The Paper

Imagine yourself in a 3° world – the stakes are high: the California coastal cities are flooded out, and the flood waters meet desertification, fires, and populations searching for food. California agriculture, which fed the world, no longer exists. Or supermarkets or gas stations. We will all be facing hardship and upheaval. What are the values that will sustain you and your family as the economy collapses with the environment? What sacrifices will you make, and how will you explain those sacrifices to your children?

  • Write about how you will cope with and respond to the changes that 3° of global warming will make in your life in the next 25 years.
  • Write about the changes in your life that you will CHOOSE to make. How are you deciding to live differently?
  • Knowing what lies ahead, will you decide to bring children into this world?
  • How will you decide to raise children in the context of the huge environmental, social, and economic changes that will be underway? What are your strategies? Write about the positive effects of raising children in these difficult times. What will be the high points of their lives? And write about things that will be difficult.

• Conclude your paper with what you will have to say to your children at breakfast 25 years from now, when they are the age that you are now – college seniors.

This paper is meant to be helpful to you as you imagine and chart the next 10 to 25 years of your life. When you write, be as specific as possible to your real life and your real life choices so that the act of writing the paper becomes useful, creative, courageous, and informative.


1) This paper is for you and is intended to mark an important moment of arrival, departure, or transition in your own life. Please write the paper that you need to write at this time in your life, a paper that can serve you as a guide, a reminder, a moment of vision, a period of reflection, assessment, regrouping, reaffirmation, revitalization, and renewed commitment.

2) Please write this paper for yourself. This paper will be important for you to read in 10, 20 and 30 years from now. You are writing at a formative moment in your life and the act of writing this paper will be a significant contribution to the formation of your future. This paper is an act of self-empowerment. Take the time to write beautifully.

3) Academic language is completely unacceptable, as it tends to falsify, inflate, deflect, routine, or otherwise calcify the nature of your actual experience. You are the only person in the world who has had your experiences. You, therefore, are the expert and the authority, and your search for your own words to understand and describe your experiences, and the aspirations, values, belief systems, and personal standards that are a result of those experiences, is itself an act of courage and care and is a gift to the world.

4) The paper should address issues or situations that you have dealt with in the past or are in the process of dealing with right now in your life. It must also look forward, and become an occasion for you to project yourself into your own future, and create a scenario in the life that you would like to live.

5) It is important to be very clear about motives, their complexities and contradictions, and to deal as accurately as possible with the layered personal, political, social, economic, psychological, or religious contexts of the environment in which you are acting. Those tensions, and their repercussions, create the need and opportunity for leadership, honesty, attentiveness, mutual recognition, divergence, and skill. The more honest you are, the more surprising and helpful your writing will become.

6) All narrative is “multiple” — voices, time frames, and points of view. Experience is both intensely personal and shared. A deeper look into the intensely personal side reveals that you yourself have many voices and conflicting selves. And, an acknowledgment of shared experience leads to the awareness that so does everyone else.

7) Many people spend a lot of time doing things that do not need to be done. This paper, in contrast, should be something that needs to be done. This paper should be something that helps you and the people around you, a moment in your life which you can focus your attentions and intentions unselfishly. As with the creation of any work of art, this paper will require you to deal with what you do not understand as well as with what you imagine you understand. The struggle towards understanding is your own story of complexity, subtlety, skill, tenderness, insight, persistence, and humility.

8) Infinitude. Open-endedness is one of the most important aspects of your life. It is important to be conscious of ongoing processes and continuously transforming experience. In fact, your life has no fixed points; experiences are lived and relived, always with new meanings and new possibilities. Even as you are writing, talking, and acting, things are changing.

9) The paper should be 8 – 10 pages.

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