Envisioning Washington State in 2025 and Beyond
The people of Washington State are as diverse as its landscapes. Yet when thousands of residents of different professions, cultures, and regions came together from 2006 to 2009 in E3 meetings, we realized we have many of the same values, concerns, and aspirations. Together we crafted a common vision for a healthy, prosperous future for all Washingtonians. Four elements comprise our common vision: a durable economy, strong communities, sustainable use of natural resources,– and the kind of individuals need to create this healthy, prosperous future. While broad enough to meet the desires of participants from across the state, the vision also allows for a more narrow focus to meet the needs of specific regions.
Here is the vision of Washington State in 2025:
1. Durable Economy:
Long-term prosperity develops as Washington’s businesses and industries provide essential products, services, and technologies for a sustainable future. Few parts of the globe are better equipped than Washington to make sustainable development the norm. Manufacturing, construction, transportation, and related industries continue to retool and generate growth in the green-collar job market -- literally providing the foundation under a robust economy that includes every community. High-tech industries and research institutions from aerospace to agriculture drive science and technology innovations that respond to global opportunities and challenges. Retail industries increasingly buy from and work with suppliers developing economically viable ways to shift production to a “triple bottom line” approach. (The triple bottom line measures success in terms of economic, ecological, and social factors.) Recreational and ecotourism businesses flourish as Washington’s world-class natural settings, communities, and services are widely marketed and increasing numbers of residents learn about these treasures through environmental and sustainability education.
Within communities, businesses, and industries provide increased mentoring opportunities for students and partnerships with agencies and nonprofits to solve local sustainability-related issues. Incentives encourage and support green industries and business practices – and reward creativity and entrepreneurial endeavors, which contribute to both the local and global workplace.
Communities integrate homes and businesses so commercial centers are easily accessed and patronized by local residents. In rural areas, new technologies and ecotourism broaden job opportunities and economic development. People make informed individual and collective choices for products and services with long life spans. The values of both business leaders and consumers have shifted towards informed, thoughtful approaches to production and consumption which in turn support a durable, community-oriented economy.
2. Strong Communities:
The layout, design, and operation of towns and cities are transformed as renovation and new development incorporate clean energy and other technologies that lessen our impact on the air, water, and land that sustain people and economies. Higher density neighborhoods, creative architecture, and community planning are the norm in urban areas, ensuring that all neighborhoods offer quality housing and access to safe, clean common places such as parks, community gardens, and shopping areas.
Downtowns preserve their cultural history, provide places for people to gather, and are vibrant with art, music, and conversation. Communities have diversified transportation systems, incorporating alternative-fuel vehicles, public transportation, and walking/biking corridors. Within Washington’s urban areas, and among communities and natural areas throughout the state, public transportation expands to offer safe, convenient, and affordable travel for residents and visitors alike.
Children grow up connected to their communities, and have educational and economic reasons to stay as adults. A greater sense of community develops as residents get to know their neighborhood, their neighbors, and their local merchants, business people, farmers, and public servants. People respect one another in all their diversity, and broaden multi-generational ties and activities. They are conscious of human impact – individually and collectively – on economic, social, and ecological systems. And they broaden their horizons and social networks through access to communication and internet technologies.
3. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
As Washington’s population grows, communities large and small recognize the need to manage growth to ensure the balanced use of natural resources for current and future needs.
Higher-density development in towns and cities allows agricultural lands, forests, and wilderness areas of the state to be preserved and their resources managed sustainably. Residents become more aware of where food comes from and are more supportive of local agriculture thanks to public education and the expansion of community and school gardens, farmers markets, and co-ops.
Both rural and urban areas view water conservation as an ongoing priority. In urban areas, innovative water treatment technologies, expanded green areas and building design, and public education vastly reduce stormwater runoff and water pollution. Agricultural communities and their neighbors form or expand partnerships to address water resource issues, e.g., reducing or eliminating the use of herbicides and pesticides, implementing efficient irrigation systems, and ensuring that streams and rivers retain enough water to maintain healthy fish populations.
All communities support energy conservation at home and in business and other institutions. Public and private support encourages development and expansion of alternative energy, local energy production, and economical delivery systems.
4. Educated, Skilled Individuals
Achieving and sustaining a durable economy, strong communities, and sustainable use of natural resources requires a well-educated population with the skills and knowledge to make good decisions based on the requirements of a healthy society, environment, and economy – decisions based on the well-being of future generations. To equip our residents for a thriving future, education in Washington focuses on providing all students with the skills, experiences, and academic foundation to understand and successfully operate within complex systems, from the ecology of their local environment to the global economy. Lifelong learning encourages appreciation and respect for the natural world, a strong sense of community, and an awareness of how we are connected to one another, other species, and the natural resources upon which we all depend.
During the 18 E3 regional summits held across Washington, local and regional representatives including tribal, business, early childhood and K-20 education, governmental, nongovernmental, civic-community, military, and faith-based leaders brainstormed and discussed the necessary knowledge, values, and skills attributes of Washington’s current and future residents.
Through these sessions, four broad characteristics emerged that define the people equipped to create Washington in 2025 and beyond.
To help develop each of these characteristics, regional leaders wanted to raise the bar in schools and help all students excel academically through initiatives such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), especially programs that use real-world, project and inquiry-based applications. Additionally, participants highlighted the need to build environmental and sustainability education into early childhood, career, and technical education programs; and felt all ages would benefit from learning in and about the natural and built environment. All regional representatives thought students needed to have a foundation in the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability from the local to global level, and the basic principles and tools of systems thinking.