Another Voice Against the Tar Sands Projects

Recently, I asked my students to write a letter about something they wanted to change in the world.  They wrote some eloquent, passionate (and occasionally hilarious) letters about everything from dog parks (Seattle needs more of) to rice milk (Starbucks should offer for soy allergenic vegans) to tigers (should be saved).  Something ignited in many of them, realizing they could share their opinions about something that mattered to them with someone — maybe even the president! — who might be able to do something about it.  It was beautiful to see.

My student Jade took this assignment especially seriously, and poured her eloquence and caring into it.  Jade is a bright-eyed, big-dreamed, strong-hearted girl, and her letter gives me a huge jolt of faith in the young people who are coming up, poised to lean their weight into the world.

With her permission, I want to share her letter.  The prompt was mine, but the topic, research, fire, and words are hers.  Read it, share it, act on it.

Dear Mr. Obama,

My name is Jade.  I am eleven years old and I live in Seattle, WA.  I am concerned about the proposed Enbridge pipeline through the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.   The oil they will be mining is the dirtiest oil that we know of; the Tar Sands oil.  In mining the tar sands, Enbridge would be making 1.8 billion liters of wastewater a day.  The pipeline would cross over 700 streams and watersheds, causing erosion.  The oil would be loaded onto super tankers and navigated at 15 knots between sandbars and reefs where there are frequently hurricane speed winds.  A few years ago, a passenger ferry named Queen of the North sank off that coast.   She is still leaking oil and the tankers would be three times the size and carrying a half billion gallons of oil.  The oil would be shipped off to Asian markets; every one would buy cars and need the oil.  Enbridge would not be able to stop.

Many of the First Nations people who live at the edge of the rain forest are hunters and fishers.  With the traffic of 200 tankers a year, they would be waiting for when one sank, ruining their way of life.  The spilled oil would also effect the whales, and the fish, and the water the land animals- like the Spirit Bear and gray wolves- depend on, drawing them all to extinction.

I live off the Puget Sound.  I share the same water as the rain forest.  The oil would affect ME.  It would reach and harm the creatures even in the sound.  You can’t ignore this.  We as a planet cannot let something like this happen.  This is where we live, where we belong.  We have to take care of this earth.

I am interested in knowing what actions are being taken for this proposal.




Jade Carter


Some things I like about Missoula, Montana

I was in Missoula, Montana this weekend, and now I am here to tell you some (of the many, many) things I like about that place.

1. First of all, coming into town there is this one billboard for Ruby’s Inn or Restaurant or something, that has been there at least since 2004, and while they must update it or the weather would weather it, Ruby never changes.  She is still this sixty-something year old woman with hair of a red brown color that only comes in a box, and lips that match her name.  The reason I don’t know what the billboard is for is because I get too distracted staring at her picture, wondering if I would be scared of her if I met her.

2. After I got off the freeway, the only car I passed on the way to my friends’ house was an ancient Subaru driven by a laughing young woman in a straw cowboy hat.  This was midnight on a Friday in February.  That about sums up Missoula.

3.  However, it keeps being great.  As I unload my car, Squinchy roams around the sidewalk off-leash, getting his snow-legs.  A man comes walking down the middle of the street.  People aren’t so big on sidewalks in Missoula, probably because the streets aren’t all so big on them either.  Anyhow, Squinchy felt something was fishy about this fellow, and gave him the mean dog hackle bark treatment, which is more fearsome us people in the Squinchy Is Cute club might expect.  In Seattle, I might have gotten a lecture, or at least a dose of dog-owner guilt, but not in Missoula.  Instead, the man apologized to me.  “My room mate’s dog does it too,” he tells me, and walks off unfazed into the night.

4. Here is the part about all of the awesome people I love who I see in Missoula, whether they live there or not.  They cast a golden haze over that city that rivals its famous inversion.

5. Then there is the Orange St. Food Farm.  I can’t put it into words.  This is what grocery stores would be if we let them.

6. Biga Pizza.

7. The sausage and cherry pizza at Biga Pizza

8. The ricotta and pepper pizza at Biga Pizza

9. The crust of the pizza at Biga Pizza

10. How freight trains run right through town and how you can feel it in your body when they are coupling.

11. How the only thing you hear at night is the trains if they are passing and maybe the stove, or a lone truck on the interstate, and all around you are the mountains, holding you in the palm of their hand.

12. Shopping! And the delicious irony that of all my friends in all cities, it’s my environmental studies ladies in Missoula-Middle-of-the-Wilderness Montana who I love to shop with best.  We shopped the heck out of that Hip Strip and you know it.

13. How every time I am there, there comes a time in the night when Bryan asks me, “So what will it take to get you to move back here?”

My answer, Bryan and anyone else who cares, is this: Love, some lush greenness, the gut-pull that says that’s where I need to be.  Because that town has a lot going for it, that’s for sure.

More Important Than Justin Bieber

Let me tell you about my friend Hank.  He is lanky and geeky and as smart as he looks and he dances a whole lot better than you’d guess, given his lankiness and his geekiness and his whiteness.  In fact, he and his wife Katherine are just about the best dance-party dancers I know, even in full wedding regalia, and they can take down the house at karaoke, as they did one memorable night in the VFW bar in Missoula.  That bar is a story in itself.  But back to Hank: he’s the kind of friend who is easy to hang out with, even if months pass between interactions.

