As part of my participation on the Advisory Board of First Stop Portland, I am occasionally asked to meet with visitors or public officials who have come to Portland to learn from our experience. First Stop Portland is run through Portland State University and their mission “To Connect Global Leaders with Local Innovators” translates into well-run densely packed tours.
Recently I had the great experience of meeting with three TV journalists from Tashkent, Uzbekistan who were visiting Portland to document stories on “ecological advances in the US.” Uzbekistan lies at the heart of the Central Asia — one of only two doubly-landlocked countries in the world (the other is Liechtenstein) and a gateway to Iran and Afghanistan. Uzbekistan also happens to be one of the most environmentally degraded countries in the world. Decades of questionable Soviet policies in pursuit of greater cotton production have resulted in a catastrophic situation. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on Earth but has now shrunk to less than 50% of its former area.
Meeting in Ankeny Square on a very rainy and windy afternoon, my role in this tour (which was conducted with a Russian translator) was to highlight Portland’s urban landscape innovations in green building and urban design which contribute to our very livable and walkable city. I shared the story of the Mercy Corps Global Headquarters as a catalyst for neighborhood redevelopment and also the transformation of Tom McCall Waterfront Park from a highway separating Portland from its river to a playground for many of our civic and cultural gatherings.
The resulting documentary from this tour will be shown to 30 million cable television viewers in Uzbekistan later this year to inspire environmental stewardship as a key to quality of life.
Photo from First Stop Portland