On March 20th, I am going to begin walking for a really long time. The journey will take about a year and a half of my life. I will stop to rest only for winter and to be the best man at my brother’s wedding. My friends and I will travel clear across the Unites States — visiting small towns, endless corn fields, dying estuaries, big cities, purple mountain majesties, decapitated mountain pastures, drying deserts, amber waves of grain, and smiling people — to understand the breadth of these United States. Along the way I am going to clean the litter that has become an omnipresent addition to the American landscape.
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. The initial reaction is usually a combination of these four themes:
- You can’t be serious.
- That’s a lot of work.
- How’s this really going to change anything?
- …Something about Forrest Gump.
So I’ll make this clear right now:
- Yes, I am very serious.
- A life worth living takes a lot of effort
- We will be educating/distributing tool kits that describe how to support our efforts
- …and Yes, I did cry at the end of Forrest Gump.
Now that we’ve cleared things up, I’ll explain Pick Up America and my motives.
Pick Up America is a local, regional and nationwide initiative committed to reducing plastic waste in our communities and waterways. The Pick Up America team (also known as the Pick Up Artists) will coordinate community trash clean-ups while walking across the country to encourage alternatives to our nation’s throwaway mentality. We’ll document our encounters and experiences through our multimedia website and online social networks. The year-and-a-half-long trek will begin from Assateague Island, Md., on March 20, 2010, and span 13 states to the San Francisco Bay, Calif., sometime in August 2011.
- I walk so that I can be an ambassador of tolerance, unity and compassion. I have spent the entirety of my 24 years — with the exception of vacations — in Silver Spring or College Park, Md. The smorgasbord of culture that is Silver Spring has nurtured my unyielding tolerance and acceptance without presumptions.
- I walk to eliminate the concept of a waste stream. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. Is it just a bumper sticker? A Jack Johnson song? What’s it even mean? Here’s what I mean: Buying bottled water and recycling it when you’re done drinking isn’t a real solution. Water bottles labeled with “green” or “eco” are a misnomer; it’s greeenwashing. The phrase has three parts: reduce, reuse, recycle. And we must act in that order. For example, we can eliminate bottled water (almost entirely) from the waste stream by reducing and reusing. An easy alternative to disposable water bottles is to have a reusable bottle (sans BPA) that you fill with filtered tap water. This immediately reduces the amount of plastic consumed, the amount of energy spent on recycling, and/or the amount of space it takes up in a landfill. We do not need to send so much of what we consider waste to land fills if we think about how our own actions can make a difference. As for recycling, it should be an option, but the last one. Time and time again, our economy has proven that one man’s waste is another man’s input. Our “waste” generation can be reduced through individual decisions on how we consume. Pick Up America will highlight alternative inputs for what some consider “waste” within industry. I walk with the belief that human economies can maximize resources by eliminating the concept of waste in the human paradigm. I walk with the belief that our economies can mimic ecology to use every organism’s output as a source of nourishment for another.
- I walk because I know that the future of our country depends most on our ability to dis-entrench our belief systems and find common ground with one another. I believe the common ground that all cultures, all political parties, and all people can unite under is the banner of efficiency. That is efficiency in government, efficiency in resource use, efficiency in how we spend our time and money, efficiency in how we distribute our goods, and most importantly for this initiative, it is efficiency in how we dispose of our goods. At no other time in human history has a movement for efficient use of resources been so commonly heralded in speech, but so forgotten in action. If we were to spend less time on resource transaction/extraction and more time celebrating our resources by using them efficiently, I know the world would be much more hospitable. I walk for the belief that conserving resources will ensure a happier, more prosperous future for all people.
- I walk because talk is no longer enough. I must walk the walk to talk the talk. I walk as an example of active participation in the reform of the American community and economy.
- I walk because I know the heart rests easy when spent helping others. I expect nothing in return. To make our souls strong and the heart patient, we must all commit to one million acts of kindness in a lifetime. I hope that people will understand Pick Up America’s motives, but personally, I’m in it for soul stabilization.
- I walk to see life in first-hand account. A digitized society views LCD screens as a means. I want to feel streams and rivers, not read about how they used to flow. I want to feel you smile, not see a picture of it. I want to laugh hard with you and not stop because we are with each other. I want to sleep in the forest and not dream about it.
- I walk to endure some sort of physical hardship. I know privilege, but I walk in solidarity with the less fortunate. I walk to separate myself from commodities that exploit others. I can no longer participate in economic actions that harm other people as a means of their continuation. I walk with the hope that individual compassion enacted through conscientious action will alleviate others sorrow.
The reason for any reform stems from a change in circumstance. Thus, we must step back from our belief systems to understand our changes in circumstance to achieve any state of reform. Our new circumstance is a dying world and declining human happiness. What path shall we all decide to walk? I smile when I think of mine — an action that should precede all endeavors.