A Sustainable Oregon
To be truly sustainable, a society and its economic policies must recognize that there are physical limits to growth. We may debate what those limits are but the resources of the earth, and its ability to absorb the by-products of our consumer society are finite. True sustainability implies maintaining a level of population and consumption and technology that can be sustained indefinitely into the future WITHOUT impairing the ability of our planet to provide the same, or even better lives for all future generations.
To begin moving toward sustainability Oregon needs to re-think the way it does business. AGO believes that most alternatives to our current paradigm of continual growth revolve around the concept of building a web of vibrant, largely independent local economies throughout the state.
In an Oregon that focused on local, sustainable economies some current industries will decline while others will proliferate. Some industries that may become cornerstones of the new steady state economy include:
- Fish farming - but in environmentally sustainable ways unlike the current practices we see throughout the world.
- Bicycle manufacturing - non-polluting, quiet, require little parking space, and provide much needed exercise.
- Wind farm construction - Wind electric generation, including off-shore wind farms, will grow rapidly over the next few decades, until wind is supplying most of the world's electricity.
- Wind turbine manufacturing - Along with all of the components, repair parts and maintenance needs, this will become a major component of the new economy.
- Hydrogen generation - As the transition from a carbon based to a hydrogen based energy economy progresses, hydrogen generation will become a huge industry as hydrogen replaces coal and oil. But this can only occur when hydrogen can be produced cheaply and cleanly from wind and solar energy.
- Fuel cell manufacturing - As fuel cells replace internal combustion engines in automobiles and begin generating power in buildings and consumer goods, a huge market will evolve.
- Solar cell manufacturing - Along with wind energy, this promises to be one of the major components of a new world energy future with a number of new technologies emerging to further decrease costs and improve efficiencies and applications.
- Light rail and other forms of mass transit - As individual automobile travel decreases and freeways return to natural or agricultural uses cities will increasingly turn to efficient forms of mass transit to provide mobility.
- Tree planting and ecologically sound forestry - As efforts to reforest the earth gain momentum and as more once forested areas are replanted with a complete spectrum of the species that once lived there, tree planting and sustainable forestry will emerge as a leading economic activity.
- Regional manufacturing of hybrid automobiles - With current technology, regional production of complex consumer goods, even automobiles, is becoming more efficient and economically viable than the old model of massive factories building in a single location and then shipping throughout the world. This holds true even before the environmental and energy costs are added.
This is, of course, only a tiny sample of the industries that might become major forces in a system of strong, local economies.
As might be expected, there are some traditional industries that will either experience dramatic change or the gradual elimination of their product or service. As government subsidies are removed, and environmental and health costs are included such activities as coal and nuclear power will diminish, just to name a few. But for each older, unsustainable business that goes by the wayside, a new, vibrant business that focuses on the needs of its local region will come into being.
Alternatives to an economy based on unending growth do exist. Not only do they exist, they will serve as a way of bringing better, healthier lives to everyone who calls Oregon home. AGO hopes you will join us in this effort to create a truly sustainable Oregon - one that provides quality jobs and economic security for all.