By Jess Scanlon
An environmentally-friendly road trip sounds more like the punch line to a joke than a route to sustainability, but a year-long, 50 state road trip is how Ben Evans, Julie Dingman Evans and Mark Dixon made a documentary about the topic.
Dixon spoke on April 20 as the Earth Day speaker sponsored by Sustainable Rider. The event was held this past Wednesday at 6 p.m. instead of the actual date of the federally recognized holiday, Friday April 22 due to the holiday weekend. He gave his multimedia presentation that was part speech, part environmental lecture and part Q&A to a small crowd in Sweigart Auditorium.
Although many in the audience had seen the film “Your Environmental Road Trip,” also referred to as “YERT” throughout the night, a “backstage pass” to the documentary. Dixon’s presentation included his early short about Global Warming made with Evans in their early days working together, a trailer for YERT, clips from the documentary and extended footage.
YERT is the final product of a year spent traveling in a used 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid that crew nicknamed “Rachel ‘The Car’ Carson. To make the trip as sustainable as possible the three limited themselves to “create less than one shoebox of garbage each month, including recyclables,” to “never turn on an incandescent light” on their journey and to attempt to use less than 25 gallons of water per person per day.
It was a year of both high and low points for the crew. It included a visit to the City Museum in St. Louis, the creation of a continually growing interactive sculpture made from trash, and treacherous dealings with mountain-top removal coal mining in West Virginia.
“It’s sickening how much power [energy companies] have,” said Chris Shepherd, a senior Integrated Sciences and Mathematics major in attendence.
Shepherd and many others in the audience were particularly affected by the “Hell on Earth” selection which discussed how the coal-mining industry was removing mountains to access coal more efficiently at the cost of the local environment and even the health of area residents.
While this particular moment brought everyone in the room to tears or close to it, there were also moments that roused smiles and laughter. A clip featuring an environmentalist Elvis-impersonator singing about the planet was a very light-hearted moment to clear the somber air generated by the previous clip.
After completing his presentation, Dixon took questions from the crowd. While he did not give an official release date, he said that YERT will be featured at various film festivals to spread its message. The event’s relatively low attendance seemed indicative of the problem that Dixon and other environmental activists face.
“It’s hard to force people to care [about environmental issues],” conceded Dixon.
Despite this, he remains optimistic about the future. Dixon stated that he feels there are solutions to environmental issues, that some of these solutions are featured in YERT. The catch is that it must be done quickly to solve these problems, according to him.
“We need to flip the system before the system flips us,” said Dixon.