Washington State Main Street Program held its fifth-annual, three-day conference in Bellingham. The conference included workshops about preservation, economic development and design issues of historical buildings located downtown, including an awards ceremony with a special performance by the MegaZapper, one of the nation’s largest tesla coils. The Main Street Program’s mission is to help revitalize the downtown economy, specifically helping local business owners strive in, and preserve historical buildings in Bellingham’s downtown district while encouraging the use of local businesses. The event sold out with over 300 people from all around the state attending the conference, who stayed in local hotels and dined at local businesses. The conference isn’t only focused on preserving historical buildings in Bellingham, it’s about preserving historical buildings all around Washington to keep each town’s history intact and unchanged by large corporations looking to demolish and rebuild. Raven Gonzales, anthropology student and intern at SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, said it’s important to preserve the historical buildings in Bellingham because it enriches Bellingham’s culture, and also gets people more interested in visiting the downtown district. Michael Houser, Washington state’s architectural historian, said the main point of the conference is to keep people downtown using small businesses and away from the mall. “Downtown buildings make communities unique. Strip malls, you can find those everywhere. It’s historic buildings and small businesses that make your town special,” Houser said. The awards ceremony supported local businesses by serving local food from several different businesses around town, including refreshments from Aslan Brewery. The ceremony recognized over 15 businesses with a total of 10 awards. Community Energy Challenge in Bellingham won the Green Community award for their contribution and push toward alternative energies. Sarah Hansen, Washington State Main Street coordinator, said the importance of the program is that people need to learn and understand the impact of their purchasing power. “I think that there are people that don’t understand the really complicated web of relationships that local buying builds,” Hansen said. “When you spend money at a big corporation, it may be cheaper in the immediate sense, but the impact of that is much broader and it’s really important to understand.”
Four Western Washington University students studying in Nepal are safe and well after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the nation Tuesday, May 12. The Western students, part of a Wildlands Studies group in Nepal, were hiking near the mountain Kala Patthar on an open, well-traveled trail and felt a somewhat mild version of Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake, Western's University Communications Director Paul Cocke said in an email. There were only a few houses nearby and those were not damaged in any way, he said. The epicenter of the most recent earthquake was 50 miles east of the country’s capital Kathmandu, according to the New York Times. Nepal reported more than 40 deaths and over 1,000 injuries after the Tuesday quake. On April 25, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 caused more than 8,000 deaths in Nepal. During that first earthquake, the Wildlands Studies group was outside the area that suffered from the most damages, and received no injuries, Cocke said. The group is scheduled to depart Nepal Saturday, May 23, but in the wake of the second earthquake the group is considering whether to leave earlier than that original departure date, Cocke said.
The honors program will be under the new leadership of Western geology professor Scott Linneman starting in January 2016.
A federal investigation about Western’s handling of a sexual violence case was announced on Wednesday, April 29, following a complaint issued by a student against the university through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The original date of that complaint has not been released.
After a few cleansing breaths and a recitation of the first chapter of the Quran, a discussion on how to confront Islamophobia began.
