The Results-2012

by: Posted on: June 11, 2012

Editor’s Note: The submissions are in and the judges have spoken. Below are the results of our 1st Annual Read the Dirt Writing Competition! Included below are our winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions. The competition was based primarily in Whatcom County and Western Washington University (WWU). The writing prompt asked people—in two hundred and fifty words or less—what they would like to see human create/design/achieve before they die. We asked for creative, detail-oriented submissions that include a solution to a challenge facing the Great Northwest.

This competition was a stepping-stone in our efforts to engage the public as we work to share important information, good ideas, and people’s voices within and among our communities.

We would like to thank EVERYONE who participated and took the time to ponder what they think is possible, as well as our fabulous judging committee composed of Fairhaven Adjunct Faculty, WWU Faculty, a representative from Village Books, and a friend from Growing Washington. In particular, we would like to offer special thanks to Chad Norman’s inspirational seventh grade class from Lynden Middle School for their submissions.

We all have visions and hopes for the future, below are those from people who answered our first ever call for submissions. An interesting look into the minds of people we sometimes call strangers.

The winners, along with articles from will be printed and distributed this fall.


First Place: Andrew Shattuck McBride, Community Member

Love the Salish Sea Initiative

Before I die, I would like to see humans end and then reverse environmental degradation of the Salish Sea with the ultimate goal of returning the Salish Sea to vibrant health.

While the Puget Sound and associated waterways (together referred to as the

Salish Sea) are iconic and integral parts of the Pacific Northwest, environmental degradation continues. This degradation is one of the most significant and urgent environmental challenges facing the Pacific Northwest.

I propose establishing a Love the Salish Sea Initiative, an initiative with the purpose of ending and reversing degradation of the Salish Sea.

The Initiative will be an umbrella collaboration of all levels of government (local to supranational), non-governmental organizations, businesses, families and individuals. Keys to its success will be education and its inclusive and comprehensive nature.

Goals of the Initiative will include:

  • ending all dumping, run-off and escape of human-made chemicals and pollutants into the Salish Sea;
  • increasing – and enforcing – fines and de-licensing of polluters;
  • clean up of toxic waste sites;
  • establishing tax incentives for all groups and individuals to adopt sustainable practices across the spectrum of human activities;
  • clean up and day-lighting of streams, and restoral of habitat for wild salmon and wildlife.

Residents of the Pacific Northwest and visitors to the region have a responsibility for ending further harm to the Salish Sea. As humans, we have an obligation for true stewardship of our environment, including returning the Salish Sea to vibrant health.

Second Place: Raena Parsons, Community Member

What would I like to see humans accomplish before I die? Well as I see it, the biggest issues we face in industrialized countries currently are urban sprawl, climate change, and big agriculture. In order to combat those issues I would like to see an adoption of a “community owned agriculture” or COA system. COA was coined by authors Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols of Seattle, WA in their book The Urban Farm Handbook. The premise of COA is basically land that is co-owned by individuals or families who all live on or work on the property and share in the responsibilities of farm life. By co-owning and co-running a farm it allows individuals to specialize in different aspects of rural life and thus reduces the strain that comes with trying to be completely self-sufficient because the tasks have been divided out amongst all the owners.  A COA also creates a sense of community and ownership of the earth, all while reducing ones reliance on big agriculture and limiting ones footprint on the earth. I honestly believe a system such as this will make a positive impact on the wellbeing of the earth, its inhabitants, and all people involved.

Third Place: Steven Funcke, WWU Student

What’s hot in architecture today? It’s not gravity-defying skyscrapers or superfluously abstract designs that are turning heads, but instead a new breed of architecture, both practical and sustainable, hogs the limelight. This year’s Pritzker Prize went to a fellow named Wang Shu. He uses recycled materials and builds things like apartments, youth centers, libraries, museums, exhibition halls, and even a city cultural center. These are not frivolous architectural marvels, but beautiful functional buildings designed to interact with their environmental and cultural contexts. Many artists use recycled materials or strap on solar panels and we label their work ‘sustainable.’ But are they worthy of such a title? Wang Shu’s work demonstrates potential for architecture to be a crucial tool for sustaining both the environment, and our culture. This, to me, is true sustainability. Our lives are meaningless without cultural context, and impossible without natural harmony.

