When one is not a lonely number

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Environment, Film, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Transition OKC | Posted on 10-06-2011

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Photo credit Julie Evans

YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip screened last night at the deadCenter Film Festival and will screen again tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Harkins Theater, Oklahoma City. I couldn’t go last night but am getting very excited about the Saturday screening. Just in case you missed it, YERT was winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 Environmental Film Festival at Yale.

Today I’m hoping to snag some cool YERT swag at the Meet & Greet with Mark Dixon Transition OKC is hosting from 4-6 p.m., Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson. Come on down! First ten people at the Meet & Greet win a reusable YERT ChicoBag, and Dixon will also be giving away two copies of Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones.

Couple of days ago on a conference call with Carolyne Stayton, executive director, Transition US, I mentioned YERT was screening here (Carolyne is interviewed in YERT), and boy, she really perked up. Her voice got all and happy and she said, “I love those guys. They are so much fun.” I can’t think of any better recommendation.

Final words.

And finally … the last installment of the Q&A email interview with Mark Dixon and Ben Evans, YERT’s producers and directors. A huge heartfelt Okie thanks to them for being so thoughtful in answering the questions and for taking so much time with this. Gotta say — these two guys are rich with insights – realistic and hopeful – a useful balance for all of us as we keep on transitioning. Be sure to read all the way to the end – they saved their best words for last.

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Q: What was the most inspiring thing you discovered on your journey?

A: Wes Jackson and the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., were particularly inspiring. He’s really addressing a number of problems simultaneously by rethinking the entire idea of agriculture.  His visionary concept of a perennial polyculture addresses soil erosion, water scarcity, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, fossil fuel use, pesticide use, biodiversity, and general ecological health in one fell swoop. t’s pretty amazing stuff. And once his work is done, he plans to give it away to humanity. Our children and grandchildren will be thanking him, big time.

Q: Most interesting?

A: In Idaho we found a guy with an idea to pave all the roads in the U.S. with solar panels. His invention, Solar Roadways (which is featured in the film), was one of the most interesting ideas we found all year – largely because it seems so outlandish and impossible on the face of it. But the more we dug into it, the more sense it made and the more brilliant it seemed. The short video we created to help get the word out about his invention has been our most watched video by far – amassing a million YouTube hits in the past ten months. So apparently, other people find it pretty interesting too.

Q: Most meaningful?

A: It’s hard to pin down a single most meaningful part of the trip.  Certainly WWOOFing in Wyoming was very meaningful – getting to dig in the dirt and really be a part of growing our own food. Visiting with Wes Jackson at the Land Institute was an incredibly profound and meaningful experience, as was our time spent with Joel Salatin on his farm in Virginia

Bob Berkebile’s story of turning personal tragedy and disaster into the inspiration for our modern green architecture movement and, by extension, a way to help others (like the people of Greensburg, Kan.) rebuild more wisely in the wake of their own disasters is an incredibly meaningful example of the power of one person to leverage their own pain in the service of humanity.

And of course, the unexpected pregnancy on the trip amplified the meaning of just about everything we encountered and served as a constant reminder of exactly what’s at stake as we navigate our way through these challenging times on planet earth.

Q: Most discouraging and/or darkest moment?

A: Covering mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining in West Virginia was probably the trip’s darkest hour. We all went into a depression after that – it was hard to wrap our heads around a country bombing itself in that way. While we had heard about MTR and knew that it was a problem well before we got to West Virginia, nothing could prepare us for seeing it up close and first hand from the air and from the ground. The complete and permanent devastation of an entire region of our country – one of the oldest and most bio-diverse regions on the planet and its uniquely American culture – in the name of a very marginal short-term increase in profits for a few coal barons is an almost unimaginable crime against humanity and nature. The insanity of this practice really hit us hard, and we hope that the film, in some small way, can help end this ongoing environmental and social tragedy once and for all.

Q: Happiest and most fulfilling moment?

A: As a self-professed sunset hound, Ben filmed a lot of sunsets all over the country on the trip which have been fun to relive on film, although Mark ended up filming perhaps the most memorable sunset from the back of a ferry leaving Alaska. The wonderful people that we met all along the way in every corner of the country and the tearful hugs and mutual inspiration that we shared with them has been one of the best things about the experience. And it was especially wonderful when we could use our journey to connect people from different walks of life or different parts of the country who needed each other (but perhaps didn’t know it yet) – something that happened a number of times on the trip.

Introducing people all around the country to the solutions and ideas that we’ve fallen in love with – like Earthships or Solar Roadways – and hearing them get excited and say they want to build an Earthship now or help make Solar Roadways a reality has really been fulfilling. And of course, the journey of the pregnancy and birth, while it was a lit
tle challenging for Mark to deal with at the time, has proven in the months and years since to have been one of the most fulfilling moments, not only for Julie and Ben, but of the trip itself in that it really gave the entire experience a new level of depth, meaning, and humanity that it might not have had otherwise. 

Q: What do you hope people will take away from the film?

A: We really hope people come away from the film recognizing that the most powerful solutions to the environmental challenges we face happen to also be the most satisfying, nourishing ways to live, and that people are joyfully exploring and sharing those solutions all around the country.

And we hope they recognize that they too have the power of "one" – that none of us has to be any smarter or prettier or richer than we are right now to have an enormous, immediate, and lasting positive impact on our own communities and on the larger world around us – as exemplified by the everyday heroes in the film. That’s a pretty empowering idea, when you tap into it.

Posted by Shauna Lawyer Struby. This post originally appeared on ThinkLady.

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