those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

I see no remedies here, only a bridge that will grow more sprawl, more congestion and more pollution. It sucks.