Seafood and maritime enthusiasts alike have a new but unnamed waterfront and seafood festival to look forward to this fall thanks to a $75,000 award from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
When does healthy living become an unhealthy obsession? The Prevention & Wellness Services along with the Body Empowerment Peer Health Educators hosted a panel to discuss this issue and the influence of the media on lifestyle. The purpose of the event was to open up a dialogue between students and professionals about health, especially while in college. Panelist Heather Paves, a dietitian at North Sound Nourishment & Recovery, began the talk by saying she hoped to offer some wisdom beyond being a dietitian about what the audience of college students was probably going through. The panelists explained the term “orthorexia”, which means an obsession with righteous or pure eating. Sarah Richey, the dietitian for Western Washington University, explained that signs for people with orthorexia include becoming socially isolated by their diet and caring more about the virtue of what they eat rather than enjoying it. Anne Hammond-Meyer, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and said she does not like hearing the word “lifestyle.” “The diet mentality of our culture has really taken that word,” Hammond-Meyer said. “It has become a language for ‘perfect’ eating and exercise and I find that so sad.” Hammond-Meyer explained that when we talk about lifestyle we leave out love and relationship, resulting in a very narrow way to think about the meaning of a lifestyle. “I think that we have gotten confused on what gives human beings meaning of life and it is not what you look like,” Hammond-Meyer said. Marina Stoermer is a Western student as well as a personal trainer on campus. Stoermer said the phrase “healthy lifestyle” could be confusing in college when you’re trying to figure out who you want to be. “You have to ask how do these things make me feel and what influenced me to do those activities,” Stoermer said. Richey explained that when it comes down to disordered eating; it is about the fear of what will happen that drives those behaviors. “Even though it isn’t rational, it is very real to the person experiencing it,” Richey said. All four of the panelists emphasized the need to expand out of the term “healthy lifestyle” and its negative connotations that are perpetuated by the media. “Social media and popular health culture is a major dragging force behind our idea of healthy and advertisers aren’t necessarily concerned about our health,” Stoermer said. “The media’s idea of healthy is to sell things.” Paves added that there is a lack of trust of the body going on in our culture, and that the truth doesn’t make advertisers money. “If you invest in anything in your life, invest in the relationship with yourself and others, it will protect you in the world,” Hammond-Meyer said. The panelists also stressed to not believe everything you read on social media regarding healthy living, dieting and lifestyle, emphasizing that the media tries to tell you what you need and want. “You can’t make people buy things if they like who they are,” Richey said. The discussion ended with questions from the audience. The panelists reminded the audience if they or someone they know is struggling with disordered eating, to seek help.
The Social Alliance for a Vibrant Economy, SAVE, hosted the forum about the current condition of rental properties in Bellingham area on Wednesday, May 6. SAVE is a relatively new non-profit organization founded about a year ago. SAVE focuses on helping the average citizens to have an economical financial literacy, SAVE president Kris Halterman said. She said they found out the tightness of the rental market has been an issue, so they decided to open this forum for the community, landlords and people who rent in Bellingham. The panel consisted of people with three different perspectives on the issues: Hans Erchinger-Davis, local private residence landlord in Bellingham area; David Henken, staff attorney for law advocates; and Doug Wight, property management specialist. All of their presentations focused on tips to keep smooth relationship between landlords and tenants, from both sides. Erchinger-Davis talked about what makes good tenants for landlords based on his experience as a private landlord. He said it is necessary to be a good tenants, including getting along with neighbors and causing no troubles, in order to keep smooth relationship between landlords and tenants. Henken also provided some tips for tenants, from his perspective as an attorney who helps tenants struggling with their landlords. He mentioned about some sources, Revised Code of Washington and the law library in Whatcom County, to get deep understanding of the responsibilities as both tenants and landlords. He said tenants should perceive the rental contract as a sort of business contract, and that might help people to understand their obligations and rights. By contrast, Wight talked about, in particular for landlords, how the rental market works as an investor and property manager and how to maintain good communication between landlords and tenants. In the quick question-and-answer session at the end of the forum, many participants enthusiastically threw questions to panelists, including their concerns about the future of the rental market. Cristi Coy, a private landlord, said, “For tenants, [the forum] was probably helpful.” Even though she learned a lot about the issue through 27 years of her own experience as a landlord, the forum still gave her a sense of the issue from the consumer standpoint, she said. Halterman said they are hoping to offer the same kind of forum at Western this coming fall because a large number of students rent apartments. “They are usually new renters, and they don’t have any ideas what is going on and what to expect,” she said. “We can’t just complain it each other.” “We need to actually talk to one another to get a solution,” Halterman said.
