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Helping cities, towns and municipalities adapt to peak oil

As a member of the Portland Peak Oil Task Force, I am excited to see the amazing progress our team is making. The twelve members of the Task Force come from various backgrounds, including land use planners, social workers, business executives, farmers, environmental experts, and more.

For readers who understand the dire consequences we face with fuel and food shortages in the not too far off future, rest assured this team has a deep understanding of complex eco and business systems.

Currently, the team is interviewing businesses and organizations to understand the impacts of peak oil from a systems level down to individual citizens.

While I am excited about the progress our group is making, the challenges ahead of us are staggering. The biggest issue facing the Task Force (in my opinion) is how to help businesses and citizens make changes for a reality many of them are unaware of and unprepared for. With such a complex system oil based system interdependencies, small changes will not be enough to offset the anticipated devastating impacts of peak oil.

At the end of the Task Force's mission, we will submit a report to the city council with a shortlist of recommendations. While the following list of recommendations are NOT the recommendations of the Portland Peak Oil Task Force, they are my own - available to any local governments with the intestinal fortitude to heed the advice.

For readers interested in what can be done on a local level, please consider taking the following suggestions and recommendations to your local government leaders. I truly believe there is no time to lose.

Change school curriculum for High schoolers in grades 9 - 12 to prepare for a fast changing world
Mandate classes for students in 9th - 12th grade that teach everything from basics of earth's ecosystems to Biointensive food growing practices.

Recommended texts for students: When Technology Fails, The Long Emergency, sustainable agriculture books

(We will need new textbooks for schoolteachers based on sound principles of earth's reality, complete with questions and tests for students. It would be based on both needed changes to adapt to the earth's changes.)

Create awareness campaigns and encourage homeowners to buy products and services from local companies that can help convert parts of or their entire lawn(s) to food gardens
(May need to lobby Homeowners Associations)
The city can create assistance and learning programs catered to biointensive food growing practices appropriate for geographical areas. For citizens without land access, create bond measures or taxes for land / home buy-back programs and fund the growth of community gardens in the city and surrounding suburbs.

Continue fostering growth of Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture
This can also expand to work with local grocers / council national grocery chains to offer shelf space for local growers

Create "food preparation, storage and nutrition" classes for citizens
Based on seasonal growing patterns, what can be grown when, and how to keep your health and nutrition all year long.

Expand business and residential composting programs
Helps turn waste into useful, natural soil boosters to grow more food

Mandate energy efficiency inspections for homes and buildings
Create achievable standards. For businesses and citizens that can't afford to retrofit and upgrade to these standards - create neighborhood volunteer programs and create incentives to boost volunteer participation and assistance.

Offer consulting for businesses and citizens looking to prepare and make changes for Peak Oil
This can be paid for by citizens and businesses by passing a reasonable "Peak Oil Preparation" tax or diverting funds from other programs

Assess local food production abilities
Study and prepare plans to begin relying on food generated and transported within a 100 mile radius of the city. Adjust the radius depending on available farmland

Encourage neighborhood grown food swaps
Foster neighborhood food swaps based on produce grown within the city.

Create program for sustainable year round water usage for urban farming
Assuming increased usage due to increased urban farming. Create action plan including rainwater harvesting and efficiencies based on existing water system.

Create or expand neighborhood introduction programs
Foster programs that help neighbors get to know one another (like City Repair)

Continue to encourage use of public transportation, biking, walking, and carpooling
Cities can learn from other cities leading the charge with success (Portland, San Francisco, etc.)

Foster neighborhood co-op owned fueling stations
Pair farmers making alcohol in their own micro-refineries / distilleries with neighborhoods that purchase the fuel from their own alcohol fuel co-op. (Fact: Alcohol can be used as a fuel)

Offer "Earth Shift" support groups
Help people cope with change to help prevent a rise in crime, violence and drug use.

Create "Wisdom of the Elders" program
Like a "Big Brother / Big Sister" program, match eldery citizens that survived the Great Depression with today's youth leaders.

Create a re-use storage program
Instead of recycling, collect used plastic containers and glass from citizens and businesses normally setting them out on the curb. Clean out waste product from these containers and begin storing them in empty city owned wearhouses for future use and distribution to citizens.

Randy White is a member of the Portland Peak Oil Task Force. He works as an advertising executive for AM620 KPOJ, Portland's Progressive Talk Station

Editorial Notes: Author Randy White writes:
I'm contributing this in hopes to get other municipalities thinking about solutions they can immediately implement ar explore for their own city.
Search the Energy Bulletin site for "Portland" to see the city's many efforts in peak oil and public transportation. For example, Tom Whipple devoted a column to The peak oil crisis: Portland takes the lead. A conservative English poltician surveyed Portland on recent BBC broadcast and lauded the city for its excellent public transport. -BA

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