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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Space exploration; shortages

The Columbian
Published: May 27, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To explorers. Visiting with an astronaut can be interesting for elementary school students, and a conversation this week was particularly unusual for students in the Camas School District. Dr. Michael Barratt made an appearance through a video link from the International Space Station, approximately 250 miles overhead.

Barratt, a 1977 graduate of Camas High School, has maintained close ties to the region and is making his third trip to the space station. Students – and one of his former teachers – embraced the opportunity to ask him questions about his adventures. “Opportunities to fly in space are so much greater now,” Barratt said. “Go out there and make it happen. Ask questions. Be determined. And, keep in touch with us.” Barratt is scheduled to be at the space station for six months, providing inspiration every time Camas students look skyward.

Jeers: To a license plate shortage. Washington, apparently, has a shortage of license plates. The Department of Corrections, which produces plates using the labor of incarcerated people, has struggled to keep up with demand since the COVID-19 pandemic, The Seattle Times reports. A disruption in supply chains for aluminum has slowed the process. So now the state is rolling out new equipment to improve production.

Washington officials should follow the lead of Oregon. A look around Clark County reveals no shortage of license plates from that state.

Cheers: To peak performance. Andrew Okerlund, a 2021 graduate of Camas High School, not only completed the Bulger List by summitting Washington’s 100 highest peaks last year, he had it documented. Now, a film of Okerlund’s adventure (“100 Summits: Bulgers in a Season”) will be shown during three screenings at the Liberty Theatre in Camas, beginning June 1.

“All of this was new to me,” Zach Hein, who helped sponsor Okerlund’s quest and accompanied him on some of the climbs, told the Camas-Washougal Post-Record. “But Andrew’s confidence and optimism definitely led to success on those peaks.”

Jeers: To oily birds. Officials last week found several oil-covered birds along the Northwest coast – six in Washington and four in Oregon. All of the animals were common murres, an aquatic bird that looks similar to penguins, and they were discovered between Long Beach, and Lincoln City, Ore. Two of them had died and two more were euthanized because of injuries related to the oil.

Most disturbing is the fact that the source of the oil has not been identified. It is possible the oil derived from natural causes – cracks in the ocean floor that allow reservoirs to seep. To protect wildlife along the coast, we hope the source can be determined.

Cheers: To World War II veterans. Vancouver’s Julian “Thorne” Hilts is joining other veterans for a trip commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Hilts, who grew up near Yakima, signed up for the Merchant Marine at the age of 16 in 1944, contributing to the Allies’ victory in World War II. “I don’t know if people know how hard we worked to keep things working,” Hilts recently told The Columbian about the role of the Merchant Marine. “I would do it all again.”

Hilts remained in the Merchant Marine after the war and then served in the Army and the Navy. Now 95, he will join ceremonies honoring the U.S. invasion of German-occupied France, which was the turning point of the war. “I am humbled, and I am grateful to be invited,” Hilts said. “It means a great deal to me.”