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The old urban West speaks out

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Perhaps most HCN staff and readers will recognize themselves in Stiles’ essay (HCN, 3/21/05: A look at the West, in the funhouse mirror). I did not recognize myself or my neighbors. We are the Old Urban West.

I am a fourth-generation Northwesterner living in the urban neighborhood where I was born, a neighborhood as strained by the influx of "New Westerners" as any mountain town. I have never ridden a chairlift or used my car to transport my bike. I drive a 1981 Toyota, and to get in touch with nature, I go to the city park or sit in my yard. On my standard city lot one mile from downtown Portland, I grow and process lots of food, and I am much more comfortable talking with a farmer about the finer points of soil fertility than with a recreationist about the finer points of snow conditions. Although I could probably afford a second home, I choose not to own one, because if environmentalism means anything, it means the daily practice of restraint.

Thousands of my neighbors are just like me, and we are the environmental movement. "New Westerners" are easy to caricature, but real urban people have no more in common with them than do working cowboys. By reinforcing the "New Westerner" stereotype, HCN helps ensure that even those who try every day to walk their talk will continue not to be taken seriously, and will not be recognized for the majority that they are.

Martin C. Evans
Portland, Oregon

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