Looking into Sustainable West Seattle’s future – and seeing you

(WSB photo: ‘Diver Laura’ James, left, demonstrates virtual-reality viewers at Sustainable West Seattle meetup)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Over its decade-plus history, Sustainable West Seattle has launched and/or nurtured a multitude of community-enhancing projects.

Among the biggest: The West Seattle Tool Library and the annual GreenLife expo at West Seattle Summer Fest.

SWS also supports West Seattle Meaningful Movies, the West Seattle Timebank, Hate-Free Delridge, and more, as listed by president Stu Hennessey toward the start of last night’s SWS meetup at the Senior Center/Sisson Building in The Junction.

But even more than projects and programs … the biggest change can be made in cumulative small actions by people who care, and that was the theme.

SWS board members were on hand, as well as interested visitors — “we’ve had bigger and smaller teams in the past,” as Hennessey put it. Around the table, various participants voiced what had brought them to the gathering – from polluted stormwater runoff, to diversity/inclusion, to food sustainability, and beyond.

“Diver Laura” James talked about having taken over the Tox-Ick.org project, for which SWS is the fiscal sponsor, and which isn’t grant-funded at the moment, though she did an online fundraiser recently to scratch together some money for ongoing projects. She talked about her mission of showing people what’s happening beneath the surface of Puget Sound; her work with 360-degree video shows not just the runoff stream but also what’s not being caught, what trash is already down here – “it really changes the experience.”

360-degree video in general changes the way that people engage, she explained, with an anecdote about showing a Google Street View scene to an elder who got excited about exploring the area where she had grown up. She also talked about virtual reality – for elders, and everyone else – and how “the industry is just starting to mature” with standalone headsets that helps 360-degree content reach wider audiences. She’s working on a project to document “Virtual Puget Sound,” where she will be in the 360 space as your guide – “you can turn me on or turn me off,” choosing (or not) to see hotspots in video where she can pop up and explain more about something particular in the video.


(2017 photo by “Diver Laura” James)

She talked about the herring spawn at Alki that got so much attention last year. She describes herself as “super-excited” about what she’s working on and how it’s opening the doors to a wider world for so many. But she doesn’t think this has to be done on such a large scale – it is something that can be done on a community scale. She told the story of VR video artists who went on a tour documenting community concerns, like a doomed market in another part of the city. She distributed the headsets and showed video of a harbor seal – likely this one:

“Diver Laura” explained how stormwater factors into all this. “The organizations, the institutions can’t fix this problem – it’s going to be up to the communities, the individuals.” She described herself as more of a “carrot” person than a “stick” person in trying to encourage better behavior. “Humans tend to want to do the right thing, but going about our day to day business, that’s the last thing we think about.” She hopes to build a grass-roots effort that makes it “uncool” to not be working toward a “sustainable solution.”

Hennessey noted that some things are getting better – like the increase in using electric vehicles, which at least cuts the emissions, if not the various fluids that vehicles are still putting out onto the roads.

“Diver Laura” said that making change can be easy if you do one little thing at a time – maybe walk to the corner store, telecommute to a meeting. “If you try to gently say – here are seven solutions, plus an extra … very simple day-to-day activities … small baby steps … if all of us do small baby steps in the right direction, we can cause a groundswell.”

That segued to Hennessey noting that Sustainable WS is focusing even more on the Salish Sea – which Puget Sound is part of – than before. Board member Amanda Goodwin talked about the orcas-and-salmon issue, and the fact that more public pressure is needed. Hildegarde Nichols called attention to last summer’s Seattle Times coverage about “pesticide-free parks” where chemicals were being used – including West Seattle’s Fairmount Playfield. Anyone concerned about the possibility of that continuing should contact the Seattle Parks official quoted in the story, she said – barbara.decaro@seattle.gov.

If any of those topics interest you, and/or you have others that seem to match the mission of a more-sustainable West Seattle, SWS welcomes your involvement – and is hoping to attract more volunteer leadership, too (one long-dedicated board member is likely moving out of the area soon). SWS has no dues – just a passion for action. Said Hennessey: “It’s all about participating.”

If you’re interested in Sustainable West Seattle – e-mail info@sustainablewestseattle.org to get connected.

3 Replies to "Looking into Sustainable West Seattle's future - and seeing you"

  • Diverlaura February 28, 2018 (11:44 am)

    Thank you so much for the wonderful write up!!! 

    As the project progresses and HMD (Head Mounted Displays) are aquired, I’ll be looking to the community for volunteers interested in helping with both Virtual Puget Sound experience days in West Seattle and also VR/Spherical video  for Seniors which will likely take place at Senior Centers and residence facilities.   
  • alkistu February 28, 2018 (3:22 pm)

    I realize how un-sexy these issues are in an environment that  makes it the last thing on your mind. However, the reality that surrounds us is what we are all seeing with empowered and well financed forces profiting from the elimination of our livability. When people come together and realize there responsibility, they become the empowered, regardless of local policies or politics.  Not realizing this is what makes it easy for profiteers to have their way.

  • Morgan February 28, 2018 (7:42 pm)

    Nice work on the pesticides exposure, I had no idea.

    Ever read about the “pollinator pathway” program? I’d volunteer my street frontage to a collective effort like that.

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