Saturday, May 23, 2009

Assessing the Walk

As I start walking in Virginia and celebrate the completion of 400 miles, I'm in the mood to evaluate what I've been doing. Some days I wonder about the value of this adventure, especially given the problems and expenses of the motor home. So here go some thoughts:

I've come to see myself as a walking Poster Board, and the van as a moving Bulletin Board. As I walk along the highway people in hundreds of cars see me every day, and I notice that many of them read my shirt, WALKING for the CLIMATE. If even one or two out of a hundred actually think about what that means, awareness has been tweaked. And if a few every day talk with the others in the car - "Hey, what do you think that means?" - then my walk is worth it. 

I also notice people reading the signs on the van. On a humorous note, people think the handwritten signs in the windows are For Sale signs. I've actually had people turn their cars around and come back to look and ask me if I'm selling. Sometimes they then ask what "WAKE UP to the CLIMATE EMERGENCY" means, but usually not. I thought of changing the signs somehow so that people wouldn't come out of their way, but I decided that my message is worth a little inconvenience on their part. 

The other day in a park a group of children engaged me in a conversation about the signs on the van. When I started explaining global warming one girl sighed and said "School's out." (Indeed it is in Tennessee.) But several of them took my fliers and one of them said she'd love to walk like I do. I referred them to my children's blog

That blog might be the most successful of all my efforts. I love it that many of the children leave comments, and we've actually developed a blog relationship. One of them was inspired to start her own blog and recently posted a wonderful dream about the end of global warming. During the next couple of weeks I'm planning to post some suggestions for their summer holidays. 

This original blog and the Progress Map serve to keep my friends and supporters informed of my journey and I appreciate the comments that let me know that folks are checking in. I also try to keep the issues of the climate change crisis in front of us all so that we don't slip into living our daily lives as if nothing was going on - while the ice caps and the permafrost melt, temperatures rise, the oceans become more acidic, trees wilt and perish, and fauna and flora species teeter on the verge of extinction. Whew!! 

There seems to very little awareness around America, and little support for measures to address climate change. One big disappointment regarding my Walk is the almost total lack of interest on the part of the media. My friend, Tim, has contacted many newspapers, TV stations, and student and environmental groups, but with the exception of Tuscaloosa there hasn't been any interest. I think that if there were a few more people walking it would be more of an event, and I'm hoping that by the time I get to northern Virginia and certainly in Pennsylvania I'll have some company to shake things up.

I've been nurtured with interest and hospitality by Unitarian Universalists along the way, and most Sundays I attend services at a UU church. Usually I light a candle during 'joys and concerns' to mark the number of miles I've walked. I'm learning from my successes and my failures at generating good dialogue about Climate Change, and mostly I realize that I'm best at telling stories, and not so good at providing strong arguments for those who question the scientific basis of global warming. You tell people the kitchen's on fire and they want to talk about who caused it and if it's really going to affect the rest of the house. 

So I guess I'll keep on walking (and driving my behemoth as long as it holds up). Leave me a comment now and then, and join me if you can.

Good energy to you,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Northeastern Tennessee

I've reached the Appalachian region of Tennessee.

Don't you wish you were walking with me?

Much better than driving a stupid Humvee.

One of the advantages of walking is that you can pause and really look at things you might otherwise miss, such as this lovely monument in Sweetwater, Tennessee.

Walking along Highway 11W in northeastern Tennessee has made me happy in a number of ways: the beauty of the hills, streams, lakes, woods, and pastures is wonderful; I'm delighted to be able to walk long distances again on my bum knee; I've completed 350 miles; and people along the road here greet me and seem to read and appreciate my "WALKING for the CLIMATE" T-shirt. There are of course some who don't seem to like my cause, like the young man who revved up his vehicle noisily as if to say, "I'll guzzle as much damn gas as I want to."

I must say that the whole car culture I've witnessed from the day I started out in Louisiana discourages me and makes me aware of the tremendous obstacles ahead as we try to lower the American carbon footprint. Whole communities everywhere depend on their cars day in and day out, with significant distances separating people from the dozens of places they need to go. Public transportation is rare or non-existent most places I've been. And even the most enlightened people I've talked with seem to think nothing of driving many miles several times a day. I'm actually hoping the price of gas will go up and stay up - though it'll make it harder on my pocketbook as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hello down there in Mississippi

Monday night I received a surprise call from Ritha Solomon. She is a lovely woman who gave me a ride back to my gypsy wagon in Hattiesburg. It was out of the way for her thus an act of pure generosity. It also made her late in joining her son who was going fishing that afternoon. 

I was thrilled to hear that Ritha has been following this blog regularly, along with her son. We talked about some of the things I'd observed in Alabama, and she told me that Pay Check Cashing and Car Title Pawning are everywhere. I kinda knew that but had never seen so many pawn shops and advance loan shops in one place as in Bessemer, just southwest of Birmingham. Ritha and I agreed that Rapid Climate Change would only put more people in the category of the poor that use those predatory services. 

So, hello Ritha and son. Keep reading and stay in touch. 


The gypsy wagon gets towed

Well, my friends, I had a rude surprise yesterday when I stopped to get directions to the library in the Friendly City of Athens, TN. The engine wouldn't restart, a cable jump didn't do the trick, roadside service failed, and today my van had to be towed in for a new starter and a blown fusible link. The whole operation ends up being very expensive, quite a blow to my budget. But such is life on the road. I expect to be back on Route 11 later today. 

This weekend, starting Friday, the Annual Antique and Rummage Sale on Highway 11 will be taking place. This is a huge yard sale that stretches along the highway all the way from Alabama to Virginia. Apparently it makes for enormous traffic jams and difficult parking and I don't know how it will affect me. I'll try to use the whole affair to bring attention to Climate Change - what else?!

