Portland movement shoots for roots in parking lots

PARKING LOTS to PARADISE // Documentary from Joey Dello Russo on Vimeo.

There’s a lot of money to be made in parking lots. They don’t cost much to build and become critical components of relocation plans for companies and people looking to settle in urban environments.

But the majority of them look like shit.

Thankfully, architects and urban planners have recently discovered the feasibility of underground facilities and seem to be eschewing (to some extent) the old staple of paving a few thousand square feet every couple of blocks. So then the question arises, “What to do with these unused expanses of crumbling asphalt? Well, there’s this cool organization in Portland that is taking over these searing, cracked squares of ugly and converting them to urban gardens and mini-parks. It’s called Depave.

Under the taglines “From Parking Lot to Paradise” (nudge nudge) and “Free Your Soil,” Depave organizes the destruction of concrete lots to prevent tainted storm run-off and excess heat reflection and then establishes attractive, forested spaces in city environments. Revitalized lots also encourage community awareness and cut down on trash dumping, loitering and general neglect. It’s run by just a couple of folks and relies largely on volunteers and a dedicated board.

Depave is clearly an effort that could only get started in a civic-minded place like Portland but there is no reason why it couldn’t spread roots around the country. I think these folks are on to something here.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to get the chance to run a jackhammer for a few hours?

The City Dark explores the deep reaches of what’s important about the night sky

I never knew what was up there until I began regularly visiting the west. On a trip to Moab one year my wife and I pulled over on Utah Highway 128 out of Grand Junction because we noticed something highly unusual in the night sky: bright, bright stars. Lots and lots of them. We were still living on the east coast at that time and we just never knew what true darkness looked like.

Growing up in the suburban east never encouraged me to understand what darkness meant. Deep, tar-black night is hard to come by in the way most of us live today. Maybe it’s because we’ve become so accustomed to needing the comfort of light and too driven by unaccounted for fears of the dark. Given what I now know about what thrives above us in the Milky Way, I often find myself craving the solitude of vacant land at night somewhere in the West just so I can be reminded of how much more there is to the universe.

There’s a great line in this trailer for “The City Dark” that I think would make a great tagline: “When we add light to the environment, it’s an alteration of habitat.”

I’ve never thought of it that way before. I will now, though.

“The City Dark” is in theaters now. But go see a matinee.