On the Streets Where We Live

By Nancy Tannler, Editor

Dear Readers:

The past few weeks every time I hear the news, I think of the line in Patty Griffin’s song, “Don’t bring me bad news, no bad news, I don’t need any of your bad news today.”

It is heartbreaking to hear horrible stories and to think of all the peoples’ lives who have been lost or changed by violence. I keep wondering how it all got so out of hand.

I think one reason is the vitriol of Talk Radio that blames an ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or job description for the troubles in the world.

This type of rhetoric repeated over and over can trigger weak-minded individuals to do something about it by taking matters into their own hands.

Talk Radio preaches hateful thinking instead of right thinking and now with the availability of assault weaponry, the consequences are proving lethal and uncontrollable.

This type of sermonizing must be similar to the  influence  fanatical Imams have on people in the Middle East or any fanatical organization leader whose charismatic fire and brimstone oration preaches vengeance as a solution to feeling unempowered.

This zealous browbeating is probably pretty appealing to young men full of vim and vigor who feel hopeless about the future. If they could find meaningful work instead of being ignited with hate, they probably wouldn’t want to wage war for a job.

It is said that, “In the beginning was the word…” and words have power. They are the proverbial double-edged sword that can create beauty and harmony or a living hell.

Speech is a responsibility and unfortunately, the uncontrolled use of it has been unleashed on an unsuspecting public both here and around the world.

If leaders of their respective countries want less violence, they should consider the source of the spoken word. Who is whipping their people into a frenzy of hatred against each other, the police, humanity in general? Maybe litigious orators are the ones who should be held accountable for the actions of their fold.

In this country, the First Amendment to The Constitution is about freedom of speech. Does that mean a person can say anything or is there a responsibility for a talk show host to be moral and truthful?

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind,” wrote Rudyard Kipling.

Shopping local

The movement to purchase organic or locally-farmed products has become a common mantra to the people of Portland and the west coast in general.

We have the option to make this choice as long as it is financially feasible. Until I  began reading The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollen I never really understood what a unique opportunity we have to support and vote with our dollars by buying local and organic.

Pollen describes how farming became agri-business (agriculture conducted on commercial principles, especially using advanced technology) beginning in the late 1940s and early 50s

It’s a complicated story but the abbreviated version is that Fritz Haber, a German chemist, invented a way to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen gases. This increased the production of nitrogen-based products like fertilizer and explosives.

Previously, farmers were dependent on getting nutrients into the soil from limited natural deposits methods like crop rotation and planting cover crops that over time would revitalize soil. They are now dependent on the readily-available synthetic atmospheric nitrogen.

An example of how powerful this invention has been for humans is the fact that two in five people would not have survived in the last seventy years if farmers had to rely on the old ways of getting nitrogen into the soil to produce a crop.

There wouldn’t have been enough food to feed everyone.

With old style farming, a farmer supported his family plus twelve other people on a dozen different plants and animals.

Today’s agribusiness farmer plants two crops, corn or soybeans because he/she no longer has to bother with crop rotation, and feeds 129 people.

Not only does this allow for constant planting but computerized tractors with automatic planters, fertilizers and harvesters can farm every square inch of land.

The downside is there are no hedgerows, open prairie and other places for local flora and fauna to thrive and songbirds in the mid-west have decreased by 80%.

Today’s farmers need to squeeze as many bushels as they can from an acre of land and even with this they barely survive and are subsidized by the government to over plant. It’s mind boggling to figure out the reasoning behind this type of farming.

Even though people saw this coming, they were defenseless against the tide of technology.

My husband was raised on a farm in South Dakota and his family were homesteaders on the land. By the 1950s, everyone was using chemical fertilizers and herbicides. His great uncle, who had farmed with horses, took up a handful of soil and said to him and anyone who would listen, “They’re killing it, but they’ll pay.”

The Omnivores Dilemma is an after-the-fact story of how progress is starting to backfire and begs the question: is more always better?

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to vote with our dollars and buy local and organic.

Infill dilemma

The information I am learning about in Pollen’s book parallels the infill planning action taking place in Portland. We are trying to build more housing for the newcomers and displaced people on the same amount of land and make money – for someone – at the same time.

I am assuming many of those recently immigrated to the Northwest have come from parts of the Midwest. I wonder if agribusiness and other land abuse has driven them from their childhood homes “to a better place”.

If we continue to increase density and fill every square inch of land, where will the life in our hedgerows go, and not unlike the wildlife, will we be able to thrive as we are living cheek to jowl with one another?

Maybe a new paradigm of thinking for city planners is to accept the idea that sometimes neighborhoods are already filled to capacity.


One good thing about a cooler Northwest summer is that the forest fires here aren’t raging like last year.

I lived in Vancouver as a kid and I remember many summers where we swam in LaCamas Lake (back in the days when the working people could do that) on overcast days with cool weather.

The Lewis River was a source of entertainment and on cloudy, cool days we jumped into the river and quickly back into our sweatshirts and jeans, just to know we had enjoyed the water.

Willie Levenson, the ringleader of The Big Float, was anticipating about 3,000 people this year to float across the Willamette River but the cool, rainy Sunday greatly diminished these numbers.

Still, 500 hearty individuals showed up in support of the Human Access project, now in its sixth year, that encourages people to use the Willamette River.

It goes to show that people, even those not born and raised in the Northwest, are starting to take to the unpredictable weather patterns that make this area so uniquely green.

Despite the ebb and flow of seasons, they are learning to grab whatever they can of summer come rain or shine.

The best turn of phrase I can think of to remind us savor the waning summer was originally said by the Roman poet Horace:  Carpe Diem. Seize the day!

On the Streets Where We Live

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top