FRACKING PROTESTS OVERSTEP
It’s legal to ship proppants in the United States to serve the oil industry’s fracking wells. But protesters upset by the practice are overstepping bounds in downtown Olympia by surrounding a Port of Olympia employee’s truck and banging on its hood.
That much was reported last week to Olympia police. The incident, which followed the removal by police of protesters’ tent encampment that blocked railroad tracks to the port, has been under investigation.
No doubt many protesters against fracking are motivated at least in part by legitimate concerns about the role that oil plays in global warming.
But the port actually plays a minor role as a materials supplier for an industry much larger than what is being challenged here.
The port employees are pawns in this local drama and — if harassment is meant to punish those who earn a living (even remotely) by assisting oil extraction — then the wrong targets are being punished.
No doubt state and national policies are needed to curb the use of fossil fuels and make alternatives more attractive. It would be more constructive for protesters to engage in serious work to advance policies that reduce U.S. reliance on both foreign and domestic oil supplies, while boosting alternative energy.
Port of Olympia line workers are simply following policies set by the port commissioners. This issue has the commission’s attention.
OBESITY RATES DROP FOR TODDLERS
There was some good news recently from the health front. Obesity rates went down among 2 to 4-year-old children who are enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Agriculture.
This is important, the CDC says, because overweight kids entering kindergarten are four times more likely to have obesity in the eighth grade, and childhood obesity follows young people into adulthood.
Washington and 30 other states saw rates fall, according to the 2014 data. Our state ranked 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and policies to encourage healthier eating and physical activity by young ones help reduce the risk of getting overweight.
There is hope for more progress. SHAPE America, the national physical education standards for students, recommends that toddlers ages 2 and 3 should get at least a half hour of adult-led, structured physical activity a day and at least an hour of free play. And inactivity should be limited to less than one hour.
There are other recommendations by groups such as the American Public Health Association and National Resource Council for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education to limit screen time each week to no more than a half-hour a week and for educational or physical education use only for kids in child care and early education programs.
This may not go over well with some industries, but the health association also recommends eliminating sugar-sweetened drinks from children’s diets.
HOMELESS CAMP CLEANUPS
In a move that again acknowledges the ongoing presence of homeless individuals in South Sound, Olympia has awarded on-call contracts to three contractors for clean-ups of debris that accumulates in homeless encampments around the city.
The plan is to cap fees at $45,000 per contractor each year. The city would pay only for services as needed. Sparking the city’s interest in getting professionals was the recent slashing of a city vehicle tire during a clean-up.
The city is taking care to point out the cleanups are in response to public health concerns. Used needles and human waste is among the debris found in camps, and residents of the encampments are given notice and options for relocating to temporary shelter before cleanups occur.
The city has been using inmate work crews and those performing community service to clean up some camps. But a closer look at the situation led city staff to seek favor having staff do the work while wearing protective clothing. Getting a skilled contractor makes sense, though the cost is an eye-catcher.
One resident who has kept an eye on encampments along Olympia Woodland Trail for several years noted recently that the city has collected almost 1,200 cubic yards of waste over time from camps.
This is another step by our South Sound communities to acknowledge the realities in our streets and wooded areas as they try to assist those in dire need of shelter. Of course, permanent housing is a better option.