SOURCE: Green Valley Initiative

January 23, 2008 13:11 ET

Public Forum to Address Inland Empire Environmental and Social Challenges

RIVERSIDE, CA--(Marketwire - January 23, 2008) - A public workshop entitled: "The Inland Empire: Towards A More Humane Metropolis" will be held Thursday, January 24 at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. The one-day forum will address environmental and social challenges facing Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Information is available at http://www.humanemetropolis.org/.

With 80 percent of Americans now living in metropolitan areas, there is growing concern about how to make urban places more habitable, more healthy and safe, more efficient, more ecological, and more equitable -- in short, more "humane."

With over 4 million residents, the "Inland Empire" -- Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in Southern California -- ranks 14th in population among U.S. metropolitan areas and is one of the five fastest growing such regions in the nation. In 2005 alone, Riverside County experienced the second highest county growth rate in California. Much of the Inland Empire's extraordinary population growth is due to households moving from coastal counties in search of more affordable housing, but often with the tradeoff of lengthy commutes to jobs elsewhere. This has caused worsening traffic congestion, degradation of air quality, and reduced time for personal and family life. And currently, the Inland Empire housing market is experiencing a high rate of adjustable mortgage foreclosures.

The Inland Empire is known for its spectacular scenery, its outdoor recreation opportunities, and its diverse natural habitats and wildlife. But it is also vulnerable to various natural hazards and environmental constraints. Development on forested mountain slopes has heightened risk of urban/wildland fires during dry periods. The region experiences alternating cycles of drought and flash floods, and is at risk from earthquakes and landslides due to widespread seismic faults. Water supply, in the face of population growth and climate change, is a growing concern. And the extraordinary biological diversity and sensitive habitats of the region are threatened by ongoing development.

The January 24 workshop is sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, MA (http://www.lincolninst.edu/) and is organized by Dr. Rutherford H. Platt, Professor of Geography Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Editor of the 2006 book: "The Humane Metropolis: People and Nature in the 21st Century City" (http://www.humanemetropolis.org/). This will be the third Humane Metropolis workshop sponsored by the Lincoln Institute, with earlier ones held in New York City in 2002 and in Pittsburgh in March 2007.

The workshop has been planned in collaboration with the Blakely Center on Sustainable Suburban Development at the University of California at Riverside (http://cssd.ucr.edu/) and the Green Valley Initiative (http://www.greenvalleynow.org/) founded by Ali Sahabi. Among many speakers and panelists from the Inland Empire are Celeste Cantu, General Manager of the San Ana Watershed Authority, Jane Carney, a board member of the South Quality Management District, and Rose Mayes, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County. Speakers from outside the region include Michael Houck of the Greenspaces Institute in Portland, OR, Will Allen, Founder of Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee and Chicago, and Dr. Platt. The program is directed to urban policy practitioners, public officials, environmental advocates, and interested citizens.

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