This guest post was written by Gavain U'Prichard
. Gavain, his wife Dana, and their young children, are walking the roads of American to call attention to climate change and the number 350. You can follow their journey at www.pacingtheplanet.org.
When my wife (then five weeks pregnant) and I read, with dismay, Bill McKibben's article, "The Terrifying New Math of Climate Change", this summer, we realized that everything that we have already been doing is simply not enough. We had known about climate change but like most people, we had the impression that there was a relatively comfortable buffer of time between us and that probable future. We had been hoping that we, as cultural activists, would have time to sway the direction of humanity by embodying change and modeling a more joyous way of living.
My wife and I met at an intentional community and eco-village in Oregon. We both had been independently led to investigate radical forms of community collaboration, to practice voluntary simplicity, to lessen our footprint on the local and global ecology, and to appreciate the intricacy of life as its own worthy entertainment, and in its own wisdom.
In 2011, we moved to rural Northeast Missouri, bought an old house, and set about repairing it. Soon, our youngest child (of four) was born at home. We made our home as self-sufficient as we could, so we could live very cheaply as well as thrive in the grace of green living. We cooked and heated with wood, reclaimed water from our roof for use in laundry and gardening, washed and dried our clothing by hand, heated our water with sun or wood(seasonally), and had been transitioning our entire electric draw to come from a wind turbine, and a small solar array. We were raising heritage breed waterfowl for eggs and meat, and learning to hunt deer (so abundant in our area) for venison in our diet. We had been setting up a home-base from which we would be able to offer acts of service to others in our locality, engage with the nearby intentional communities, and create art and education programs about reviving our human sense of wonder, all the while parenting and homesteading.
Then, the dry winter turned into the abnormally warm spring, which blossomed grotesquely into the heatwaves of June and July, 2012, bringing the worst drought in anyone's living memory. Our garden withered, as did everyone else's around us. Lawns turned brown, and we watched the corn and soy crops in our county die. An unnatural silence lingered in the wild places for much of this summer. McKibben's article slapped us awake: this mega-drought was the first stroke of the brute force of extreme climate change, and undoubtedly, the gentlest kind of impact we can expect in our future.
Our family realized that we would fail to address the momentous implications of the recent climate science if we just continued to dwell in the personal obscurity of our own lives, our day-to-day, our work, our enjoyments. We needed to do something. We wanted to illustrate with our own lives that the occasion calls for putting down our routines, leaving our old ways pristinely and utterly, the way the old city of Pompeii was left frozen in ash, tables still set, business abandoned in mid-stride. We're called to step outside, meet each other eye-to-eye, and acknowledge the extraordinary situation that anthropogenic global warming has put us in.
Our family decided to walk. We would take our children on the road, and pace the back lanes and rural highways of America, showing people how we had just stopped what we were doing, so we could pay attention and find what solutions to the global warming problem are left us.
We built a hand-pulled wagon for our young children to ride or nap in as we walk, and covered it Conestoga-style. Later, we added large, Amish-built carriage wheels to it -- the wagon is now quite spectacular, going down the road. We found a man selling small pony carts that he makes by hand, and bought a used one, which we repainted and outfitted with its own canopy. That canopy is emblazoned with "350.org", and the first wagon bears the name of our project: Pacing the Planet. A message decoupaged to the side also warns those who watch pass us from the roadside, or while driving: Climate Catastrophe Cometh.
The more we have researched the current state of affairs, going to the original peer-reviewed literature, the more true this statement seems to us. So our family is walking...it is the most impactful action we have been able to come up with so far! The imperative is to somehow convey to many, many more people that we have a rendezvous, in this next handful of years, with the kind of moment that alters the course of Earth's history for thousands (if not millions) of years -- a moment like the one in which a comet collided with Earth, annihilated most of the dinosaurs, and sent earth life careening in very different direction.
As we endeavor to create an impression by which many people are compelled to pause and think, we also acknowledge that we need to offer solid information about the changes which our planet is undergoing, and the paths of hope which still exist... That is why we have been giving presentations on the latest science available about global warming to area universities, community centers, and intentional communities. It's why we're entering ourselves into local parades --tossing informative flier scrolls instead of candy -- so that we can help start the urgent national conversation.
We're walking with donkeys, now. They are emissaries for the animal world, and we hope that they make our presence more visually intriguing as they help us carry our supplies. We're focusing on Iowa and Missouri, both swing states in in the run-up to the election, so we can get practice for a longer-distance journey starting this spring, after the birth of our fifth child. (And in case you are wondering...especially in light of our new awareness of climate change: No, we will definitely not be having any further children!)
Please join us. 350.org consists of the people sitting in the passenger seat of the speeding car, who have realized that the driver is asleep, or dead, or possessed; whatever the case may be, the car is headed for an abyss. We grab the wheel, and we turn it as best as we can from the passenger seat-- turn it hard. Maybe we'll jump into the driver's seat at the last moment. However it is done, it takes many hands to turn the wheel of the ship of state.
At Pacing the Planet, we are still needing support, as we near the end of our fund-raising for the first part of our campaign on We the Trees
, a permaculture crowd-funding site. We pray for a throng of people who will join us, literally or symbolically, and say: we will not continue our business as usual. We will not go gently into the nightmare of cataclysmic climate change. If you want to keep tabs on the latest information about our project, follow us at www.pacingtheplanet.org