As an ever-diversifying population rapidly increases, citizens in the Pacific North West are worried about protecting the environment and preserving their culture. Before I die I’d like to see zero-emissions cities where animals graze and plants grow… I’d like to be surrounded by buildings that tell interactive stories through flashes of light and sound, our culture shared through intimate digital touch rather than antiquated flourishes of design. Right now, what we define as sustainable architecture is on track to become either the beginning of a silly fad, or a deeply radical change in our way of life. I hope we choose the latter.

Runners Up:

Makenna Marsh, Lynden Middle School:

I would like to see humans create a place where there are more foster homes for kids that are being abused. I think that in Washington there are a lot of people that need help and are not able to get help because there’s no one there for them. One thing I would like to end is child abuse. Nothing hurts me more to see a little kid that’s being accused for something so small. I also think that if the kids are being abused that they will most likely abuse their own kids in the future. I feel like these small kids who have no one to turn to, will try to get help but nothing and no one will help them. When they have no one there’s a 50/50 chance they will turn to drugs and other things that they think will help them get away but in the end it will make their life much harder. When we see people or kids that are acting different maybe we should sit down and talk with them and ask them some questions. Maybe they are scared, kids will judge them and soon they won’t talk to anyone. I believe that we can put an end to this in Washington. Maybe start a charity that goes to the foster home for the kids that have been abused and that have a safe place to stay and get away from all that stuff. We can help. But this is a topic that most people don’t look into enough. They don’t think it’s a big deal but, it really is.

Justin Slick, Community Member:

My first impulses are all rooted in the realm science fiction: A space elevator, a moon base, a terraformed Mars (but only if the Martians allow it), a generation ship, an FTL drive, an extrasolar outpost, and finally, a civilization at ease in the stars.

Those are my long shots, and it’s fun to imagine they might be achieved by some future scientist endowed with the intelligence of Einstein, the passion of Sagan, the wealth of Rockefeller, and a massive stroke of luck.

But ultimately, progress in the Beyond is slow, and most of our interstellar dreams favor fiction over science. Certainly, our race is faced with matters more pressing, more immediate.

In the end, my greatest wish is for a world where formal education is available to anyone who seeks it, where educators are provided with the tools and resources they truly require, and where creative expression is encouraged on the same level as capital gain.

A decrease in scarcity—clean water, plentiful food, ubiquitous health care, low cost housing. A more logical distribution of wealth. A reduction in greed, and a rise in conscientiousness.

Many of our greatest shortcomings stem from our overarching attitudes, not from a lack of technology.

After all, we live in an age where information is more accessible than it’s been at any point in history. The device in my pocket gives me instantaneous access to more books than the ancients stored in the entire Library of Alexandria.

Why shouldn’t we reach for the stars?

Anna Baker, WWU Student:

I want to see the prison system change.

I hope that before I die I see a major prison reform that initiates change and education for the inmates rather then perpetrates crime, violence, and poverty in this country. The prison system should not be privatized and states need to restructure their budgets so that tax payers’ money goes towards education and resources for low income neighborhoods rather then waiting until the kids grow up and spending enormous sums arresting and incarcerating them for petty crimes. I want to see a system that restores and builds rather then privatizes and destroys communities.

The prison system should not be providing prisoners as low wage workers for corporations, but rather forming skill shares, schools, and universities that will educate and prepare inmates to come out of prison and become active members of society rather then forced back into crime. We are living in a country with the largest prison population in the world, with incredibly harsh sentencing, and huge race disparities, however I believe we as country can change this if we really want less crime and real justice.

We are locking up large numbers of Americans, especially African Americans, and if we changed how, who, and when, and where our tax payers’ money goes in this country we could be producing future leaders and change makers rather then criminals and poverty. Rather than releasing prisoners with criminal records release them with a diploma, skill, or knowledge to bring back into our society.

Ben Kinkade, WWU Graduate Student:

I am currently in a different field, but I will always be a Wildlife Biologist. I am bonded to nature through mind and body; and I love the human spirit’s urge to ‘fix’ things.

The future of Earth is simultaneously our future. So, I have hope for the future.

We face a changing climate and simultaneous population explosion; my hope is that we focus on sharing and conserving limited resources.

Firstly, a unique plumbing design needs to be incorporated into private and commercial buildings to recycle declining potable water. An effective grey water capture and filtration system should be developed. We should be re-using the grey water that comes from our showers/tubs and sinks. This water could be used to water our lawns, gardens, city parks, and wash our vehicles. Further, all buildings need rain water collection barrels and means to redistribute this water.