Hopefully I'll make it to Knoxville by Sunday in time to attend the service at one of the Unitarian Universalist churches there. I had a wonderful visit to the church in Chattanooga last Sunday, and enjoyed the Mother's Day service led by the Rev. Jeff Briere. He invited me to give the opening and closing words, for which I wore my stole over the Global Warming shirt that I like to wear on such occasions. Here's a photo snapped by church member and avid photographer, Leslie. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Farewell, Alabama - and Georgia, I hardly knew you

I've had a bit of a set-back with a bum knee. I only walked 3.7 miles in the last three days. I was very sorry not to be able to walk more in the little corner of Georgia through which I passed on Saturday. I've had a nice stop in Chattanooga, parking in the driveway of a hospitable couple from the UU church. It seems the rest has been good for the knee and I plan to be out on the road to Knoxville tomorrow. Here are a few last photos from Alabama.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From a poet in Fort Payne

I met the author of the poem in the library in Fort Payne. He commented on my "WALKING for the CLIMATE" t-shirt and we struck up a conversation. He showed me his poem and I offered to put it up on my blog. It gives me a feeling of solidarity. We share a concern for the children and the animals, and a love for the trees.

Green Earth Movement Creed
           by William R. Miller

Oh this world what a beautiful place. 
Magnificent, touched with Gods grace.
Red, yellow, and gold the trees in Fall.
Splendor in not just one but in them all.
The whisper of air as birds fly on wing.
The sight of an eagle joy to my heart does bring.
Creatures of God sent from the heavens above.
To give us joy, excitement and love.
Oh what a special thing birds of air and the fishes of the sea.
They touch me deep inside a great joy to me.
The cackle of geese the song of the loon.
I fear they will be gone too soon.
For I can not help but see what pollution can do.
To reverse this destruction is up to me and up to you.
For what do you tell your children when they cant tell night from day?
What do you tell your children when they cant go outside and play?
Who do you call when all the fishes lie dead by the sea shore?
Who do you turn to when all the animals are here no more?
Who can help you when the skies are turned black instead of blue?
What is your government going to say,
What are they going to do?
I pray that we open our eyes before its too late.
For this is Gods world and I know he would want us to keep it great.
We owe our children a brighter future a better place.
A smile instead of a frown upon their face. 
Oh this world what a beautiful place indeed.

Northeastern Alabama

I'm back on the road and loving it. This is certainly a very pretty part of the US and it's great to walk through such lovely countryside. I'll let the photos below speak for themselves. 

As I returned from walking yesterday and approached my motor home, a woman whose pickup truck was stopped at the intersection came up to me an gave me a hug. "Everyone is talking about you," she said. "About your walk for all the grandchildren. Look, someone else is reading your signs." Sure enough, another vehicle had just pulled up to my van to read the lettering and the handmade sign that says WAKE UP to the CLIMATE EMERGENCY

Please check out this article by Lester Brown on food shortages.  A new friend in Birmingham forwarded it to me, knowing that it is part of the larger climate change picture. It's pretty scary, as is everything about the future we're looking at. That's why I sing as I walk, to keep my spirits up. Somehow this song pops into my head every time I start singing:

Come, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow me.
Whither shall I follow, follow, follow?
Whither shall I follow, follow thee?
To the greenwood, to the greenwood,
To the greenwood, greenwood tree.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Re-visiting Birmingham

Roses from the garden of my hostess

What a fine time I've had in Birmingham on my second visit. I arrived by train from Philadelphia around noon on Saturday. On my trip north I'd walked from the Unitarian Universalist Church parking lot, where I left the gypsy wagon, down the hill to West Valley Avenue and caught the city bus to downtown. When I returned I discovered that the Saturday bus made a shorter loop and didn't run on W. Valley Ave. I had to walk the last leg of the trip, rolling my suitcase behind me, on a four lane street with no sidewalk or shoulder. Ah, the indignities pedestrians must suffer!

I was going to recommend that people use the bus to go to church, at least now and then, but I also learned that the bus doesn't even run on Sunday. So much for that. Maybe as the fossil fuel situation becomes more urgent cities will be pressured into offering more public transportation. If I lived in Birmingham I think I'd advocate for that now.

I received wonderful hospitality from the UU's, both at church on Sunday, and in the homes of two dynamite women. I stayed Saturday night with an artist who in her retirement years has taken up weaving, metal work, stained glass mosaic, and other mediums whereby to express her astounding artistic talent. Her house is like a museum albeit a cozy and warm place where you feel right at home. Her patio juts out into a forest that fills the hill below. We sat there for supper and the birds sang and showed off to us the whole time. Sunday night I stayed at the home of an avid political enthusiast, a retired history professor, who can rattle off the names of senators from each state and where they stand on the political spectrum. She reads The Nation, The New Yorker and a political journal, and has a quick an agile grasp of contemporary issues. I know that I would learn a whole degree-worth of knowledge if I could spend more time with these two ladies.

Mid-afternoon yesterday, while I was still at the UU church, we were told to go down to the basement because of a severe tornado warning. We watched its progress on television and, even better, some of us opened a basement door to the outside and enjoyed the fierce weather as long as we could: dark clouds, heavy rain, lightning and thunder, and some wind. We heard that the funnel had touched down here and there, but it passed us by. For me the lesson is that I need to pay attention to the weather and seek out shelter when tornadoes approach.

Today I'll replenish the larder of my home-on-wheels, and make sure it's all set to travel. And then it'll be back to the road for my Climate Walk for All the Grandchildren.