Alternatives to Growth Oregon was formed in 1998 to educate Oregonians about the true costs and consequences of unending growth, to advocate for a change in state and local policies that promote growth without thought to the costs and consequences, and perhaps most importantly.to develop and help to implement alternative economic strategies and policies that will allow the Oregon economy to flourish, primarily at the local level, and in a manner which addresses and resolves issues of social and economic equity and environmental stewardship.
The focus of most local, regional and state governments is to recruit and subsidize large, often global corporations. Although such policies are intended to improve local economies and the quality of life for all residents, the actual consequences tell a different story. All too often the benefits of governmental support go to a tiny fraction of the local populace (or to distant corporate headquarters), while the costs are borne by local citizen taxpayers. Structural unemployment, stressed public infrastructure, assaults on fresh water, clean air and other natural resources often are the end result. Our current economic system tends to support massive, multi-national corporations and import/export dependent local economies, resulting in economic and social inequality and environmental degradation.
AGO proposes to develop and refine alternative economic strategies to replace our current growth dependent economic model. Such alternative economic strategies would include an emphasis on smaller businesses, local ownership, and more personal interaction in our daily business activities. The benefits of such a locally controlled economy are myriad. One such benefit especially meshes with AGO's mission: by recognizing limits to physical growth, a locally based economy does not need to seek continued growth in size.
Recognizing that continuous physical growth in population and consumption is impossible to sustain on a finite planet, AGO is working to:
AGO's approach is entirely new as well as comprehensive. AGO promotes state and local policies that encourage local economic self-reliance and long term, pro-active community planning. AGO also strives to change the very nature of commerce by publicizing the advantages of vibrant local commerce based on local inputs, finished products, goods and services.
AGO's mission is to leave succeeding generations of Oregonians a more economically prosperous, environmentally healthy, and socially just State by encouraging progress toward a sustainable society and discouraging growth that depends on increased population and consumption. This stricture applies only to physical growth. We recognize that growth in educational opportunities, civic participation, environmental stewardship, social and moral well being, artistic expression, to name just a few, are both possible and desirable.
In 1997 a group of concerned Oregonians came together to discuss growth and economic issues in the state of Oregon. The discussion led to a statewide conference that attracted 600 citizens and eventually resulted in the official creation of Alternatives to Growth Oregon (AGO).
For many years now, Oregon has been a national leader in addressing growth issues through use of the planning process. In an attempt to manage growth over the past 25 years, the state has enacted some of the toughest land use laws in the nation. While this planning has, without doubt, protected some areas, and slowed sprawl, it has not stopped the loss of farmland, forest lands and other open spaces and natural areas. The Willamette Valley Livability Forum projects that within the next 40 years-with the best conservation practices in place-the valley will lose 150,000 acres of farmland, 25,000 acres of forests, and will add 63,000 acres to the urban growth boundaries. In the face of continued population and consumption increase, growth management alone is not enough. Oregon's population has grown 20.4% in just the last ten years. If that growth rate continues, Oregon's population would double in less than 40 years. As our population grows we're experiencing an unprecedented increase in our resource consumption. Oregon is beginning to experience shortages - of energy, clean water, wilderness, clean air, forests, wetlands and Pacific salmon. In addition, we are experiencing increases in traffic congestion, air and water pollution, classroom crowding and local taxes.
Until the day our worldwide and national populations can be stabilized, some growth is inevitable. In the meantime, AGO believes we must insist on efficient and effective economic development that thrives with much slower growth rates. Building strong local economies in Oregon makes sense--not only for a future with a stable population, but right now. The first step is to create a web of locally self-sufficient economies and to encourage all Oregonians to support local businesses. Such support of local economies enhances the chances that Oregon job seekers will find high quality local employment opportunities with living wages and other benefits. By insisting that the costs of growth are covered and that local economies are nurtured we are starting a process which will ensure that every Oregonian has access to affordable housing, adequate healthcare, an excellent education, clean water, fresh air and healthy, safe food.
Board of Directors Andy Kerr, Chair
Board of Directors
Andy Kerr, Chair