Another locally-based (yet widely distributed) solution I would like to see enacted before I expire is solar-powered vehicles. Many of our countries’ populations live in areas with abundant sunshine (Southern California, Texas, Florida, etc.) and coincidentally these are areas with rampant air pollution. If even a fraction of these populations had solar-powered cars, we would not only slow global warming and remove harmful pollutants from our environment, but we would also reduce our dependency on oil, ease rough foreign relationships, and free up oil for emergency uses.

I have hope for our future because I have faith in human creativity.

Caitlin Boone, WWU Student:

I would like to see humans better research and apply superhydrophobic coatings utilizing the lotus effect.  The lotus effect is named after the lotus leaf that has millions of nanopillars called papillae coated with more pillars in a fractal structure. When water comes in contact with this surface, the papillae keep the drops of water from spreading out so water bounces and runs off the surface without wetting it. Even sticky liquids like honey roll right off. If there are impurities on the surface like dirt, the water drops wash them off.

Surfaces with a superhydrophobic coating would be waterproof and nearly entirely self-cleaning. With water and other materials unable to adhere to the coated surface, this could be ideal for self-cleaning cookware and dishes. Without water, the growth of algae, bacteria, and fungus on coated surfaces would be inhibited. This would make this an ideal coating to be used on everything from medical equipment to roofing. The waterproof surface would prevent corrosion, oxidation, or rust. The effect of water beading up and rolling off could be useful for applications like tents, clothing, or windshields. The nearly self-cleaning attribute could contribute to extremely stain resistant clothing or carpets.

The maritime industry would particularly benefit from superhydrophobic coatings. Sail cloth could be cleaned with a quick hosing off and would immediately be dry for storage after use. The sides of ship hulls would be resistant to algae, seaweed, and barnacle buildup, which would save fuel, especially on Washington state ferries.

Honorable Mentions:

Cade Huston, Lynden Middle School:

What I would like humans to achieve before I die is to stop deforestation. I would like people to stop this because we are losing a lot of trees very quickly. When we lose our trees, we lose oxygen which we need to live. That means that we are hurting ourselves by cutting down trees for paper, wood, etc. Also, when we cut down trees we take animals’ habitats away. Imagine being a bird and going out to find food and coming back with your home cut down. I think there are many ways to achieve the end of deforestation. People could replant the trees when they cut them down. I would also not cut so many down at once in one area. When we cut down fewer trees we keep more of the habitat for the animals. I would really like to see this happen before I die because at the rate we’re going we will eventually have no trees. I think that if we fix this problem we will have enough air and people will get the paper and wood they want. So it is a win win situation.


Harvey Schwartz, Community Member:

Turn Stupid to Smart

I’m a realist. I’m not going to ask for people to go outside of their comfort            zones. Now I know that some of us won’t eat anything that’s not grown within a hundred miles. Others love Wal-Mart.

My goal is for change to come from within. Is there any other way? I want to see a change that is so insidiously logical that even Wal-Mart Molly will embrace it. As much as we wish for conscious decisions, the marketplace has the largest umbrella.

The first thing that needs to happen is to get big money out of politics. Require candidates to get a certain amount of signatures. Then everyone who does so gets the same amount of public money. Have three month campaigns so that politicians spend most of their time doing something. Cut the defense budget in half.

Design every new house with a passive solar design. Give a tax break for it. This will lower heating bills. Double win. Subsidize green developments, lowering the need for new power and water systems.

Give tax breaks to families that have one or less cars. Give graded tax breaks to people with high miles per gallon cars.

Replace junk food with healthful alternatives that taste better by subsidizing small companies that meet certain environmental rules. Start this in the schools. It will spread out from there.

Have a huge advertising campaign to show the health and environmental benefits of moving toward vegetarianism.

Invest is schools, half the students per teacher.


