In case you missed it, Brentin Mock has a (heartbreaking) tribute in Grist about 15-year-old George Carter III, killed recently in New Orleans. George was deeply involved with a remarkable student-driven group called The Rethinkers. He spoke of the power of gardens, real food, and nature to make a difference in kids’ lives under the toughest circumstances; there is some lasting power and resonance in his story that deserves to be shared. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has more on Carter here.


I mentioned that the City of Yakima is pushing a proposed homeless shelter into a warehouse district. An update: the city has passed an emergency moratorium on shelters to stop a local nonprofit from using an old convenience store as one. The council had previously used emergency moratoria only for pot shops, porn shops, and bikini baristas.

What is heroism? The answer came to me this week from a good friend of Sightline, who shared with me the following note, which he had received from a doctor friend of his. The doctor recently retired to Colorado from twenty-plus years fighting AIDS in Uganda and training African doctors.

It seems that the world is awash in very large problems most of which I cannot change through my actions. The ebola epidemic sweeping through three West African countries is the one global threat I am uniquely qualified to confront. Over the past two months I watched from the safety of my soft chair while ebola relentlessly spread, with the incidence and death toll steadily rising. Without immediate full-on confrontation, ebola could claim hundreds of thousands of lives, destroy countries, create civic panic.

I began to ask myself what I was going to do about this, what I had to offer. I kept looking deeply into my heart and kept hearing the question and answer, “Why not me?” I am, after all, experienced in Africa, infectious disease, and international relief. [My wife] and I have been in deep conversations about life, death, commitment and action. What if I should get ebola? What if this should take my life? Who should respond to this crisis? One result of these conversations is a profound closeness, an immediacy of kindness, compassion, and patience with one another because just thinking about ebola is enough for us to cherish one another.

I have now signed up with the International Medical Corps to volunteer in Sierra Leone to run an Ebola Treatment Center…. I will be in charge of a clinic team in a newly created treatment center in Lunsar, a city north of Freetown…. I will be entering a world of death, despair, and confusion but also a world where human compassion and immediate medical care count the most.

The doctor (whose name I have not used because my friend thinks he would not want to be singled out) left for Sierra Leone on Tuesday. This is the story of just one of many heroes who are responding to the ebola epidemic, and they all need our prayers and support. Please hold them all in your hearts.


Why do major international banks keep throwing more and more money at coal companies?


This week, ForestEthics’ Matt Krogh took Washington Governor Inslee to task for failing to adequately respond to the threat posed by oil trains transiting the state, calling the recent Department of Ecology study on the subject “tainted” and enumerating its serious flaws.

At the Daily Beast, Bill Conroy brought to light damning evidence on Tesoro—an oil company with a horrendous track record—and documents that showed it was leaking a flammable oil byproduct into the stormwater system at its Anacortes Refinery. Conroy also details the failure of regulatory agencies to respond. It should worry you that Tesoro is behind plans to build an absolutely enormous oil-by-rail facility on the Columbia River.

In a video posted on Facebook, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission takes on the risks of oil trains traveling through the Gorge. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, New Jersey fire fighters complain that they have neither the equipment nor the training to protect their communities from oil train fires. Yet perhaps volatile energy markets will solve the problem for us. Analysts at RBN Energy suggest that falling crude oil prices are putting pressure on Bakken oil-by-rail plans.


Did you know that Seattle is one of the most drastically re-engineered cities in the country?

Ultimately, with each new river rerouting or tidal flat filling, the fragile connection between memory and landscape was broken, and with it a certain kind of wisdom was lost. These projects brought dubious benefits and cost more than money…. To help reconnect to our ghost past as we try to reconnect to our urban waterfront, the Waterlines Project team of researchers, artists and graphic designers, with funding help from 4Culture, has published a map as a guide.


Sheldon Whitehouse, US Senator and climate champ, delivered this compassionate and clear-sighted speech at the NYU conference on climate policy. Whitehouse also disclosed a carbon fee bill that will be introduced next month. Whitehouse calls his new bill a “win-win-win” that will reduce carbon emissions by 59% from 2005 levels and generate as much as two trillion dollars in new revenue over the first decade! “We can use this revenue to do big things; repair a marketplace failure; and guide the economy toward lower emissions, enhanced productivity, and a sustainable future,” explained Whitehouse. It is a sensational time in the US as more and more courageous states take on environmental tax reforms. Hopefully, Oregon and Washington will be next!


And here are some tips for bike-friendly Halloween costumes. Caped crusaders and squids, beware!

October 31, 2014