Also, he is a YouTube star.  Or perhaps, phenomenon? Here is an example:

Last week, I went to see him and his brother, John Green, the Best-Selling Young Adult Author, perform for 800 teenagers in a bookstore in the suburbs of Seattle.  Ostensibly, it was a book reading for John’s new book, but it is the only book reading I have ever been to that involved any of the following: 800 teenagers, a sock-puppet, Hank appearing in drag as John’s wife, confetti, or songs about the mating habits of angler fish.  This is because of the previously mentioned YouTube stardom, and how most authors whose book readings I attend are not teen idols.  I should maybe mention I tend to attend poetry readings.

In any case, Hank and John are teen idols, and this was their second to last stop on a sixteen city tour, with a specially painted John Green Tour van and the whole shebang, including autograph-induced carpal-tunnel.   I got there a couple of hours before the show so I could actually talk to Hank and Katherine, but already a line of teens stretched from the door around the edge of the strip-mall.  They seemed so happy, messing around with their phones and talking to each other.  Someone was playing the ukelale.  Inside, an acned boy wearing a hat with tentacles on it (which turned out to be a head crab hat, whatever that signifies) was wandering around the bookstore with a video camera, talking to himself.  I went backstage and drank bottled water with Katherine while Hank and John pre-signed about a trillion books.

After a while, I ventured out to the bookstore bakery, the sister bakery to one I used to work at, to see if I was still sick of their devil’s food cupcakes.  Two teenage girls were in line before me, and just when they got to the cash register, a scream went up from outside. “Have the menfolks arrived?” asked one of the girls, and the other ran out to check.  The first girl dug frantically for her camera.  “I know I have my camera on me somewhere!” she said, apologetically, as if the barista was in fact waiting for the camera to be produced, rather than the girl’s wallet. “Oooo, it’s Justin Beiber!” said one of the baristas, as the shrieking continued. “He’s way more important than Justin Beiber,” said the girl ahead of me.

I happen to agree with her that what Hank and John are doing is significantly cooler than what Mr. Beiber does, however perhaps you and I can share the irony in it all that she missed.  Looking around that room at those 800 over-documenting, pedestal-erecting, happy, nerdy teens, WHO WERE ALL BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER was pretty cool.  They have built some strange community based on their love of Hank and John’s videos, songs, and books, and the videos other people make in dialogue, and probably some other things I don’t really understand because I live in a parallel universe where Hank is not someone you swoon-scream over.  They have inside jokes and the whole deal.  It is its own subculture, one based on being nerdy and tech-savvy and young and wishing Harry Potter books were innumerable, and it seems, on being generally nice to each other.

“I like your hat!” yelled a girl in the row ahead of me, after we had all sat down.  She had short hair and hip glasses and plenty of confidence. “Thanks!” said the boy with the tentacles on his head.  “It’s a head crab!” “Cool!” she said, and it was, because they decided it was.  Then Hank sang a song about particle physics, and the kids danced so hard the floor shook, and old lady me started planning which way I would run when the whole place caved in.

Then, I watched Hank and John sign a lot of weird stuff for happy teenagers, and talking to Katherine while she hoped no teenager would swoon-scream at her, which they have the distressing habit of doing even though she doesn’t even want to be famous.  (Reminder, everyone: people are just people, even if you’ve heard of them on the internet and now they are standing in front of you.  Be cool.  Say hello instead of squealing.  Even Justin Bieber would probably appreciate it.)

Then I left, though there were hours worth of teenagers waiting for Hank and John to sign their bacon wallets, Head Crab hats, ukeleles, and of course, their books.  I drove home with a strange feeling of limitlessness that comes from watching people’s dreams take on their own life, and also a lot of nerdy social-anthropology thoughts.  The most interesting being this: it’s pretty cool that all these smart, different kids have this safe haven of the subculture they and John and Hank created.  Watching them all interact made me happy for their generation.  And yet, something about it is weird, besides that it is Hank on that stage.  And it isn’t the tentacle hat, or the 800 teens at a book reading.  It’s the “menfolks.”  In my mind, that’s a word reserved for family, not someone whose books and videos you like.  Maybe this was just the awkward word choice of a star-dazzled girl, but it seemed indicative of a sense of false intimacy.  I know that people can give each other a lot through words.  Hell, they can save your life, and help you remember who you are here to be.  But that doesn’t make them family.  It doesn’t even necessarily make them your friends.  Especially if you squeal at them.  I just hope that all those kids remember that, and ask more of their friends and families than they do from Hank and John.

Pocket Guide

Hey everyone,

Guess what! My friend Cara and I are starting a zine.  It’s called Pocket Guide.  It’s hip. It’s unfolding.  And it’s made from ONE PIECE OF PAPER!

You can check it out here.

We’re looking for contributions, so send us your art and your writing by March 31st.

Or send us your address, and we’ll send you a copy.  First one’s on us.