Justin Hurtubise, WWU Student:

The human generation is often seen as an infestation to our mother called earth. While it may be true that we have raked the soil dry and left our mother wheezing; we should not be so arrogant. Forth we came from the dirt and to that very same soil we will return. Let us not forget that we are a part of a bigger system, a system that was before us and will continue without us. Our existence on this planet is but an instance, a blink of an eye. This moment, this very moment is too valuable to be bought, sold or traded. So breathe in the air and stop just to hear your heart beat. Pause, to stand in awe of the universe and recognize the particle sized spec k on which you live. Realize that while we may be small and our time will come to pass, our voices and actions will echo through the generations. Do you understand the magnitude, can you feel the gravity? Rise to a higher calling and live beyond yourself, live for one another and live for this instance. For you will come to pass… but not yet, not without a moment.


Paige Watkins, WWU Student:

One Wish

Surely, if I was a contestant in the Miss America pageant, I would be booed off the stage when I gave my unpatriotic response to the question, “What is one thing you wish you could change about the world?” I don’t wish for world peace, or a solution to child poverty and starvation. Rather, I wish for a complete infrastructure change in the United States. Before I die I would like to see humans design a form of government that only gives room for the best environmental intentions- an infrastructure that allows for the Pacific Northwest to become the model for the rest of the country in regards to sustainable agriculture, alternative energy, environmental education, and resource conservation. What a wonderful achievement it would be for a fraction of the human race to drastically cut their impact on the planet! While it might be the popular opinion that asking such change of your country is unpatriotic, I can’t see a greater patriotic achievement than creating a new dynamic to bring the country back into leadership and influence over the rest of the human race once again; but this time in a way that is prosperous not only for Americans but all inhabitants of the planet. A girl can dream right?


Sarah Knudsen, WWU Student:

Consumption of clean, fresh water is a necessary requirement for humans, yet sources of potable water are diminishing, and some places do not have access to sanitary water. Yet, many places, especially in industrial countries such as the United States, waste a significant quantity of potable water on entities that do not need it. For example, golf courses are kept green year-round and cars are rinsed clean with potable water. Constant water wasters are toilets, which are continuously flushed with water that could be used for consumption. A fisheries museum in Scotland is leading the way to more efficient water use with a toilet whose tank is filled by the washbasin on top of it. When the toilet is flushed, the tank empties to flush away the waste, while at the same time, the sink on top runs with clean water for hand washing. The sink water then drains in to the toilet tank, refilling it for its next use. An added bonus is that not only is less potable water wasted, but the soap from the hand washing then cleans out the toilet the next time it is flushed, saving people from using strong chemicals to clean the toilet. In the near future, if humans could achieve full implementation of such toilets in all facilities that have traditional Western toilets, water wasting could be significantly reduced and the potable water could be used for drinking, reducing the need for wasteful bottled water and preserving valuable water sources.


Elizabeth Thomas, Community Member:

“Rain today. Followed by showers, and a light drizzle this evening,” my radio taunts. Dissatisfied, I turn off the dismal weather prediction in search of a sunnier channel to chase away my melancholy. The sky has poured for a solid two weeks now.

Windshield wiper sales are up. Gray clouds. Blue mood. No song brightens my spirits. Umbrella-less and un-hooded, I boldly depart from my dry vehicle and dive into a local coffee shop, evading the torrents. Once nestled in a corner sofa with caffeinated goodness in hand, I dream of palm trees and coconuts, yearning to be anywhere but the dreary Northwest.

But then, through a fogged-up window, I spy a glimmer of hope. Just outside, a solitary rose blossom struggles against the undeviating precipitation. This simple spectacle reminds me of the plants in my own garden just starting to bloom. They strive each day to grow, to display beauty despite hindrances. I marvel at the realization that we can learn so much from our natural environment, and I begin to recognize just what I would like to see humans achieve before I die.

I would like to see each person cultivate a garden. I want people to see for themselves how the most magnificent flowers spring from modest seeds and adverse conditions. I want everyone to realize that just like flowers that bloom, people too can display true beauty when they persevere, and that nothing exquisite can grow or be fully appreciated without those clouds of gray.


Ethan Albert, Lynden Middle School:

I want the technology to be better in Washington. In Washington there is a lot of air and water pollution. In water pollution the people just throw garbage in the water. I want them to make a machine that has a vacuum that sucks the garbage into the hole and put into the garbage that connects under it. This would be better keeping the salmon fresh and clean from any pollution came by human kind.

For air pollution, some factories give off toxic fumes that go into the air and pollute the air and makes animals and us sick. I would like them to invent cover for the tubes that release fumes and what the cover does is cleans the air before it gets to the air and make us sick and the animals.

