Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Up another hill and into a blighted neighborhood of north of downtown, we arrive at a reused material playground and are greeted by Chris Koch of GTECH Strategies, a nonprofit investing in community revitalization with alternative energy, land reclamation, green tech and social enterprise. One of GTECH’s strategies is growing alternative energy on vacant lots as a transitional, short-term strategy to productive reuse.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Heading downhill to Carnegie Mellon University, we rendezvous with Professor Bob Bingham to learn about his ecoart work, which has created green roofs all over campus. Overlooking a forested hill in the heart of campus, Bob tells us about his and his students’ intervention into the university’s plans to cut down 200 black locust trees in the name of development.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Cleveland’s roads are blanketed in snow as we begin biking 133 miles southeast through the Rust Belt to the Steel City. We follow the Ohio River into downtown and pedal uphill to a well worn college neighborhood to interview two college students in the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition who were listed on a terrorist watch list for handing out hot chocolate and singing songs about climate change.
Detroit, Michigan – In downtown, we visited the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school for pregnant teens and preteens. A few years ago, science teacher Paul Weertz brought to the principal’s attention that formaldehyde in dissection animals is harmful to pregnant women. She told him he needed to find another way for students to receive an equal educational experience without the toxins. So Weertz and the students started a farm in the vacant lots behind the school—complete with a red barn, chickens, geese, goats, orchards, vegetable plots, bees, and even a horse.
Chicago, Illinois – Biking south along the shoreline of Lake Michigan for 97 miles, we weave our way through the north suburbs and into the heart of the Windy City. Commissioner of the Environment Suzanne Malec-McKenna walks us through Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, which follows the UNFCCC’s recommendations to cut emissions by 25-40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050…
Town of Dunn, Wisconsin – Up and over 274 miles of glacial drumlins in northwest Wisconsin, we roll through the cookie-cutter suburbs of Madison and into the rural Town of Dunn (pop. 5,270, 34.5 square miles). Here, we listen to former Chairman Cal DeWitt tell the town’s story: In 1986, the rural land was preserved when Dunn’s residents gathered at the town hall and voted unanimously to raise their own taxes to pay for the purchase of development rights from their farmers.
Bozeman, Montana – 211 miles southeast of Missoula—including 50 miles on the I-90 freeway—we crossed over Bozeman Pass and headed to Montana State University to meet with mycologist Gary Strobel about his recent discovery of Glicocladium roseum, an endophytic fungus that produces biofuel, called myco-diesel. Strobel is testing the fungus to see if it will digest cellulose and emit biofuel.
Glacier National Park, Montana – Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, we interviewed Jami Belt of the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center about their “Citizen Science” program in which everyday people can help monitor the populations of mountain goats and pikas. Data collection began in 2005 with the intention of using it to demonstrate how the climate crisis is effecting these species, which are akin to canaries in the coal mine. Without citizens collecting this scientific data, the research center would not be able to collect enough data to make an accurate assessment.
Sandpoint, Idaho – The Harris hydro turbine is basically a 24-volt truck alternator attached to a Pelton wheel. Creek water is transferred to the turbine through a 4-inch underground pipe that and drops 50 feet in 700 feet of run. There are four nozzles that shoot water at right angles on to the Pelton wheel, which spins the alternator, like in your car, and generates power.
Bellingham, Washington – After a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, we cycled 118 miles up the Sound’s islands, bridges, and peninsulas, crossing back to the mainland and heading north through the Chuckanut Mountains to Bellingham to interview Make.Shift, a nonprofit greening the independent music scene. Make.Shift’s Power Wheel is a classic exercise bike converted to a bicycle-powered generator that can power 2500 watts of musical equipment, including PA systems, amps, guitars…
Olympia, Washington -Along the southern most point of the Puget Sound’s tidal-influenced estuaries, we pedaled 26 miles northeast to learn how mycologist Paul Stamets is reinventing the cardboard box as a form of ecological currency to help offset global warming. The Life Box looks and functions like a typical cardboard box, but it is impregnated with tree seeds and symbiotic fungi. Rather than recycling the Life Box, you plant it in the ground and out of the box a tree grows, sequestering carbon and emitting oxygen. “Right now there is a tyranny in the carbon credit economy…
Oakville, Washington -”I don’t want to talk about sustainability—I want to talk about outrageous, vigorous growth beyond your wildest dreams. This is about realizing dreams…Get your skin in the game, you make the investment, take your life savings and turn it into the forest, and forget about your retirement fund, cause I don’t have one anymore and I’m not young anymore, but this forest is important to me. That’s the kind of sacrifice you’ve got to make, it is not sending in a $50 donation.” – John Henrikson, Lead Forester of Wild Thyme Farm
Grayland, Washington -On August 17, we headed from Portland to the Washington Coast to dip our bikes in the ocean and check out the first coastal wind farm in the Pacific Northwest. These four wind turbines were only sixty-days old and built by the Coastal Community Action Program, a nonprofit social service organization that serves low income families, seniors, diversely-abled individuals, and anyone else in need in Grace Harbor and Pacific counties in rural, western Washington. The four turbines will generate half million dollars a year to put back into low income services, enabling them to assist an additional thousand families a year.