“Most bankers are not natural risk-takers,” says Beebe. “They say, ‘Here are all the reasons why we shouldn’t do this.’ John would say, ‘These are people who share our values, and these are people with some business sense, and here are all the reasons we should do this.’ ”
With Haines at the helm as vice president and commercial lender from 1997 to 2002, ShoreBank Pacific bankrolled some of the early bets of the now-mainstream sustainability industry: Car Sharing Portland (now Zipcar), Stormwater Management, New Leaf Paper, Celilo Group Media. The bank financed the construction of pioneering sustainable buildings like People’s Food Coop back when, as Beebe wryly observes, people thought a green building “meant ivy growing up the side.”
In November of 1999, with ShoreBank rising to profitability, Haines flew to Prague, where he decided on a whim to catch a train to Berlin and join the celebrations planned for the 10th anniversary of the collapse of communism. The last thing he remembers is putting on his tennis shoes as the train pulled into Usti, a town on the banks of the Labe that had served as the starting point of his solo kayak adventure to Dresden two years earlier. As the train coasted to a stop, he jumped onto the platform, intending to fetch a cup of coffee. He woke up two weeks later in an intensive care unit in Halle, a small town near Leipzig, Germany, attached to a ventilator and unable to speak or move anything but his fingers. He had fallen onto the tracks and broken his neck. After four months of intensive physical therapy, Haines gradually regained movement and strength in both arms and hands.
“I think this seems strange to people, but I wasn’t depressed by all of that,” says Haines, who returned to his desk at ShoreBank two weeks after he was released from rehab. “It’s not that I wasn’t thinking about skiing or climbing or kayaking. I just wanted to get independent again. It hits you later. Like when you’re up at the cabin in Wyoming and everybody goes cross-country skiing and you’re sitting in front of the fire with a book, and you think, ‘Oh shit. This is a good book, but I’d rather be out there skiing.’ But I’ve never felt sorry for myself. I was sort of lucky that this didn’t happen when I was 16. I’d done some things with my life, so I didn’t feel like there was a huge gap.”
Steve Gutman, senior commercialization manager at the Portland branch of EcoSecurities, a London-based environmental finance company that sells carbon credits to industrial polluters, was Haines’s lieutenant at ShoreBank at the time and remembers the day his boss rolled into the office in a wheelchair. Physically spent and pale, too weak to hold a pencil, Haines still managed to put others at ease, quipping, “Man, I feel like I was run over by a train!”
For years, Haines pondered a significant blank in the story of his rescue: how he had ended up in that little hospital in Halle. A state-of-the-art neurology clinic, it had been built with government funds to help with the region’s struggling economy, putting some of the best spinal cord injury experts in Europe to work. Paramedics had helicoptered the comatose Haines to Leipzig. They were loading him onto a plane bound for London as his insurance company’s doctors had ordered, but someone had intervened at the airport and ordered him to be transferred to an ambulance bound for Halle. Had he flown on the medical air transport to London as planned, doctors later told his family, he would have died before leaving German airspace.
That mysterious someone finally roused him from his bed in Portland in 2002 with a 5 a.m. phone call. A Dr. Ebert wanted to collect for services rendered at the Leipzig/Halle airport on a night soon after Haines’s accident in Usti. The doctor had been wandering the halls of the airport when he saw Haines being loaded onto a plane and went to investigate. Doubting Haines would survive the night, much less endure a two-hour flight to England (Haines’s heart stopped twice on the road to Halle), Ebert called an ambulance. For three years since, the doctor had been trying to get Haines’s insurance company to pay him. Frustrated, he’d decided to track down the patient.