There are also people that are destroying the animal’s habitat. Like the spotted owl. Its habitat was destroyed and now it is protected by a law saying that you can’t hunt or cut down any animal or tree that is at least 500ft away. I don’t think that’s enough. I think they should build a fence with barbed wire around their habitat.

I believe that our planet should be safe and clean from toxic gas and garbage polluting or earth. That is why we need to take care of our planet and make it last longer only if we clean it.


Isabella Roby, Lynden Middle School:

One problem we have in Washington State is that there are a bunch of homeless people. I want Washington to achieve less homeless people on the streets. We could build more homeless centers instead of the newest shopping center. If people in Washington just gave even a little money to them instead of going out and buying that new car or new shirt. You have to say to yourself, “Do I need this top or does this homeless person outside need a new fleece blanket for the harsh winter nights?” So I think if we all work together to get these people common needs, there won’t be as many people on the streets. I would also like to see people giving more food to the food banks so that they don’t have to go and pick up some cookie they found on the floor that has a bite out of it. Where do you think they sleep at night when you’re in your comfy bed? We need to help them, by building more places for them to live in, because they don’t have much. So that is what I think we need to accomplish in Washington and even in the whole world.

Nick Lannoye, WWU Student:

Deep Sea Exploration

There are many unsolved mysteries in this world, most notably outside of our galaxy. It is eye-opening to realize how miniscule our planet is compared to the vast expanse of the universe, hence my reluctance to learn all of its secrets. Why focus on extraterrestrial life, millions of light-years away, when we haven’t even fully discovered the range of species within our own planet? My hope is for all of the species on earth to be identified within my lifetime, especially those which lay in the deepest abysses of our oceans. It is speculated that only ten percent of oceanic species have been discovered, many of which are more bizarre than I could’ve ever imagined. Towards the ocean floor, species have evolved over the course of time, allowing them to survive with minimal contact with the surface, if any at all. Humans have made an insufficient amount of deep sea explorations to identify these animals and ultimately reach my goal, and I feel that we deserve to know about the life that coexists with us on this earth. There needs to be an exponential increase in the number of plunges to the depths of our oceans to apprehend the creatures that reside only a few miles below sea level. Although many of these species may be frightening upon discovery, I believe that the familiarity with all aquatic life is more settling than the fear of the unknown that may lurk in our waters.


Jim Milstead, Community Member:


May I dream of the day when motorboats and airplanes will no longer invade our beautiful lake? Do I dare suggest that a lake can survive without an attendant golf curse where its practitioners obtain their exercise riding carts?

Can my naïve vision imagine a time when native trees, shrubs and flowers replace exotic lawns, when English ivy is forever excluded for use as a ground cover, when toxic chemicals are no longer employed as a means of pest control?

May I hazard the hope for a future where children do not need to dodge speeding automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, and skateboards routinely ignoring red lights?

Do I dare to envision a life free from the constant bombardment of commercials promising everything from improved hearing, to a life of perpetual indulgence dependant upon the purchase of worthless items and unhealthy food?

Is it possible to conceive of a chamber of commerce that places social and environmental concerns before profit?

Will the day arrive when women are paid the same wage as men for the same services? Is there yet a possibility that tobacco will be so highly taxed that lung cancer becomes a thing of the past, where women and children are protected from abuse, where sexual predators are rendered ineffectual, and schools and libraries are properly funded? Can we, rather than continue to exercise our egocentric dominion, become  protectors of this fragile planet and the living creatures that share this mysterious adventure we call life?


Megan Paoli, Lynden Middle School:

I would like to see people stop using cars. People should stop driving cars around and polluting the air and start taking electric trains to get to places.

If people stopped driving cars and took electric trains to places, there would be a lot less pollution in the air. In Washington cars pollute the air the most. And I think it would be a lot more fun to take a train instead of driving a car.

Cars exhaust pipes is what pollutes the air. Electric trains don’t have exhaust pipes so they don’t pollute the air as much as cars do.

If people took electric trains places instead of cars, people could save themselves money by not having to pay for gas to put into their cars.

It would be safer too if people took electric trains because then there wouldn’t be traffic anywhere that people could get in a car crash. That is what I would like people to achieve some day.


