From Wyoming we floated across the long open Dakotas where fields stretched on interminably, punctuated only by a few visits to bars in tiny towns and museum openings. Along the way we lost some hope for our cause. Long faces looked at us with all the disdain in the world, while some laughed, and others ran off scared. It was not long before we found ourselves fleeing eastwards faster and faster.
And then, Fargo, ND. This town took us in as a refuge of hope--young people! Artists! Environmentalists! Workers! After our bleak openings in Wyoming and North Dakota, where we had some museum showings that only brought in 10-15 people, we rocketed upwards in Fargo to have over 100 museum visitors in one night! Our faith in humanity was restored. We met Tony who was making changes in his workplace to foster sustainability, and Brandon who recommends his favorite books to other people to inspire them, and we spoke with a teacher who was excitedly revising her curriculum to incorporate environmental art.
We continued east towards Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 fish). Thank god for family and fireflies, and never ending french fries. Yes, you read that right, never ending french fries. While in Grand Rapids, MN we happened upon the summer festivities that also just so happened to be catered that day by the Minnesota based Mcdonald's french fry factory.
It was here too that we encountered the top of the Mississippi river, a huge milestone on our trip. Unlike the river we knew down in New Orleans, this Mississippi was clean. In fact, we visited the headwaters. Standing knee high in its cool waters we were rejuvenated and joyful. And, as we spotted birds hopping on branches and gliding through the sky overhead, birds we imagine migrate through the swamps of the south and the spongy land that is Louisiana’s coast, we remembered our earthly connections and responsibilities.
Since arriving in this watery region, we have encountered a new foe. This is a foe to rival all the ants and STPD (Space-Time Police Department) in the world. It is the clan of mosquitoes that fear not citronella, deet, or the merciless slapping of Elena’s trained hands. They seem to like our museum. They flock to it like nobody else in the midwest has dared to. And once they come, they settle, filling the bus with a chorus of buzzing that keeps us awake, maniacally laughing and screaming and tossing, and changing clothes, and waving burning sage through the air, and rubbing toothpaste and tea tree oil and deet all over our bodies until 2, 3, 4, oh-lord is that the sunrise, in the morning.
From land of french fries we headed to land of the cheese curd and custard and unconscionably hot days: Wisconsin. Madison and Milwaukee were easy and breezy, maybe too much so. And now we are in Michigan (our home for the next month), finding ever increasing hope for community activism and political awareness. People have been thanking us for what we’re doing, and for coming to their town. And we are reminded that, although we are happier in places that are kind to us, we are also needed in those places which are not kind to us. Talking to people we disagree with every day, about the environment, is unbelievably hard. And unbelievably important. George Marshall’s Ted Talk about having these difficult conversations is a must watch. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvsUHL9IQRs&t=207s)
Marshall is a long-time environmentalist and activist. After years of yelling, he now advocates listening. The way we talk about climate change, he says, is dominated by narratives, relying little on the facts. So, if we listen to the narratives of the opposition we just might come to understand their views. In this way we can remake narratives that are congruent with the morals, interests, needs, and cultures of those who deny climate change. For example, conversing about jobs or earth stewardship might be more appealing to a conservative. Marshall recommends talking to one person every day about climate change.
Now, while we are advocating you listen to something (and someone), now we advocate you take an action: get involved in the midterm elections! Talk about voting. Make sure your neighbors can make it to the polls. Know who and what is on the ballot. Don’t let your partner forget to mail in their vote by mail. Register voters even (it's easy as pie)! Of eligible voters only 58% showed up for the 2016 election meaning, 42% did not. These numbers are worse for the midterms. Can we change that?