Week 1 - Missouri

Today we completed the first week of Pacing the Planet – our 1000 mile walk north, from Edina to Northern Ontario. After a good bit of practice, building on our experience walking short distances last Autumn, our mission finally seems doable.

We are writing from the Memphis library, and nearly falling asleep standing because we've not quite adjusted to our new schedule of waking at quarter-to-five in the morning to take advantage of the cool, for walking.
We've traveled about 50 miles, going out of our way to the east, visiting friends at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and in Gorin, before deciding to head more northwesterly, toward Ottumwa, IA.

We are continually trying to assess the best route: the flatter the better! Hauling rickshaw carts over the local inclines is a time-consuming and arduous physical challenge. One of our carts, styled after a traditional covered wagon, is perhaps heavier than is really practical; it gained about 150 lbs in weight when we added the Amish-made carriage wheels that made it very maneuverable, but burdensome. We note that two walkers devoted to pulling it could manage the cart quite easily – we continue to hope for more participants in our action! Either that, or we will come home ready for Ironman contests.

We have been conquering the hills, nonetheless. After even just the first two days, we found that our muscles are developing more definition, and we are less sore today than we were yesterday, or the day before that. We are getting in shape and getting strong.

The cooperation of it is, not surprisingly, bringing our family ever closer. The children are getting great attention and finding their parents in a more spacious and patient state. Life at walking-speed is just slower...there is more time to stop and peek in at the cow dairy or to meditate on the dark swirling water passing under a bridge.

This morning, as we paced with our toddler, Tillwyn, we passed a horse pasture. A blond-maned horsie came springing out from some trees and Tiwi began laughing with delight...she had never seen a horse do this before. We were surprised and tickled by her commentary, “Dina!”...which means “Dinosaur” when she says it. She probably thought the horse looked like a long-haired carnivorous dinosaur, similar to the ones she has seen in her big brother's dinosaur movie.

Our two biggest difficulties are different in nature from each other. One is purely logistical, and one is more about the purpose of our walk. The first problem is that we need at least one more participant in order to efficiently transport our camp supplies in our vegetable-oil powered truck, as we progress in our walk. As it is, our days begin with one of us driving forward 8 – 10 miles, parking the truck, bicycling back to the walking party, and then proceeding to march up to the new location of the truck. Then, we must drive the truck back to the day's starting position, collect the bicycle, and return to the new camp.

The second problem is one of etiquette and honesty. We are encountering numerous people who are in disbelief of global warming in its entirety, let alone the seriousness of the crisis. Comments of this type are typical: “You know, don't you, that climate change is a fraud invented by lying scientists?”

Having intensively studied climate science for quite awhile now, we have much more information on this subject than most people – enough to know the undeniable reality of global warming and climate change. We have learned enough to know that accusations of fraud hurled at climatologists have long been disproven by independent investigation, and by independent scientific studies that have found the same environmental changes to be happening, when other ways of looking at the data are used.

Scientists are always improving their methods of research, and are required to be the harshest of critics, pointing out any uncertainties in findings—their own as well as their peers (this is the process of “peer review”). However, the uncertainties as to whether or not the climate is changing have been long-settled in the scientific community.

So, we are in a tricky position, because we are sometimes asking for a favor of the same people who assure us that climate change isn't real (they are amused by us, and they think of us as “alarmists”). We might be asking to store our carts on their land overnight, or to leave our truck parked near their place for a few hours. Pacing the Planet is working on a simple way to convey that we understand why people would doubt climate science, but we believe everyone can understand the truth that climate change is really happening.

It is the radio talk-show hosts and “merchants of doubt” on the internet who believe that we – all of us “commonfolk” – are suckers. They think, for instance, that we are not capable of doing our own investigation, in which we would easily learn that at least five independent panels have long-ago absolved the “Climategate” researchers of any wrongdoing. The radio shock-jocks continue to spew the lie that a scam was uncovered which invalidates concerns of dangerous global warming. They scoff, and call the hundreds of thousands of scientists who are studying the climate “alarmists”. They laugh at anyone who thinks that humanity could change the climate. They fire off false facts at a practiced speed that functionally blurs reality. They are the ones who are misleading you.

We continue to pray for guidance as to how to proceed in these conversations with strangers on the road in a way that is tactful and respectful, but that also represents the truth that we are here to share: the world is changing faster than it ever has and in the biggest way it ever has since human history began. It is alarming.