Barry Lopez, a true American artist who wrote beautifully about nature and humanity, died on Christmas Day at his home in Eugene. He was 75. His New York Times obituary offered a tribute he would have loved. Just a few months before his death, forest fires caused in part by climate change damaged his home at Finn Rock on the McKenzie River. Forced to move into Eugene, he lost manuscripts and precious documents in the blaze, but even then, suffering from prostate cancer, he was intent on rebuilding. We hope that his widow, Debra Gwartney, a fine writer and, incidentally, former editor of Eugene Weekly, will continue to search and write about the questions that summoned Barry Lopez.
• The acute damage that COVID-19 has caused in 2020 is still immeasurable. The virus’s distant effects on institutions will take years to understand. It will be not unlike the years after the Great Depression. Still, in the throes of it all, the University of Oregon has moved on. The school that lives in its own dimension has decided this month to restore the 10 to 12 percent pay cut that administrators voluntarily took in April of this year, despite a $3.4 million dollar budget shortfall due to the pandemic. What will anyone make of this decision and of higher ed years from now?
• It was good to read that the Oregon League of Conservation Voters considered the secretary of state race its top priority in 2020, and the winner, Shemia Fagan, considered OLCV “an important partner in my campaign for secretary of state.” In her new position, Fagan will oversee the state’s elections and be one of three members of the State Land Board, so it’s critically important that she be a strong environmentalist. She has a lifetime score of 91 percent in the OLCV environmental scorecard.
• Is Kitty Piercy looking to get back into local politics? On Dec. 9, the former Eugene mayor posted on Facebook that she feels “things are so out of whack, so dangerous, that we need every community leading in the best way we can.” Given her strong social media presence, it’s like she never left. She adds she thought it was time to leave office, but now “I regret I’m not in the fray in this very important moment. Democracy is strong and fragile.” During Piercy’s tenure as mayor, she rallied support to lobby the Eugene City Council to pass things like a climate action plan, so it’ll be interesting to watch what she does as the city and county deal with huge issues like homelessness, climate change and the historic COVID-induced economic downturn.
• And just like that, 2020 comes to an end — to be replaced on Jan. 1, by hope. 2020 was the world’s annus horribilis. Our worst year, ever. The year of an out-of-control pandemic, of racial and social unrest, of raging climate wildfires and, perhaps worst of all, of President Donald Trump for 366 (it’s a leap year!) drearily consecutive days and nights full of lies and cruelty. New Year’s Day lets us start the clock over again, with effective vaccines and, as of Jan. 20, a president who cares about something other than lining his own and his family’s pockets with grift. Happy New Year, all!