EcoDistricts: good for community, business
By Rob Bennett
Portland Sustainability Institute
It is amazing what happens when business gets hold of a good idea. A powerful and growing list of small cleantech industry innovators and Fortune 500 companies now understand what metropolitan policy makers have known for years: Cities are crucibles of sustainability.
The reasons are simple. Today, almost 60 percent of Oregonians live in the Portland metropolitan region. By 2025, the region is expected to grow to 2.8 million people — following the global trend of increasing urbanization. As we grow more urban, metropolitan areas worldwide are expected to bear the brunt of issues such as climate change, air pollution, energy and water scarcity, food insecurity and congestion.
At the same time, cities are being asked to do more with less — burdened with fewer resources and rapidly aging infrastructure.
The good news is that the Portland region has long been pursuing sustainability at the neighborhood level. Our neighborhoods have a rich history as proving grounds for social and technological experimentation — from the first master planned inner streetcar suburbs of the 1920s to the dynamic revitalization of floundering neighborhoods such as the Pearl District, Alberta Street and Multnomah Village over the last two decades to, more recently, the rise of the neighborhood-focused Solarize movement.
These neighborhood-based efforts have helped to build Portland's global leadership brand in sustainability. Yet they haven't scaled fast enough, nor produced adequate levels of the economic and livability benefits we seek. Simply stated, the investment and regulatory tools to build and revitalize neighborhoods have not kept pace with our needs.
Rob Bennett is the founding executive director of the Portland Sustainability Institute.
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