Justice finally

This just in from our Saturday paper:  US man wanted for ecoterror sentenced in China.

For those of you who don’t know my history, I was an associate professor at the Center for Urban Horticulture at UW when it was firebombed in May 2001 by ecoterrorists.  It’s a long and sad story, but if there’s an upside, it’s that this event was the ultimate reason I’m doing what I’m doing now.  Otherwise I would probably still be doing lab-based research – which is good and necessary, but not nearly as personally satisfying as working directly with people who want to understand and apply plant sciences as they relate to garden and landscape sustainability.

I was the first person from our center on the scene that morning – I heard about the fire on the local NPR affiliate and immediately thought that somehow it was my fault – that I’d left something on in the lab.  I raced to the scene and watched my building burn.  My colleagues trickled in as the morning went by, and we cried and hugged as we watched our professional lives literally go up in smoke.  It wasn’t until the ATF showed up that we began to understand that this was no accident, but a deliberate act of violence against us.

I don’t think about the fire much any more, except when these news items appear.  What was particularly galling was a statement by the arsonist’s father that his son isn’t a terrorist.  While I sympathize with the agony a parent must go through in such a situation, I know for a fact that my colleagues and I felt exposed and threatened by having our offices torched.  Many of us ended up going through therapy to deal with the fear and anger we experienced in the days afterwards.

That’s what terrorism does to you.

7 thoughts on “Justice finally”

  1. It seems the only way to combat such things globally is through education, and personally, by turning a negative life event into a positive. Kudos to you for having done both. I hope your colleagues were able to do the same.

  2. Hope you realize that Justin Franchi Solondz is serving three years in China for possession of cannabis. You’ll have to wait until he’s released and (perhaps) extradited to the U.S. in order to see if there will be a judgement in re the U.W. arson case — which involved a lab that was producing genetically modified organisms.

  3. Brian, the only genetically modified organisms being produced in that lab were hybridized poplars – made by taking pollen from one plant and pollinating another one. We’ve been doing that kind of “GMO” work for centuries. This is the problem when people don’t have enough information to know what’s going on. Since I was two offices down from Toby, I can tell you without a doubt there was nothing “unnatural” about his work. Furthermore, his hybridization work was an effort to find faster-growing cultivars of poplar to use for paper, rather than relying on forest timber. What in the world could possibly be wrong with that?

  4. Linda, don’t even bother responding to guys like
    Brian. America can improve wheat and other grains to feed the world, and some only find evil in that work.

  5. Jim, not sure why you leap to the conclusion that I am anti-GMO. Linda, if there wasn’t GMO work going on there, there are a lot of reports out there that say there was. You all might want to do a better job of telling your story. I’m for hire and, as a PR flack for big ag, know how it’s done.

  6. Brian, I’m not sure what a public university can do other than what they already do. Research is open to public scrutiny (including the publications that came out of Toby Bradshaw’s lab), and CUH has always had a web presence that explains exactly what they do (you can find a current summary at http://depts.washington.edu/urbhort/html/academic/research.html). I would hope that before anyone would take such drastic action they would do their homework.

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