Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Visualizing Cherry Point...

The first few cars of a coal train make their way through Boulevard Park in Bellingham, WA.

Imagine the sheer audacity and arrogance of a capitalist society from the perspective of the local level.  For at least the last ten years, the residents of the city of Bellingham have been recovering from its industrial past, removing industrial plants from its waterfront, pursuing redevelopment plans, strengthening its downtown core, and developing a first rate economy based on education, health, and a progressive government.  While doing so, this city has attracted numerous ex-urbans, retirees, and wealthy immigrants, all who want to share in the growth of this small city with such mesmerizing beauty. Hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars have flooded into Whatcom County banking system on the basis of development and speculation. Now, on the near whim of a broken and bankrupt carbon-based national economy, a few wealthy corporations (with the backing of local, state, federal leaders)  think it is a good idea to run 48 million metric tons of coal through our recently revitalized downtown and merchant districts. And there really doesn't appear any good way to stop them.

Why should any individual or family put down plans to invest their time and energy in any city, county, or region if the monied elite of society (in this case Goldman Sachs(SSA Marine), Warren Buffett (BNSF), and  Peabody Coal) can simply 'decide' they are going to revert our city core back into an industrial wasteland? What real good has corporate capitalism done anyone but fill the pockets of the rich and the speculators?  There should be drafted a kind of "community bill of rights" that allows the members of the local community who live actually live in those communities to decide:

  •  what types of industry they want
  •  how that industry should be deployed 

Can you imagine what the economy of downtown Bellingham will look like in just two years if 18 - 20 monster coal trains pictured above stream through our downtown everyday?  Will customers still bother to book reservations at the Chrysalis Inn?  Will those from out of town still consider buying waterfront condos?  Will any developers even think about putting up 'luxury condos' on the new waterfront?  The train caught on video above was chugging slowly through town this morning. There were so many cars attached,  that by the time I had finished filming the first 20 or 30 cars on the Harris Street pier, I was able to walk back to my car at the north end of Boulevard Park lot. By the way, there is no 'caboose' on trains like this, just two engines on the front and two (in reverse) on the back side.

Of course,  a new Gateway Pacific Terminal will undoubtly stuff millions of dollars in the hands of the few. What good will shoveling coal to China do for the rest of us?

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