Samuel Eisen-Meyers, WWU Student:

Before I pass away, there’s a lot of things I’d like to see changed and that I would like to see myself and the human race accomplish. To begin, I believe it is possible to live in a world without war. A world without war means many things for the common day person. War is the root of many evils throughout our world. I’d like to see the systematic and ideological reformation of the election process, the Supreme Court, along with other international organizations that fuel a world we only dream and read about. I don’t want to see anarchy, revolt, violent uprising and a downfall of this capitalist system. Just strong individuals who take over and push the minds of new souls in this world to believe we can stray away from it as we watch our current leaders BACK DOWN. I’d like to see a new generation of young thinkers figure out innovative ways to re-direct our energy away from a system that isn’t going to produce the type of lives we want to see for our children. Will we be around to create this world, or does our pursuit of heaven and utopia on this planet only contribute to the deterioration of others’ lives? We live in a world where we are constantly told to question our actions, not to trust, and run scared. To achieve assertion that we stand justified in our alternatives to the lives we’ve lived for 20+years will be the first achievement.


Tee King, Community Member:

I am ready to see humans work together toward a future that is safe and sustainable for us all. I’m ready to see mankind do the hard thing for the right reason; to get mad enough about an existing wrong that they will put themselves at risk to effect a positive change. I am ready for humanity to realize that there is more than enough to go around on this amazing blessing of a planet we each call home…that hunger and thirst are totally unnecessary through the love and compassion of our fellow man. I am ready for our species to stand up to the warmongers and moneymakers and proclaim, with peace and love in our hearts, that we will no longer allow greed and corruption to harm another soul. I am ready to see a world that knows we are each connected…we are all one. I am ready to live in a love-based world as opposed to one based on fear. I am ready to create rippling waves of radical altruism. I am ready to Be peace, for there is no way to peace; peace is the way. I am ready. Are you?


Christian Correa, WWU Student:

I would like to see humans achieve equality of opportunity.

There are students in this country without access to good education. As a low income, first generation student, my experience in college was as if my life was introduced to the world. My family and community were amazed at the opportunities available. For once, I actually believed I could be who I wanted to be.

I want this to be true for all. I want to see those dreams we saw in our kindergarten classrooms bloom. I want to see those kids—riding in the back seat staring out of their Northwest windows signing their names on the condensation of the glass— prove they exist through the precipitation. I want the hope we grasp in our hands to be our youth, not a lottery ticket. I want students to understand that the world is a bigger audience, and that they have the power to control the circumstances in their lives with education. This is possible is through educational reform.

We can address this by making the funding for education a priority, understanding the allocation of funds for education, and by reforming curriculum to add cultural competency, creativity and critical thinking rather than standardization. I believe that equality of opportunity starts with education. We can make is so that our youth understand that “being who you want to be when you grow up” is not a myth, but an achievable dream.


Susana Marquez, Lynden middle School:

One of the things I would like to see happen before I die is that we can find a safe place for the homeless people. We can help them with shelter, food and school. The most important thing homeless people need is shelter because they need a safe place to live. Many people live in cars and have to move to a different parking lot every day. Maybe we can help them stay in empty buildings that aren’t used anymore. Another idea is that they could park in empty lots that no one wants to buy or rent.

Another thing that I think is important that homeless people need is that they need food to survive. One of the things I think are important is that we should help the homeless people so they can have plenty of we can start a food drive. Also we can start gathering plenty food so then they could have food or we can start a community garden and grow food for them. That’s what I think will help the homeless people to have food.

Another thing I think that will be good for the homeless people is that they should start a school for them. I think that it helps the homeless people because some want a better future and they probably want a better life, also some homeless people want to learn we can also help them with supplies. This is what I want to see humans do before I die.


Ashlee Gray Newlin, WWU Student:

Before I die:

I’d like to see gardens.

On roof tops.

In the city.

I’d like to see gardens.

In windowsills.

In high way medians.

In parks.



Before I die:

I’d like to go to the top of the space needle one more time, and look out over





Living peacefully with the grunge of the city.

Before I die:

I’d like to give the mayor a can of jam, made from food I picked myself downtown.

I’d like to give my farmer a hug.

I’d like to see where my food grew up.

I’d like everyone to be able to afford love what Washington can grow in a whole new way.

I’d like to food bank lines a little shorter and “will work for food” signs to be able to be answered.

Before I die:

I’d like to at least see the Beacon Hill Edible Forest exist and community gather because of it.


