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Portland, the US capital of alternative cool

Paul Harris, Guardian
The hit comedy show Portlandia takes a gentle dig at the piercings, tribal tattoos and organic obsessions in Portland, but the people who live there are proud to be different

… The city is now the unofficial world capital of a hyper-liberal, artsy and environmentally conscious hipster lifestyle. It is one obsessed with everything organic and locally made. Bikes, trams and buses rule the roads, not cars. Its denizens are heavily tattooed, excessively pierced, and obsessed with local bands. They shop in co-ops and hate corporations.

So famous has Portland become as a bastion of everything hip, young and green that it is now the subject of a new hit TV comedy, Portlandia. A partnership between local musician Carrie Brownstein and Saturday Night Live comic Fred Armisen, Portlandia lampoons life in the city with barbed affection in sketch after sketch.

Its tone is set from the first episode. Returning from a trip to Portland, Armisen asks Brownstein: “Do you remember the 90s? People were talking about getting piercings, getting tribal tattoos and people were singing about saving the planet and forming bands? There’s a place where that idea still exists.”

It then breaks into a song about Portland which praises sleeping until 11am, not getting a job and has the memorable chorus “The tattoo ink never runs dry”, sung by a bearded man wearing tiny Speedos, a leather jacket and not much else. Portland, Armisen concludes, is “where young people go to retire”.

… Perhaps not by coincidence a successful local business, called Queen Bee Creations, has a line of items that does just that. Queen Bee sits in the middle of a Portland neighbourhood rammed with artisan breweries, chocolate shops and cute eateries.

Its owner, Rebecca Pearcy, laughed off the show’s gentle dig. “It has exaggerated what life is really like in Portland,” she said, but added: “People here really do want to know where the chicken came from that they are eating.”

Pearcy also thinks that is a good thing. In an age of outsourcing, she sees nothing wrong in making a virtue of local production. “For us, local is Portland; 80% of what we have is made in this building. That’s pretty darn local,” she said.
(11 February 2012)

Are electric or hybrid cars a green marketing myth, or a real solution?

David Herron,
Will adopting electric or hybrid cars solve any of the problems it’s hoped they’ll solve? A lot of money and effort is being spent on them, but so too is money being spent on developing gasoline cars. The question is, what is the best allocation of research resources to solve transportation system problems?

Most of the focus on developing electric or hybrid cars is that they’ll address climate change and other environmental issues. Hence most are pose the problem as “How do we stop climate change”? There are several other issues not considered by that problem statement.

What about Peak Oil and land use issues? In the focus on climate change those problems are being ignored.
(10 February 2012)
David Herron is a software developer, a writer on electric vehicles and a founding member of Transition Silicon Valley. -BA

Is This the Most Beautiful Street in the World?

Stephen Messenger, Treehugger
… With so many scenic streets in cities across the globe, some cutting straight through modern metropolises bordered by towering skyscrapers, others following ancient winding paths in the shadow of great monuments, determining which of all is prettiest might seem an impossible task. But hard as it may be, there is one street in Brazil which has earned that distinction among an international audience — namely for its impressive natural beauty.

Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho, in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, may not pass by any notable historical sites along its 500 meter stretch, but it does have a forest. In all more than one hundred towering tipuana trees line the road like a living colonnade, forming what some have called a ‘green tunnel’ over three city blocks. The quiet, shady street has long been a favorite among locals, but recently it garnered some broader acclaim.
(31 January 2012)
Striking photos of the street are at the original article. Suggested by EB contributor Marcin Gerwin. -BA

Voices from the previews of ‘In Transition 2.0′: Totnes

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Last week’s previews of ‘In Transition 2.0′ went really well, and one of the conditions for those places that hosted previews was that after the film they recorded some quick vox pops with people about their thoughts on the film. These are now starting to come in from around the world, and we are editing the highlights together and will be posting them here over the next few days. Let’s start with what people had to say after the screening at the Barn Cinema, Dartington.

(8 February 2012)
More responses to the film, this time from Wayland. -BA

When the Transition Movement & the Community Rights Movement Start Collaborating, Watch Out!

Paul Cienfuegos, blog
(Paul Cienfuegos presented this original speech to the Transition PDX group in Portland, Oregon, on January 18, 2012. He hopes that it will be shared with other Transition groups across the United States and beyond. Please spread it widely!)

Thank you so much for inviting me to share my thoughts with you this evening! I have been excited about the Transition movement ever since it first launched, but have watched it from the sidelines, as I focused my energies instead on the corporate rule crisis. I think it would be accurate to say that the sustainability crisis that we face on Mother Earth, or more accurately, the crisis of the LACK of sustainability in modern society, is perhaps THE MOST URGENT of all our societal crises. And what I see the international transition movement doing brings me great excitement and hope.

For years now, I’ve had the notion that the Transition movement and the movement to end corporate rule SHOULD be working hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. But interestingly, they’re not, at least not yet. I’m really troubled that our two movements are not yet working together, and my gut instinct is that if we continue to not work together, both of our movements will ultimately fail.

In this country, our activism manifests as thousands and thousands of tiny under-funded under-staffed single-issue groupings, each fighting against one specific societal problem. To some degree, the Transition movement avoids this single-issue activism, which is GREAT! It sees itself instead as a more cosmic social movement that is fixing the culture at the local level – building healthy local sustainability structures – house by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community. Clearly, there’s something VERY POWERFUL here as a model for organizing, or it wouldn’t be spreading as fast as it is. I applaud you for your work. It’s very exciting to watch it unfold.

But I also have some concerns about the Transition movement, which is part of why I’m excited to be speaking to you tonight. My main concern is that nowhere in the Transition strategy do I see any real focus on the critical issue of governance. In other words, where in the Transition strategy do we talk about governing ourselves at the local level? We are We The People. There is no legal power in this nation greater than US!

Paul Cienfuegos is a Workshop Leader, Lecturer, Writer, Bookseller, Engaged Citizen.
(29 January 2012)