Inspired by Humans of New York: a photography project that began in 2010 in an attempt to capture 10,000 New Yorkers on the street and create an exhaustive catalog of the lives and spirits of its inhabitants. Today, HONY reaches over 20 million people and provides a worldwide audience with a daily glimpse into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City.
Grassroots campaigns like I-732’s are comprised of many people who get involved because they see something beautiful in the world worth fighting for. These are some of their stories…
I’m studying international economic development and literature, and I’m in the process of applying to law schools right now. Ideally I’d like to go into public policy, specifically regarding education reform and education equity and how to deal with matters of discipline.
I’ve worked in Seattle Public Schools for four years, almost exclusively with students of color. I’m in the Central District, so a lot of them are black, both African American and recent immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. I’ve spent years around a bunch of young, ambitious, talented black kids, but I’ve been in classrooms and seen some racist stuff go down. I’ve seen the different ways that teachers discipline and the ways that we treat students who come from different cultural mindsets, and they’re totally disadvantaged. Unfortunately, there’s no patience or compassion for difference, so I’m pretty upset about that.
There’s a composting program at Garfield and Washington Middle School where they make sure each of the students stacks up their trays to be reused and that all food products and compostable waste goes into the compost bin, but a lot of the students don’t necessarily compost at home, so this is totally new for most of them. Unfortunately, environmentalism has been segregated by class. It’s been an upper class privilege to do things like compost in a lot of places.
Especially in California, where I’m from, you go to somewhere like Orange County or Downtown Hollywood, and you’ll have more opportunities to recycle. Seattle is absolutely a microcosm of composting and recycling. Going to almost any local restaurant and all of the cups and plastic things will be compostable, that doesn’t really exist in other places.
But, ultimately, none of the little things that we as individuals do can offset what’s happening at the corporate level. Look at a company like Nestle. Even in the California drought, with people taking shorter showers just to make sure that they’re saving water and reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible, you still have companies like Nestle bottling at full capacity with plastic water bottles, which are wasteful to begin with. In California, you see huge amounts of toxins going into the air in the big urban cities where there isn’t rain, and there’s a haze of pollution you walk through on a daily basis that’s making people ill, and you have more cases asthma per capita. So, while I think it is important to have schools teaching young children to be aware of their waste, I ultimately think we have to do something at a larger level to control large corporations who are ultimately the greatest polluters by such a large margin.
Ultimately, nothing matters if half the earth is uninhabitable, so I think we have a responsibility to future generations to not do that to them, to leave them an earth we’ve tried to clean up as best we can. It was not handed to us in very good shape, but I think we absolutely have a responsibility to do better. ◼ Clarissa Olivares is a senior at the University of Washington.
I grew up around the Beacon Hill, Columbia City area, and I study communications for Human Resources at Seattle University. In the future I want to work in HR, whether that’s handling employee benefits or recruiting. I like providing resources that people didn’t have before to help them achieve their goals. Whether it’s job opportunities, scholarship opportunities, or just different interests that they want to pursue, I want to see people fully develop their talents.
What gets me the most is when people outright deny climate change, because Seattle is one of the best cities to explain climate change to people. Since I have lived here my whole life, I have been here for its normal cycles. Seattle used to have four distinct seasons. Now things have started to change where we don’t get as much rain as we used to, and it’s happening at different intervals and densities. It’s also getting a lot hotter here. We used to have maybe three days when it would hit the 90’s during the summer, but now we’ve had multiple days at that temperature during the beginning, middle, and end of summer. It is really apparent here. You have a place where it used to be known as the rainy city, but that trademark is not as prominent because of climate change. I went to China four years ago, and it was gray at all times around the city. But after one really big storm, the rain cleared up all the pollution, and that was the bluest I’d seen the skies in China. When all the pollution was washed away, my vision was actually impaired, when because I wasn’t used to the bright sun anymore.
I think it should be a priority because we only have one Earth. Climate change affects the global water supply, and without water we can’t sustain anything. People think we just need drinking water, but it’s also used, for example, in the cooling process for a lot of the things we build. You are not going to get away from the fact that you need to use water in everything in human life, and climate change threatens that. ◼ Khryee Smith is a senior at Seattle University.
I chose to go to Seattle University for their business school, so I have a double degree in business management and marketing, with a triple minor in entrepreneurship, innovation, and economics. I chose business because everybody in the world interacts with business at some point or another, and I want to see how that can be a mode for social change and social justice. I’m also really interested in fair trade and organic product sourcing.
I grew up with a dad who is very right-wing, and the environment was never a conversation in the household. I’m originally from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and we lived on a ranch, but we had zero concept of environmental preservation or climate change. My dad would say it’s a ploy by the media to get you to buy carbon offsets. So I went through most of my life believing that because that’s what I was spoon fed. I was against it for a really long time, but then you get to a point where if you actually do research on something, you can’t refute climate change at all. All of that research changed my life, so much that during spring break last year, I decided to work with Global Student Embassy and go to Ecuador and plant trees. I’m very critical of eco-tourism, but putting a resource back into the ground and fostering it, or working in a nursery and helping a seed survive in the forest, was such an eye-opening experience. People use paper and lumber, and you don’t ever see the other side of it.
I tend to have a pretty cynical view of our ability to make climate change go backwards. We could pass really good legislation, we could enact a lot of great social change that could lessen it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that making it go backwards is not happening for a while. But by the same token, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything. I think a lot of people just say ‘yeah, it’s all messed up anyways, let’s not deal with it’, but that’s not the case. It kind of makes me weary about where the future is going to go. I think that World War III is going to be about water, not about power. I think that we can’t afford to have fighting climate change not be a priority, and I hate the fact that climate change is still an argument. We need to do something, and I don’t think that we have the luxury of denying that fact. Fighting climate change needs to be the top priority for every single country and we all need to work together to make it happen. ◼ Sam Henry is a sophomore at Seattle University.