It requires a special effort to remember encouraging news from 2005 for Hoosiers interested in conservation, education, social justice, and real economic progress.
After all, the year opened when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed away the collective bargaining rights of state employees. And things didn't improve when he proposed initiatives to clear-cut public forests, flood the state with pig excrement, and further saturate our air, water and land with power plant pollutants all in the name of economic development.
But let's avoid the temptation to erect signs reading "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" along highways into the state and look instead at a few significant successes that cast quite a different light on the state of the Hoosier State.
It has been a wild semester for IU professors Bob Althauser and Lee Ehman. Arriving on campus early, staying late, and taking work home every evening and weekend is standard fare for university instructors. But these two retired years ago.
Althauser and Ehman are American Red Cross volunteers. And ever since Katrina hit mainland, life has been non-stop for both. Each has put in more than 200 hours of volunteer work since Sept. 1, right here in Monroe County. And with Hurricane Rita evacuees arriving this month, the climb is still uphill.
Althauser took his first Red Cross disaster relief class in 2001, Ehman in 2002. Althauser is a retired sociology professor; Ehman is a retired School of Education professor who served as associate dean. The focus for both in the hurricane relief effort has been casework sitting with the families and learning then fulfilling their immediate needs.
GOSHEN - A screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Weather Underground opened a national student conference Oct. 6-9 sponsored by the Peace and Justice Studies Association in collaboration with the Plowshares Group.
"In Solidarity: Engaging Empire" drew several hundred student and peace educators from around the United States and Canada to the campus of Goshen College, a small liberal arts school in the heart of northern Indiana's Amish and Mennonite country.
After the movie, attendees were able to pose questions and comments to two founding members of Weatherman, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, as well as to young activist and writer Dan Berger, whose history of the Weather Underground, Outlaws of America will be published by AK Press next spring.
For the past nine years, Bloomington citizens have assisted an ecumenical activist organization, the IFCO/Pastors for Peace, by collecting and shipping humanitarian aid to Bloomington's Sister-city Santa Clara, Cuba.
The next opportunity for locals to help Cubamistad-Bloomington, Indiana's Cuba Sister-city organization, with this effort will be July 11 when a bus will come through town to pick up donated equipment, supplies and funds.
The bus itself is donated and will also be left in Santa Clara. The focus for this year's caravan is on material aid for Cubans with special needs, but all manner of contributions will be welcomed.
Bloomington-area activists are taking the case for social, environmental and economic justice straight to the Daniels administration this summer. Last week they put Indiana's new Republican governor on notice that they will resist policies that decimate the environment for the short-term profit of the politically connected.
On two successive days, dozens of local activists confronted Daniels minions face-to-face, literally, as they went about the business of selling Hoosiers' environment to the highest bidders, literally.
On May 25, roughly 40 citizens, from balloon-toting children to sign-waving grandmothers, protested a timber sale at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest headquarters. At that protest, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Kyle Hupfer reiterated the state's intention to increase logging on state forests like Morgan-Monroe, Yellowwood and several other southern Indiana public lands.
On May 26, another dozen protesters briefly occupied the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) I-69 planning office on Second Street just west of the Ind. 37 Bypass. They demanded that INDOT close the office and cancel the $3 billion taxpayer fraud known as new-terrain Interstate 69.