A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Oregon Sustainability Center Shot Down

The Rainbow Water Coalition has been following this project for quite sometime now, most recently with  this posting regarding the precarious funding and political situation. The OregonBEST group who has been championing the Oregon Sustainability Center visited the Oregon State University campus last week where we had a chance to mix it up with these very dedicated green building experts and advocates. But then earlier this week the final verdict came out regarding the state investment - no more green for you. At the risk of raising the wrath of The Oregonian over copyright issues, I reproduce the editorial cartoon by their talented and very humorous cartoonist, Jack Ohman, which encapsulates the issue in a nutshell.

For full disclosure, I have been following the Oregon Sustainability Center closely because I am one of the OregonBEST faculty members. I have participated in the Oregon BEST-FEST and spoken about the use and reuse of water for the building. I have also lectured to my undergraduate students about the proposed building, as well as other large living building projects across the US and abroad. But the saga of the Oregon Sustainability Center has been most interesting to me beyond the technical and educational involvement. This project has been an eye-opener because of how political the concept of sustainability apparently has become over the past decade. If one is confused by this statement, revisit this posting, particularly the student polling, and then review the comments section of this newspaper article.

And the timing of the Oregon Sustainability Center demise is ironic in that Oregon State University just yesterday announced the offering of a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Sustainability (double-degree program), where "The primary objective of this degree program is to prepare students to incorporate sustainability into varied disciplinary and career pathways and to be agents of positive change in their professions and their communities....The B.S. in Sustainability will require an explicit integration of economic, political, social, and ecological disciplines that transcends disciplinary boundaries". I guess this is good news, but to further underscore why the Oregon Sustainability Center might not have secured the support it needed is the fact that I spoke to a few members of the OSU faculty that have a direct stake in this new degree program, and what was most surprising to me was that NONE of them had heard of the Oregon Sustainability Center. The only faculty that I encountered at the OSU-OregonBEST mixer were primarily the folks interested in building the thing - Engineering and Technology faculty.

The other irony regarding the Oregon Sustainability Center article is that the news was paired with legislative bills on concealed weapons. One of the bullets aimed at killing the Oregon Sustainability Center is the competing, privately-funded Bullitt Center in Seattle, pegged as the "greenest commercial building in the world".
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People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet.
~ Temple Grandin


  1. I put a bullet into the back of the crocodile's neck just behind the head, thus killing it. If a crocodile is hit in any other part of its anatomy it disappears into the water and is irrecoverable.

    Louis Leakey

  2. Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Then again, he said that before he got shot.
    Sarah Vowell

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