Lost during the shutdown

Unfasten your seatbelts and chuck the beta blockers: The debt crisis has been drop-kicked to another time. At the 11th hour of the 16th day — to the slack-jawed relief of an incredulous world — lawmakers in the U.S Senate and House exhibited the courage of their inertia and declared, “Let’s postpone this battle, shall we?”

So ends another day in the life of the globe’s oldest constitutional democracy.

Keep the faith, ye disillusioned Northwesterners. There is hope. In the 20th century, the federal government contoured the American West, from Hanford to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard to the Grand Coulee Dam. And yet individuals at a remove from the federal government have made the biggest impression on the Northwest’s cultural and economic landscape. Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence. Bill Boeing and Bill Gates. Arthur and Mary Denny with the University of Washington. Emma Yule, Everett’s first school principal.

The best leadership is organic and self-effacing, flowing from causes greater than self. For Patrick Goldsworthy, the cause was to conserve the Northwest’s natural treasures, a battle thrown into relief during the postwar boom. Goldsworthy, the Irish-born son of a Berkeley math professor, moved to Seattle in 1952 to teach biochemistry at the UW. A year later, he founded the Northwest chapter of the Sierra Club, with Polly and John Dyer. His passion fixed on places dear to Snohomish County residents, such as the Glacier Peak Wilderness (which he helped establish and saved from an open-pit copper mine) and North Cascades National Park (for which he shares paternity.)

In an interview, he distilled his philosophy. “I began to realize that you can’t get involved in everything, though there are a lot of things that need involvement,” Goldsworthy said. “I developed the philosophy that the way to do this is to specialize in something, specialize. So I decided fairly early when I came to Seattle…the Cascades just fascinated me.”

With Everett’s Phil and Laura Zalesky, Goldsworthy founded the North Cascades Conservation Council in 1957 and began the arduous push to establish a national park. Goldsworthy understood the value of public relations. When Kennecott Copper schemed to put an open-pit mine in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, it was Goldsworthy who magoozled a full-page ad in The New York Times, declaring that the hole would be large enough to be visible from the moon (you’d need a telescope, but that was an excusable sin of omission.)

Except for an inspired tribute by the Seattlepi.com’s Joel Connelly, the news that Patrick Goldsworthy died in Seattle on Oct. 6 at age 94, was lost in the sturm und nonsense of the shutdown. All the while, Goldsworthy’s legacy, his footprints, eclipse anything the other Washington has done in a long, long time.

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