~*~DELTA’S SUMMER 2018 TOUR~*~
Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
A whirlwind descent through the Mid Atlantic region into the South brought us scrambling into New Orleans, trying to catch our breaths. Although we are finally home, after our travels throughout the country, our home now seems to extend all the way to the quiet deserts in New Mexico, to the far reaches of Wyoming coal country, to the life saving Great Lakes, all the way to the dance halls in North Carolina. So many people, so many places, so much to care for.
Now we are reflecting and recreating ourselves. What follows is a summary of what we do and what we feel we were able to achieve this summer on our first tour throughout the United States (the full Summer Tour Report can be found here). Finally, this is a long post and perhaps repetitive for some. If you don’t think you’ll finish reading it through, please read the last couple of paragraphs for what’s coming up!
Over four months time we traveled to 18 states in the American South and Midwest. We had more than 3,000 visitors to our bus over 53 museum openings. We had hundreds of conversations with liberals, conservatives, and those in between; children, the elderly, school teachers, lawyers, politicians, pipe fitters, engineers, and mechanics.
We engaged in question-led and emotionally driven conversations. We shared the stories of today in our museum, and asked visitors questions that brought these stories towards conversations around justice. We asked community members what the world should look like. We tried to bring out people's morals and ethics, challenge their assumptions, and get them thinking critically. And then, we encouraged them to vote, to talk to their neighbors, to take action to achieve the world they have told us they desire. We reminded people that they have agency in creating change, despite how large and insurmountable many of our problems are, that they can still do something, no matter how big or small, and make a difference.
We did this work, specifically, in places that are often perceived as anti-environmental, not because we believe these people are inferior, or need more educating. We focused on this demographic because we believe the environment hasn't been advocated for adequately or properly in Middle and Southern America. Rather, an anti-environmental narrative that has been reproduced here by misinformation and propaganda from oil and coal lobbies. Meanwhile, environmentalism has been interwoven into the liberal/coastal/urban identity in a way that has come to ostracize conservative/middle-American/rural people. On the road, our aim was to rewrite this narrative with those we met. Towards this goal, we talked to as many people as possible, delving into the differences and reveling in the similarities, even when they were in disguise.
*.*……<<<WHO WE TALKED TO>>>……*.*
[Disclaimer: this section is based on our interactions with the visitors to the museum. We don’t aim to speak for these demographics or to otherize them. We don’t mean to make assumptions (although we are riddled with them), or speak in definitive terms. We only mean to share our perspectives of certain worldviews to perhaps offer insight into how to have these difficult conversations or maybe, for you to offer us advice.]
Conservative visitors often pointed out the discrepancies they saw between what we were doing and with what they believed “environmentalists” should be doing. For example, we were made aware--numerous times--that the bus we were driving around used diesel fuel. “Isn’t that bad for the environment?” many would ask. Some would tell us that our shoes are made of oil, that this very country was built on oil. And, giving an unexpected answer, we would tell them we agreed.
We indubitably rely on black gold. Sometimes we would explain that actually, we weren’t against oil. We understand the role that oil has played in our development as a nation and the jobs it provides today. We use oil because we can’t afford the newer, more sustainable technologies. But, we would also often refer to the monopoly power of the oil and gas industry, pointing out how this power has been used to stifle the burgeoning renewable energy industry, which runs counter to any free market logic. And, of course, sometimes we simply reverted to (and sometimes more crankily) challenging their assumptions that environmentalists are carbon neutral and zero waste entities that can float around unscathed. We strive to live sustainably. But we also have to function within a society that makes it extremely strenuous to succeed in doing so.
Some of our most frustrating conversations were with self described liberals, people who were quick to praise our work, admire our efforts, and lambast conservatives for holding up progress. Older liberals would often come off the bus praising our work with all the positive intent in the world, and say something like “...and thank GOD you are doing this! Your generation has A LOT of work to do!” We’d often take that and run with it, asking them why their generation was off the hook, hearing long stories of their marches for peace back in the day, the protests, the love, oh the ‘70s. But now, they are retired, and the problem is out of their hands.
We couldn’t help but feel a terrible injustice every time we heard those words. They were the beneficiaries of so much--being able to own a home, drink clean water, hike Yosemite without getting smoked out, buy a car, buy another car--while environmental problems were pushed to the breaking point. But now that the point is breaking, our generation is left to deal with it, so God bless us for doing this important work. To the 70 year-old retirees that voted for Obama, and are now putting their feet up in Florida, to them we struggled to find empathy. We struggled to empathize with the comfort and privilege that they can afford to surround themselves with, knowing that our children’s generation probably won't have those opportunities. To them, we say: read this. [Disclaimer: this is an extreme example. We are not advocating that anybody do this.]
Another group of people we found ourselves speaking with were individuals who denied climate change. Some denied climate change altogether as a big spook, while others believed the climate was changing but either not human caused or not as much of a threat as it is made out to be. These sorts of conversations were unbelievably challenging to have because there was no set of foundational facts to agree upon. To mention the fact that globally, hundreds of thousands of scientists, in a variety of specialties, who use the scientific method to study the effects of climate change, agree upon it, made no difference. It was scientists in the end who couldn’t be trusted.
Feeling continuously perplexed about how to go about having these conversations, we began to draw out the similarities we saw amongst climate deniers. The most prominent similarity is a strong distrust of the government and the scientific community. There seems to be a belief that those with more decision making and knowledge producing power will lie. In their ability to manipulate facts, scientists and those in the government have agency over the world that others lack. And in this equation of power and powerlessness there exists a large amount of “counter evidence” to buttress climate denial arguments. We noticed that generally, these are not uneducated people. They speak on these issues with eloquence, often referencing more studies and articles than we can keep up with. In one case, we spoke with a high school English teacher about her climate denial. In another, we spoke with a university chemistry student about his. A final similarity was the insistence on open mindedness on the part of climate deniers. We heard statements such as “I am an open minded person”. We were even asked to persuade them of what we believe: “I love having my opinions challenged. Change my mind.”
Did we change their minds? It’s difficult to say. But we can be certain to have interacted with thousands of people different than ourselves in places with cultures and worldviews vastly different than our own. We heard hundreds of stories about various local environmental issues, and different opinions about how they should be addressed. Safely said, our minds were changed many times over. And, this is just the beginning. Our first tour, if anything, inspired us to keep going. There are so many good people and so many beautiful places to fight for. There are so many hurting. There are so many hoping. There are a rare few fighting and in between so much change to be made. Now, we take stock and plant our cover crops.
*¡*……WHATS up NEXT--->>>……*!*
Our trusty TIMESHIP needs new tires, rumor has it (another) new battery, and lots of love. We hope to do several more tours throughout the coming year after we make these repairs, focusing on the Southern Midwest and South. Want to help?
If you live in NOLA:
1. Help us create and install new exhibits.
2. Give TIMESHIP #39 a bath.
3. Refer us to your favorite diesel mechanic.
4. Have tea with us to discuss our mission and methods. Help us be better!
5. Lend us your filmmaking, web design, or photography skills.
6. Really, help us create new exhibits. We have so many in mind and we bet you do too.
If you don’t live in NOLA, or you do but don’t want to do any of those things above:
1. Give us guidance on taxes and accounting.
2. Offer mentorship for applying for 501c3 status.
3. Send us love letters to remind us you care.
4. Tell us about any media leads/connections.
5. Help us plan a tour where you live.
6. Donate: https://chuffed.org/project/timeship