Welcome to 2018. While many would like to say good riddance to a year of sewer-politics, deadly fires, last winter bone-chilling weather, and the all too many divisions that rip at our families and communities, we know there were other accomplishments and miracles to celebrate:
- Hajar: The odds had been been stacked against Hajar, a lion cub born just hours after her mother Dana, rescued from a defunct zoo in a war-torn Syria, was released into a wildlife reserve in Jordan. Dana and 12 other animals had barely survived under harsh conditions in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a major battleground. They were transported from Syria to Turkey and then to Jordan by the international animal charity Four Paws.
- The Columbia Gorge Fire: 48,000 acres, days of breathing acrid smoke, Cascade Locks evacuations….and hundreds of logs to be placed into streams for fish habitat, new seedlings already thriving in the core of the fire Eagle Creek, and historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, fully intact and open for business. Opportunities to explore new trails on both sides of the Columbia River. A new beginning for stewardship.
- The People Have Spoken!: In the heart of red-state Broadhurst, Georgia, the Wayne County commissioners were unaccustomed to a big audience. Over the previous weeks, the local newspaper had uncovered plans by an out-of-town waste hauler to expand a rail line leading to the community’s landfill. County residents were becoming increasingly concerned with each story. This new rail spur would enable the company—later found to be Republic Services, a $9-billion firm based in Phoenix whose biggest shareholder is Microsoft’s Bill Gates—to haul 10,000 tons of toxic coal ash through the county’s swampy forest lands and into the dump every day. Some 15 months later, to the great surprise of the anti-coal ash coalition, the community’s campaign paid off. In April, Republic abruptly announced in an email that it was withdrawing its applications for permits that would allow it to haul coal ash into Broadhurst!
- Starfish Comeback: Baby starfish are making a comeback in Oregon and California just two years after disease nearly wiped out the small but integral sea creature, scientists reported five days ago.
Starfish, also known as sea stars, are crucial predators that eat mussels and barnacles, keeping their populations under control, scientists said. Studies have shown large populations of mussels will crowd an area, leaving no room for algae or small invertebrates.
Officials are hopeful the increase in babies will mean a resurgence of the starfish population. A new study by Oregon State University scientists showed an increase of purple ochre starfish babies that was 300 times the normal rate.
May your hopes never falter, never flicker out. Happy New Year! Happy New Hope!