Dozens of Western Washington University students attended a seminar held in honor of Western’s Smart Solar Window Team’s recent victory at the national EPA P3 competition, in which their smart solar window prototype took first place and won the team a $75,000 grant. The eight team members each gave a short presentation on what their role in the team was and explained how their invention worked. “In the last 18 months of working on this, our team has created the very first three working prototypes in the world using this type of technology, with luminescent solar concentrators to create electricity,” said team member and electronics and engineering major Jim Kintzele. Western student and project manager James Mayther also explained a study the team did using the UBS Building in New York. “If a building like this can be designed with cross ventilation in mind, it could reduce that building’s footprint and its electricity bill by $960,000 annually,” he said. “You could have just a two year break-even point from an initial investment.” To prove that the prototype worked, Professor Ed Love, a faculty advisor to the team, breathed on the windowpane of the prototype, which promptly began to close after sensing the condensation on it. Professor Love then spoke about how proud he was of the team and what they had accomplished. “The level of commitment they have shown in every stage of this thing has been remarkable. They have earned every bit of success,” he said. “There is nothing more satisfying than to see a team that is well supported wrestle with these problems, put in the effort and the time, and come out with this kind of success.” The WWU Smart Solar Window team says that they have chosen to use the $75,000 they won at the EPA P3 contest to further research, developed and refine their product.
A lack of infrastructure, security, leadership, police and safety left the people of Bogota, Colombia completely unoptimistic, but the leadership of Mayor Enrique Penalosa helped transform it into the thriving well-adjusted city it is today. “Bogota: Building a Sustainable City” is a film that discusses the transformation of Bogota. This film was shown as a part of Western Washington University’s Transportation Week in the Viking Union. The film starts by describing the prior state of Bogota before Penalosa took over. It was a city where poverty, drug cartels and violence were the norm. Many aspects of the city was underdeveloped. During Penalosa’s three-year mayorship, he decided to focus his efforts on creating a different way of life, where the city was more for people than it was for cars. Penalosa started by creating a public transit system. The city only had non-regulated independent bus systems. The buses would often weave through lanes without signaling, drop people off in the middle of the street and would even drive onto sidewalks, killing pedestrians. Thus, the TransMilenio public transit system was born. TransMilenio is an abbreviation for transcending the millennium, insinuating that this system will change the current way of life. After the public transit system was created Penalosa said, the new system saved people 10 percent of their income by decreasing the amount of buses they have to get on and left the streets much more organized. Penalosa also transformed Bogota be creating the largest pedestrian and bike only road way in the Latina America and the world. It was called the Alameda El Porvenir. It was a pedestrian and bike only roadway traveling through the poorest areas of Bogota connecting 3 million residents. The roadway transformed all of the areas around it, turning it into a place for people to congregate. People used it not only as a road way but as a park as well. Penalosa also transformed Bogota by building schools, daycares, parks, libraries and planting 70,000 trees. Ten years after the changes started, the murder rate in Bogota decreased 70 percent. What was once one of the highest murder rates in the world is now lower than Washington D.C. Penalosa retired from his mayorship with one of the highest approval rating of all time. Penalosa believed that “sustainable urban design can be the foundation for social justice.” Karen Izumoto, alternative transportation coordinator for Western’s Associated Students, hosted the event. Izumoto really appreciated the “transit oriented development” that Penalosa inacted, Izumoto said.
