Cultural activist group’s leader seeks city focus on conservation   
By Erin Castaneda. Sat, Apr 21, 2007
Lawrence resident Tim Hjersted is calling on the Lawrence City Commission to take heed of a national concern: oil supply.

The 23-year-old said homes and businesses in Lawrence are heavily reliant on fuel because residents tend to commute for work and most of the city’s food is imported.

“The average food deliveries travel 1,500 miles from where it’s grown and where it’s eaten,” he said. “Those kinds of numbers are really out of balance. We’ve been able to do that because gas has been cheaper.”

Hjersted — founder of Tribal Vision, a nonprofit group that promotes cultural activism — said that as fuel becomes more expensive it’s going to be taxing on people and businesses.

He drafted a resolution to establish a Lawrence Peak-Oil Task Force to find ways the city can reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The 11-member task force would study issues such as urban planning, public transportation and wastewater treatment, and make recommendations to the city. Five other cities have passed such a resolution, including San Francisco and Portland, Ore.

Hjersted’s inspiration for taking action came after seeing the documentary “The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream.” The documentary, released in 2004, addresses the diminishing fossil fuel supply in relation to the growing demand stemming from urban sprawl.

Hjersted said the suburban way of life has come to represent the American Dream, but that it would most likely change during the next 50 years as oil prices and demand increase while supplies decrease.

As part of Earth Day activities in Lawrence, he invited city leaders to view the public screening of the documentary at 7 p.m. Monday at Liberty Hall. He said he wants to inform them on the issue so they can consider adopting the resolution.

“I’m pretty confident that they will take an interest and want to take a positive leadership role in addressing the issue,” he said.

Hjersted said Lawrence already has taken steps to protect the environment such as the approval of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, an agreement to reduce the city’s carbon emissions 7 percent by 2012.

City Commissioner Boog Highberger, who helped approve the Climate Protection Agreement as mayor in March 2006, said the documentary serves as a good reminder.

“I think it’s clear we need to do a better job at energy conservation and environmental protection,” he said.

— Kansas University intern Erin Castaneda can be reached at 832-6385.