sites/all/files/5215539_0.jpgCheck out this amazing press release that our friend Jamie Pleune just sent! She and her husband are leaving their jobs in Washington DC to embark on an incredible 350 mile walk that will begin in the oil and gas fields in Vernal, Utah and end at a proposed wilderness area at the Glen Canyon Dam.

As teachers around the nation get ready to return to the classroom, one Utah science teacher has decided to “get to work” by quitting his job.  He and his wife Jamie, an environmental attorney, are returning from two years of work in Washington D.C. to begin a 350 mile walk through eastern Utah.  Their walk is part pilgrimage and part political march with the goal to find hope and meet others in their home state that are “getting to work” on climate change solutions.

“Get to work” is the key phrase for a world-wide campaign spearheaded by  The purpose of the campaign is to publicize the number 350 parts per million, the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to preserve life as we know it.  To urge world leaders to take immediate and effective action on climate change, people all over the world have responded to’s “call to action” by organizing community work parties that will take place on October 10, 2010.  The message sent to world leaders by thousands of people installing solar panels, breaking ground for a community garden, or picking up trash is clear.  “We’re ready to get to work addressing climate change, what about you?”

Ryan and Jamie will spend October 10, 2010 picking up trash with a group of high school students in Fort Duchesne to kick off a walk through eastern Utah that they’re calling the “350 miles: 350 postcards” initiative.  They hope that their walk will create a new story of courage and action that can help non-traditional environmentalists define for themselves what “getting to work” means. Along the walk, the Pleunes hope to bring publicity to the work being done by local teachers and activists.  “It is surprising” Ryan says “how many people even in the conservative state of Utah are seriously concerned about the climate crisis and are doing great work to address it.” Ryan and Jamie are convinced there are at least 350 community leaders throughout rural eastern Utah that will be willing to send a postcard to their congressmen describing the hard work they are doing in their communities. The work they have chosen this fall is to meet them.

When asked about how quitting his job has to do with getting to work Ryan responded: “Getting to work used to mean waking up at 5:00 A.M., riding my bike to work at a local high school, pulling my thoughts together, and teaching a revolving door of students in earth systems classes until the bell rang at the end of the school day.  The problem was, I just didn’t feel like my work was preparing my students for the future.”

Climate change is the largest environmental, social, political, and international crisis of our times but Ryan felt like, in Utah, addressing climate change in a public school setting often seemed like a radical idea.  He says “It is an issue that is going to affect the lives of every one of my students, so it should be a part of their education, but I was always on guard and afraid of what other teachers and parents might say if I asked my students to get involved in taking action.”  Jamie adds, “We live in a democracy and students take classes on civics.  But we talk about activism as a historical event; as if its importance ended with Rosa Parks.  If we don’t teach our children how to effectively participate in the political process, particularly when the political issues affect basic human needs, like water, food, and a stable climate, then we should not be surprised that powerful corporations dominate the political debate.”  They point out that we feel comfortable posting flyers telling people to recycle at schools, but people react differently when it comes to flyers about taking action around climate change.  The Pleunes hope that their walk will help break this cultural silence in Utah.  “We need to get to a place where teaching about climate change is as common and as apolitical as teaching the three “Rs” whether you define those as reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic or “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Throughout their walk, the Pleunes will call on teachers in the towns they pass through to open their doors to a classroom visit.  A powerful teacher and lawyer team, Ryan and Jamie will bring the energy from the outdoors into the classroom as they talk about the practical implications of climate change and the important role of citizen involvement in politics.  They will invite teachers and students to participate in the call to action of creating community work parties to address local environmental issues.  At the end of each visit they hope that students will feel empowered to write to their congressmen, requesting leadership, rather than politicking, around climate change.  The message that they hope to convey through their visits is that no matter where you live, no matter what your politics, climate change affects all of us.  That is why their postcard tagline reads, “350 ppm.  We’re in this together.”  

Ryan and Jamie will be walking through Ouray, Green River, Moab, Blanding and Bluff.  They hope to meet other teachers and young activists interested in community work parties and creating post-cards for the “350 miles: 350 postcards” initiative.  For more information or if you are interested in a classroom visit or help in starting a work party, please contact them at: [email protected] and [email protected].  

You can check in on the Pleune’s progress by visiting their blog at

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