In the spirit of the national Small Business Week, Western’s Small Business Development Center, SBDC, hosted two workshops about government contracting on Wednesday, May 6. These workshops teach participants the basics of proposal development and becoming a successful government contractor. The training opportunities that the Small Business Development Center provide are focused on teaching government contractors and other participants to work on strategic planning and long-term growth issues. The workshops were the result of a partnership with the Washington Procurement Technical Assistance Center, PTAC. “We have partnered with PTAC to bring the programs back to Bellingham as part of our participation of National Small Business Week,” CJ Seitz, interim director at Western’s Small Business Development Center, said. Seitz attributed two goals to these workshops. The first goal is raising awareness among the small business community about government contracting. The second one is about helping small business owners understand what is required to become a successful government contractor by helping them understand the process involved, Seitz said in an email. The importance in educating business majors and owners in government contracting lies in the waste of money indorsed in small businesses. “Sources in government contracting tell us that literally thousands of dollars of local government business go unserved every month in Washington state,” Seitz said. Led by the efforts of federal and state agencies, governments at every level have been seeking to engage the private sector as a supply partner to reduce costs to taxpayers and to enhance local economies across the country, Seitz said. Jean Hales, a government contracting assistance specialist and a director of small business programs at the PTAC, saw government contracting as a way to bridge the gap between small businesses and the government. There are a lot of advantages to collaborating with small businesses because of innovation, savings and infusing money back into our own economic system, Hales said. Hales started the presentation by clarifying which businesses may apply to government contracting. Government contracting should be part of a business plan. The business needs to have the financial resources to accommodate government pay schedules and the burden of government contracts. The government’s goal is to have a quality product or service delivered on time at a competitive price for the best value. Hales mentioned that the definition of small business depends upon industry. It is very liberal as some contracts consider some businesses with 600 people or less as small businesses, it also depends on revenue, Hales said. Contracting officers verify that a business may qualify for government contracting. They look for responsiveness and responsibility which considers integrity, reputation, adequate financial resources among other criteria within a business. Hales provided advice on registering a small business, studying market climate and creating a permanent electronic profile for the government to study the resume of a business. April Arnold, a student working on a masters of business administration and as a graduate assistant at the SBDC, saw these workshops as a way to get a thorough understanding of government contracting. “It’s very different in the classroom versus what the businesses are really experiencing in the real world,” Arnold said. She attended the workshop to better understand what clients might be looking for and comprehend things that are usually outside her scope, Arnold said. As Western does not require government contracting as a mandatory class to take for a master of business administration these workshops are important to teach potential and existing business-owners the ins and outs of government collaboration.
Vanishing sea stars were the subject of community discussion in a small room behind a salvage thrift shop, with concerned citizens gathering to hear the latest news. Melissa Miner, a Bellingham researcher, spoke late evening Wednesday, April 29, about local sea stars and the disease that is destroying populations along the pacific coast. Sea stars, also popularly known as starfish, are mysteriously falling sick to “Sea Star Wasting Syndrome” and researchers aren’t sure where the disease originated or even what causes it. The sea stars infected with the disease initially show white lesions on their bodies. Then, as its skin tissue is eaten away, the sea star’s organs spill out and their legs crawl away from their bodies. Usually, this infection leads to the animal’s quick death. Miner discussed three recent media headlines that are untrue: the epidemic is not a “solved mystery”. The sea star populations aren’t recovering, she said. And, it’s not caused by the Fukushima disaster from Japan in 2011. Newspapers proclaimed the mystery “over” when a research paper from 2014 drew an association between a densovirus and the ill sea stars. Not so, Miner said. The study showed strong evidence that the densovirus or a virus sized infection was associated with the sick animals, but that isn’t the answer, she said. One reason why sea star researchers can’t declare their job done, Miner said, is because the densovirus was present in museum sea star tissue samples as far back as 1942. Only now are biologists seeing a massive die-off of sea stars, meaning the main cause of the wasting syndrome is still not fully understood. Recently, a surge in young sea stars has led to people proclaiming that sea stars were recovering from the outbreak, Miner said. This second “media myth” is a result of looking at populations in a small area, short-term. “When you look at it from a broad-scale, the first thing you will notice is that almost everywhere, we’re seeing decline,” she said. The researchers don’t know whether the young sea stars will grow up and survive the disease, or if they also will melt away. The disease has skipped from location to location, with no clear pattern emerging. “It didn’t spread nicely from north to south,” Miner said. “We first saw it on the Olympic coast [in 2013], and then