2020 year in review: stories of solutions and inspiration

During a difficult year, we offered stories of helpers, hope and solutions to our community’s problems.

Four photos: Top left, nurses; top right, farmers; bottom left, BLM artwork; bottom right, helicopter transporting sheep

(Clockwise from top left: Young Kwak for Crosscut; Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Aileen Imperial/Crosscut)

For too many reasons to count, this year will be unforgettable. Unfortunately, the things that  come to mind first may not be the most positive memories. 

But when things are tough, sometimes it can help to focus on the positive, right? That’s why we took special effort this year to comb through our 2020 work to find the stories that uplifted, inspired and offered solutions to present-day problems. 

Mural with "Hands up don't shoot"

Muralists reflect on the role of public art during pandemic isolation and social protests. (Aileen Imperial/Crosscut)

Muralists reflect on the role of public art during pandemic isolation and social protests. (Aileen Imperial/Crosscut)

Art marches on

As the pandemic upends artists’ livelihoods, it may seem a bit strange at first glance to give creatives their own “uplifting” category. But within the uncertainty were resilience, ingenuity and innovation. An emerging fashion designer jumped into mask making. Photographers found ways to stay close to subjects — from a distance. Local venues revived radio dramas. And more: 

Then there are the stories of artists who used their talent to address systemic racism and capture the protests and civil unrest, immortalizing the Black lives lost to police violence. 

And, of course, there were those hopeful, artful stories from the “before times.”

Two nurses stand in an examination room in Spokane

Emergency Room Technician Melissa Beaver, left, and Jennifer Jordan, MSN, RN, pose for a photograph in a trauma room at MultiCare Deaconess North Emergency Center in Spokane, Wash., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Note: This photo was taken before mask mandates. (Young Kwak for Crosscut)

Emergency Room Technician Melissa Beaver, left, and Jennifer Jordan, MSN, RN, pose for a photograph in a trauma room at MultiCare Deaconess North Emergency Center in Spokane, Wash., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Note: This photo was taken before mask mandates. (Young Kwak for Crosscut)

Neighbors helping neighbors

For many, this year was marked by mandated isolation. Still, we got to see how people filled in so many gaps by using lockdown time to help others. Local businesses helped feed frontline workers. Some of you (along with Sunny, the dog) visited and provided for lonely elders. Others nurtured gardens or stocked innovative pantries. At protests and the citizen-occupied area of Capitol Hill earlier this summer, participants offered food, medics and free rides home. And more:

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the award-winning, pre-pandemic series, Resetting the Table. Among the stories reported was one about two Bellingham farmworkers who left corporate agriculture to start their own berry cooperative.

Two men working on a farm

Modesto Hernandez, left, and Ramon Torres work on weeding around the blueberry bushes on their farm Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty Cooperative) on Jan. 24, 2020. The pair own and run the Bellingham farm themselves after they left work at corporate farms. Each has a collection of negative experiences including abuse and not being able to afford the very food they were working with. The goal is to eventually have several farmers living on the land and contributing to the farm. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Modesto Hernandez, left, and Ramon Torres work on weeding around the blueberry bushes on their farm Cooperativa Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty Cooperative) on Jan. 24, 2020. The pair own and run the Bellingham farm themselves after they left work at corporate farms. Each has a collection of negative experiences including abuse and not being able to afford the very food they were working with. The goal is to eventually have several farmers living on the land and contributing to the farm. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Things to look forward to

January 2020 feels simultaneously like only a few moments ago and a lifetime in the past. This year shifted our concept of time — particularly how we think about the future. We’ve been living from one extension of shutdown orders to the next, and all our plans for anything more than a few days in the future seem to be an act of optimism: “Maybe we’ll be able to travel next year. Maybe we can celebrate together in six months. We’ll see how the world looks in a few weeks.” And yet we can’t help but march forward. Here are stories that give us a brighter horizon to look forward to:

A helicopter transports mountain goats

A helicopter carries bags of mountain goats out of Olympic National Park during the last of four relocation sessions led by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service, in coordination with other state, federal, and tribal partners. The goats, invasive in the Olympics, are finding new homes in the North Cascades. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

A helicopter carries bags of mountain goats out of Olympic National Park during the last of four relocation sessions led by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service, in coordination with other state, federal, and tribal partners. The goats, invasive in the Olympics, are finding new homes in the North Cascades. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

About the Authors & Contributors