Elian Carbone, WWU Student:

All humans seek value and meaning in their daily pursuits.  For this reason, I assert that the highest human need is self-actualization or self-fulfillment.  In order to ably fulfill such a need what other basic human needs must first be met?  Abraham Maslow contends that such basic needs include life essentials such as food and water, safety and security, belonging and love, achievement and prestige and aesthetic pleasure.  I’m most interested in ways that we as a society can best support children in their pursuits of maximizing and actualizing their potentials by meeting their most basic level needs while at the same time helping them crystalize their purpose.

Schools must embrace democratic ideals as a way to uphold the voices and overall agency of their students and teachers.  Democracy in schools could manifest in the following ways: students and parents could be apart of the selection process of their schools’ teachers and administrators and students could have more voice when it comes to constructing rules for their classroom and developing their class curricula.  When speaking of curricula, teachers must consider the nuanced spheres of influence in each child’s life.  In engaging in a curricular methodology known as “action research”, students are in a position to critique and analyze the varying issues that plague their schools as well as the cultural groups to which they belong (i.e. introduction of irrelevant, dumbed-down, highly racialized curricula, etc.) “Action research” directly supports youth’s ability to construct counter-narratives to such labels as “apathetic” and “disengaged”.


Arianna Thornton, WWU Student:

My answer, after pausing for a few thoughtful moments, maybe with my hand poised rather intelligently under my chin, would be, “a lot.” But that’s not a very specific answer, and neither is this: What I would like to see humans achieve before I die is a large-scale, intricate deconstruction of the mental blocks and barriers that prevent many humans from realizing the true beauty and intelligence of what and who is around them. An example, a woman lobbies for a position of power where she can effect positive change. She is intelligent, well-qualified, and has excellent ideas and strategies for improvement, but various humans do not vote for her because she is: a woman, a lesbian, a non-white, ugly, an atheist, a fashionable dresser, or ______ (insert irrelative and judgmental opinion here). This isn’t specific, and I don’t have a solution, but it is fundamental to every creative, innovative, problem-solving idea and person. How can we affect positive change when we don’t elect the people who fight for it because of superficial reasons? How can we protect this planet, our environment, our homes, if we can’t look beyond our own selfish needs to see that the massive tree clearing we’re doing to give ourselves a tiny peak of that mountain that will increase our property value is going to destroy and damage the homes of everything living thing there? I would like to see humans open their minds and eyes to look beyond the opposable thumb that they are so proud of, that makes them such intelligent creatures, and see that humans can be no better than the animals they celebrate in distinguishing themselves from if they can’t see and think more than surface-deep.


Cauy Shagren, Lynden Middle School:

What I would like to create is an electric flying cars. I would like that because it would not pollute the air and we could take out the roads so animals could have more space to live. If animals have more space to live they won’t become extinct. If they don’t become extinct no animals will be endangered. I would say that you can hunt certain animals in certain places.


Sarah Stephens, WWU Student:

I’d like to see humans achieve compassion toward other ways of life beyond their own. I’d like to see no signs of disgust or dismissal to customs or ideas that are not normal according to the observer’s own experience of normalcy. Can there be such thing as a normal idea or custom when humans live in such a variety of ways, within unique social systems that, in this globalized world, interact more and more with other distinctive systems?

Compassion acts as a means to learn about the social systems we encounter and to hopefully remove the lofty presumptions associated with claiming to understand something. To know something about a society one has no personal experience with beyond their interactions with these cultures through chance meetings in everyday life, the portrayal of the cultures in the media and in history texts. This isn’t to discredit these interactions, for they are what form our initial ideas of cultures, societies. But they must not be so embedded in our psyche that these surface encounters justify judgment on the societies.

I’d like the curiosity among humans to interact and exchange philosophies cross culturally. The couch surfing community provides optimistic hope for this dream. Here travelers are accepted into the homes of local people where they are traveling. They experience their life first hand and can appreciate the complexities of the society much more intimately than just going to a hostel or hotel.

Opening up your home to travelers allows not only for foreigners to learn about the North West culture, but also provides a wonderful space for us to hear about their perspectives on our culture from their point of view. These cultural exchanges of ideas develop a richer understanding into how all these ‘systems’ work within themselves and among each other.

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Articles On Ideas

Ideas: Lessons learned, perspectives, advice and more by and for organizers working toward a more democratic society.