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PSU sponsors National Academy workshop on urban sustainability
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: May 30, 2013

Portland Sate University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions and Research & Strategic Partnerships cosponsored this week a workshop with The National Academy of Sciences. The workshop focused on city-level approaches to climate change that brought city and government officials from around the country and the globe to Portland to share best practices and discuss new possibilities. 

The two-day event, “Pathways to Urban Sustainability Workshop: A Focus on the Portland Region,” was designed to use examples of climate-related policies and practices from Portland and the Cascadia region as a platform for discussing the future of urban sustainability. Participants were in attendance from cities including London, Houston and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.  

Throughout the workshop panels and presentations addressed topics such as sustainable development in Portland and how it has been leveraged by public and private sectors; integrating research into urban sustainability strategies; the role of federal agencies in promoting research and urban policy; and funding strategies for new sustainability initiatives. 

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who kicked off the workshop with remarks Tuesday morning, called the experts in attendance “the A-Team.” 

“I am pleased that you’ve joined us here in Portland for this conversation,” Blumenauer said. 

Blumenauer requested city leaders not give up on the federal government when it comes to support for urban sustainability, despite a lack of progress on the federal level to address climate change. 

But the theme of much of the workshop sessions was that cities are uniquely positioned to make strides toward reducing carbon emissions and improving sustainability within their boundaries. 

Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Regional Administrator for Region 9, which includes California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii, said that innovative policies and practices from cities can bubble up to the state level, and then eventually to the federal level. For many cities implementing alternative transportation and waste-reduction policies isn’t just about reducing emissions, it’s about preserving the livability and prosperity for citizens. 

“The closer to the ground you are, the less the environment is politicized,” he said. 

PSU faculty played a prominent role on many of the panels and Jon Fink, PSU’s Vice President of Research and Strategic Partnerships and co-moderator for the workshop, promoted the use of university research to solve urban sustainability problems. Portland State researchers have taken on city issues from watershed restoration to recycling programs to transportation behavior.  

John Cleveland, founder of the Innovation Network for Communities, urged workshop attendees to communicate and work on standardizing sustainable practices that work at the city level so that other cities can adopt them. 

“You can’t solve the entire carbon problem with the cities that are working on it,” Cleveland said. “What we need is standardization.”