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Stories That Changed Our World In 2015


We take a look back at 15 of the most important stories of the year from a local, environmental, and national and international perspective.

Local

People gathered at Stewart Park in Roseburg for a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Oct. 1, 2015 shootings at Umpqua Community College.

1. Mass shooting at Umpqua Community College

Nine people were killed Oct. 1 by a single gunman during classes at the community college in Roseburg, Oregon.

The Importance: The tragedy prompted President Obama to give a speech about the frequency of mass shootings in America. He later visited Roseburg (among protests) to meet with the families of the victims. The shooting also reignited the gun control and mental health debates that regularly come up following mass shootings.

Did You Know? Since the shooting, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said he discussed his decision not to verbally name the shooter with the FBI.

“We finally decided — and I immediately agreed — that the responsible thing to do was to provide the name, but not providing it by it coming out of my mouth,” Hanlin told the Roseburg News-Review in a recent interview.

2. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Resigns

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation came after a number of allegations that he and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, used government resources to promote business dealings of Hayes’ private consulting firm, 3E Strategies. 

Did You Know? Hayes fired back at the media in recent months through posts on her blog. Hayes said that the publication of her emails were released “to make false allegations and print misinformation.”

3. Marijuana Becomes Legal In Oregon

July 1 marked the first day recreational marijuana became legal to buy in Oregon after voters passed a legalization measure in 2014. 

The Importance: On Oct. 1, medical dispensaries were able to sell marijuana for the first time to recreational users. First week sales were estimated at over $11 million according to the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association.

4. State Steps Up Quake Preparation

Lawmakers in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest began to prepare for the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that is predicted to hit the region in the next 50 years.

Did you know?: There’s a six-mile stretch along the Willamette River in Northwest Portland that holds more than 90 percent of the state’s fuel supply. If a quake affects that area, most of the state’s fuel could be lost through soil liquefaction.

5. Housing Prices Climb In Oregon

In October, Portland declared a housing emergency. City officials say Portland has seen the highest increases in rent in the nation: close to 15 percent — while homelessness also saw a spike. Elsewhere in Oregon, housing markets started to tighten up as the state economy picked up steam and more people moved to the Northwest.

Did you know? Oregon lawmakers are taking note of the affordable housing issue, and plan to take up the topic in the 2016 legislative session

 Environmental

An attack plane monitors the fire's progress in Pine Creek on Wednesday, August 26.

An attack plane monitors the fire's progress in Pine Creek on Wednesday, August 26.

Lori Iverson/USFWS

1. Wildfire Season

Wildfires raged across the Pacific Northwest in record proportions this wildfire season, and at one point Oregon became the nation’s No. 1 wildfire priority. The country saw over 55,000 wildfires this year that burned 9.8 million acres of land.

Did You Know? A wildfire can burn at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s more than twice as hot as the surface of Venus. Fighting fires is a complicated process and is explained in a video here.

2. The Blob

Since the fall of 2013, an unusually warm patch of water has been noticed in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have taken to calling the abnormality “the blob.” Scientists suspect the blob could be affecting marine life in previously unseen ways, even possibly contributing to the rare death of a blue whale in waters off of Oregon’s coast.

Did you know? The blob is about the same size as Alaska, and could be affecting the climate on land in the Northwest.

3. Shell Abandons Drilling Off Alaska Shore

Citing a lack of enough oil to make the project worthwhile, Royal Dutch Shell Oil halted its effort to drill for oil off Alaska’s shore “for the foreseeable future.” The company spent some $7 billion on the exploration project.

The Importance: The project had drawn major protests from environmental groups, who believed drilling would impact marine life and that an oil spill in the arctic would be difficult to clean up.

 4. U.S. Rejects Protections for Greater Sage Grouse

The U.S. Interior Department announced the greater sage grouse did not need federal protections across its 11-state Western range. The long-awaited decision affects millions of acres across Western states, many of which ranchers use for grazing.

Did You Know? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates between 200,000 and 500,000 greater sage grouse remain across the entire habitat span.

5. The Northwest Drought

Many of the region’s reservoirs and streams are still far below normal and experts are predicting this year’s drought will likely continue into next year. Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond said there’s a 10- to 15-percent chance this winter will be just as warm and devoid of snow as last winter.

Did You Know? This past July was the planet’s warmest month on record, smashing old marks, U.S. weather officials said. July’s average temperature was 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

National & International

Neal Blair, of Augusta, Ga., wears a hoodie which reads, "Black Lives Matter" as stands on the lawn of the Capitol building during a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, on Capitol Hill, Oct. 10, 2015, in Washington. Black men from around the nation returned to the capital calling for changes in policing and in black communities.

Neal Blair, of Augusta, Ga., wears a hoodie which reads, "Black Lives Matter" as stands on the lawn of the Capitol building during a rally to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, on Capitol Hill, Oct. 10, 2015, in Washington. Black men from around the nation returned to the capital calling for changes in policing and in black communities.

Evan Vucci/AP

1.#BlackLivesMatter

After several deaths of unarmed black men by police across the nation, online movement #BlackLivesMatter sparked protests in scores of cities and opened a new national conversation on race.

Did You Know?: At least one employee of the Oregon Department of Justice is under investigation for gathering information about people who used the #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter.

2. Terrorist Attacks and ISIS

Major terrorists attacks claimed by the terrorist group ISIS were reported in Kenya, Lebanon and Paris. Most recently, President Obama spoke about the strategy for defeating ISIS by destroying the ideology of its members and not sending U.S. troops abroad.

The Importance: The terrorist attacks across the world prompted Republicans in the U.S. to pass a GOP-authored bill to restrict the admission of Iraqi and Syrian refugees to America by requiring extra security procedures.

3. The Missouri Football Team Protests

After students alleged for months that systemic racism was occurring at the University of Missouri, a group of players on the school’s football team pledged to not play unless then President Tim Wolfe was removed. He resigned less than a week after the group’s announcement.

The Importance: The Missouri football players flexed not only their political muscles, but their economic importance to the university. The school would have lost an estimated $1 million if the team missed one game. Officials believe this trend will continue if big sports programs partner with student body organizations for campus change.

4. Same-Sex Marriage Legalized Nationwide

In June, the Supreme Court ruled states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. The ruling was made by a 5-4 decision.

Did You Know? A Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans – an all-time high – support extending the same rights and privileges to same-sex marriages as traditional ones.

5. Charleston Shooting

During a prayer service, nine people were killed by a gunman, including the senior pastor, Celmenta C. Pinckney, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  A 10th victim survived.

Did You Know?: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the United States’ oldest black churches and has long been a site for community organization around civil rights. It was founded in 1816.

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