Saturday, February 19, 2011


For those of you who missed our sustainable agriculture event with the Center for Local Self-Reliance last Thursday, featuring "Dirt! The Movie", here's a re-cap.

The film was moving and educational, opening a discourse about the undervaluation of dirt, our source of life and sustenance. We learned that dirt is an amazingly complex living organism that requires care and balance in order to continue to produce our life source. We also got to see how dirt is used for various purposes around the world, supporting the survival of our race as a whole. I left feeling compelled to build a compost bin, and plant as much green in the open spaces around me to heal the soil that has been damaged by monoculture, pesticides, and the disconnection of city cement-laying. I'd encourage everyone to watch the film and allow it to "take root" in your personal constitution. You can visit the film's website for tips and facts about dirt and what we can do to care for it.

After the film, we heard from local expert
Walter Haugen of F.A. Farm, who brought us samples of dirt, compost, and it's fruits to smell, feel and taste. We discussed current trends in sustainable agriculture, methods and techniques for planting organically, and measuring efficiency based on caloric input. If you also have questions or comments about dirt, compost and sustainable agriculture, feel free to post your question on our blog.

Finally, Seth June of Homestead Habitats, introduced us to opportunities in our community to learn about home-sized food production, to include soil maintenance and composting. RE Sources will be hosting Homestead Habitats and BUGS' permaculture series this spring at the Sustainable Living Center. If you'd like to learn to garden, but don't have garden space, fear not! RE Sources is building a community garden this spring and is looking for curious neighbors to get their hands dirty. For more information about this upcoming educational series and to learn how you can become a garden caretaker, email

And finally, I'd like to thank the Center for Local
Self-Reliance for partnering with us on this event. Through volunteer help, CLSR has just finished installing deer fences around their gardens, and look forward to a productive season as they continue to expand the Caretaker's House. Jean Kroll, who spearheaded the film showing, is an active member of the sustainability movement in Whatcom County and a great resource. Please email CLSR if you'd like more info on their programs.

Special thanks also to the Community Food Co-op for generously donating our local, organic snacks.

Hannah Coughlin
RE Sources Outreach

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bellingham’s Great Wall of China

The Great Wall was built to define territory and keep the uncivilized hordes out of the more civilized lands of China.  Certainly in this instance a wall brought benefit, but not all walls do.  Take, for instance, the mile and half long “wall” of coal cars that would pass through Bellingham 12 times a day if the Pacific Gateway proposal for Cherry Point gets approved and coal turns out to be the main material shipped. 

But SSA Marine and Goldman Sachs say that it is going to bring us prosperity and riches you say?  Maybe for Goldman Sachs and Burlington Northern, but for most of the rest of us it is going to bring even more economic hardship.  Why would I say that?  Let’s do the math.

Most projections we have seen put the number of coal trains traveling to and from Cherry Point at six which means 12 trips through Bellingham a day—18 miles of trains.  At 10 miles per hour it takes a train six minutes to travel a mile or nearly 40 minutes for the train to get completely through the roughly 5 miles of track along Bellingham’s waterfront.  Twelve times 40 is 480 minutes which means that for 20 minutes every hour there will be a train traversing our waterfront or 32% of the time.  Since that mile and half long train only covers 30% of the five mile course, we end up with what amounts to a solid wall 10% of the time 24 hours a day. 

So if you are a business on the bayside of the trains and you keep normal nine-to-five business hours you should probably expect the coal wall to have a 3.32% impact on your livelihood.  So if your revenues are about $1 million this could potential take a $33,200 nick out of your revenues.  More if your hours of operation are longer.  All things being equal, that could represent the equivalent of about one employee per every million dollars in revenue earned on the bayside of the tracks. 

The impacts of this will not be universal or homogenous.  For some businesses like restaurants it could mean loss of customers because of access issues or them not wanting to listen to 30 minutes of coal trains during an hour and half lunch or dinner.  For others in the hauling or delivery fields it might come in the form of lost efficiency because their trucks traverse the tracks regularly. 

Then there are the whole host of issues that arise in terms of safety and service access.  What will this do to response times in that area?  There are many people on the other side of the “wall” in those office buildings, marina, and the hotel whose lives may depend on emergency response time.

And what about the potential to impact the waterfront redevelopment plans?  The revenue projections are already probably too high and not adequate to cover climbing clean up costs.  How does a proposed activity that impacts these revenue projections even further make prospects any rosier?

If I was trying to run a business on the bayside of the tracks during these trying times, I’d be asking SSA Marine and their representatives some very, very serious questions.  And I suspect that at some point I would end up wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: Don’t Let Goldman Sachs’ Greed Put Me on the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

Bob Ferris 
Executive Director

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How I have a lovely day

Wake up

Chug coffee
Bundle up
Jump on bike

pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t
pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t

Cruise onto the trail
Take a deep breath
Think, “damn it’s cold”
Ring bell
Nod to runner as I pass

pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t
pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t

turn onto the road
get into bike lane
avoid frozen puddle
nod to other cyclist
bellow that song that’s been in my head since yesterday

pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t
pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t

settle into a rhythm
forget I’m pedaling
enjoy the crisp air on my face
feel my hands warming up
start smiling

pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t
pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t

arrive downtown
remember to obey traffic laws
wave to the friendly driver at the intersection
balance on my bike at the red light
almost there

pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t
pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal
c o a s t

park bike
pick underwear out of my butt
lock up
grab stuff
beam, rosy-cheeked to my coworkers (and fellow bike commuters)

Crina Hoyer 
Program Director