it skipped the whole Oregon coast until over a year later. And then, the next place we saw it was central California […] but northern California wasn’t hit until much later.” Now, the disease has spread to both the west and east coasts of the U.S., with over 10 different species of sea stars affected. Miner said that the data her team has collected shows no clear association with sick sea stars and high temperatures or other factors — nothing that could explain the outbreak. Among the factors that are not the cause: the Fukushima disaster. The 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami cased a nuclear meltdown that released massive amounts of radiation into the environment; now some people say it’s to blame for the sea star die-offs, Miner said. Miner said this is one of her favorite myths to disprove. She showed data displaying the costal sites where teams tested for the two radioactive isotopes related to the disaster. They found very low levels of the isotopes in some places and none in others. “Yes, it’s coming; it’s at very low levels,” she said. “But [the radiation] didn’t get there in time to be the cause of the disease.” Little is known about sea stars themselves. They have proven difficult to study in the wild. Even their lifespans are unknown; Miner said a scientist claimed they were immortal after he kept some for over 40 years. “That information just doesn’t exist. You can’t mark sea stars; they drop all the tags,” she said. “There’s actually a bit of a silver lining [because] there are definitely are some things we’ll be able to learn from this event.” “Sea stars are tricky, because people love sea stars,” Miner said. “They’re the iconic animals of the seashore, but they have no economic value other than bringing tourists to the coast. It’s really hard to get money to do the research.” How important are sea stars? There are not a lot of predators that eat sea stars, and “that’s part of the reason why they live so long,” Miner said. “You see the occasional gull trying to choke one down. They really aren’t very tasty. But, on the broader scale, we should care because they’re part of a larger community and [their disappearance] will have an impact.” The talk was attended by about 25 people; halfway filling up the room. Among the audience were members of a citizen stewardship committee, who have been following the news of the declining starfish populations for years. Marie Hitchman and Lyle Anderson are both members of the citizen committee of Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, a grant-funded group that is involved with environmental monitoring. They each found the talk interesting and their once-a-month meetings encourage involvement with anything — from proposed laws to habitat problems — that could affect Cherry Point. Faye Creed, another attendee, has a personal connection to the dying sea stars. She was in a scuba diving group in Bellingham many years ago, and became interested in marine biology. She’s also attended Miner’s other talks on the subject. “It’s frightening to think that they’re dying like this,” she said. “And it’s interesting to think of the age of the sea stars, because you have no idea. Miner is married to Western biology professor Benjamin Miner, who is also involved with sea star research. She has studied sea stars for over 20 years and has spoken across Oregon and Washington about the syndrome. The best way for people to contribute to the sea star monitoring effort,” Miner said, “is to submit observations from their visits to the shore [or underwater dives], both related to the health of stars and the presence or absence of juvenile stars.” The website where people can submit their observations is seastarwasting.org, which also offers identification guides. The talk was held at the RE Sources Sustainable Living Center. The center is a rentable room where people hold public workshops on a range of subjects, including environmental concerns and sustainable living. A website mapping all the reports of local sick sea stars can be found at http://www.sickstarfish.com.
Not Yr Ethical Slut was a discussion on polyamory and non-monogamous relationships lead by Western alumna Ro Sigle and student Kyan Oliver Furlong on Friday, May 1. Polyamory is the state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person. Sigle and Furlong opened the discussion up by asking participants what needs, such as emotional support, sexual satisfaction or acceptance, are expected to be met in a monogamous relationship. They then had the group write down the people in their lives that fulfilled those needs. The exercise showed that these needs were met by many different people and not necessarily just one. The idea that one person must meet all your needs is perpetuated by society but isn’t very realistic, Sigle said. Jesse Doran, a Western student, said that what is generally considered fulfilling or important in relationships can be very restricting. “Everyone should feel comfortable expressing themselves how they wish,” Doran said. “Society pushes us into boxes where we don’t feel comfortable with ourselves.” Sigle said the concept of monogamy is rooted in many problematic parts of society such as white supremacy and classism “Because monogamy is so rooted in literally everything and because the institutions that support monogamy are so tied to the financial sector and cultural ways of relating to each other, we’re asked to give up parts of ourselves in order to fulfill the myth of monogamy,” Sigle said. During the discussion, participants were asked to write down things they wished people knew about non-monogamous relationships. Some of things written down were “having several partners doesn’t mean I’m not committed,” “we’re being safe” and “I’m not more in love with certain partners”. Sigle and Furlong hope that through conversations like this people will think more critically about relationships and why they’re structured the way they are. “Relationships are life giving. We need each other,” Sigle said. “So if we’re not engaging in collective action for good interpersonal relationships, then we can’t get anywhere.”