Here's your chance to visit all 50 U.S. states and learn more about solutions to environmental problems without ever having to leave home. The website Your Environmental Road Trip takes cyber-travelers on a year-long eco-expedition across America. VOA's Rosanne Skirble caught up with the team recently on their stop at the National Mall in Washington.
The YERT team is Mark Dixon, his friend Ben Evans and Ben's wife Julie. When Mark suggested a road trip to chart America's environmental progress, Ben and Julie signed on. Last July, the three quit their jobs, sold their possessions, bought a hybrid car and hit the road. The three-some has been crisscrossing the country ever since.
Julie is off today, so Mark and Ben divide the chores for their impromptu interviews with passersby. Ben says the tour is like taking the environmental pulse of the country one state at a time. "We're talking to farmers and scientists and business leaders and politicians and then also with ordinary citizens to find out what people are thinking about and what they are doing in their own lives."
Ben films as Mark talks with a man from Arkansas who is in town to visit his sister. The man tells Mark that he would like a nation free of oil. "We need to be self-sufficient here," he says. "I would definitely like to be free of foreign influence on us."
That exchange will make its way to the YERT website along with two dozen other videos the trio has produced on their travels. Scrolling through the log, you see the team stopped at Intervale, an agriculture center in rural Vermont that trains organic farmers, works with at-risk teens and supplies homegrown food to the community. In the YERT video a spokeswoman applauds support from the local government. "The mayor of Burlington said that we are going to preserve the Intervale for agricultural purposes in perpetuity," she says. "Now there's a leader!"
Among the notables featured on the YERT website is Scott Brusaw, an engineer from Idaho who is designing a solar highway. He envisions a series of inter-connected solar panels that you can actually drive on, an idea that Mark Dixon says "could be interesting for other people to look at, but could also be inspiring for people who have other types of ideas."
YERT often uses humor to raise awareness about serious issues. On location in wintry Rochester, New York, Mark and Ben ask passersby to help pack a box with snow to mail to the North Pole… to help reverse the melting arctic ice cap.
Ben and Julie have put their careers on hold, as has Mark. But they all agree taking their values on the road was the right thing to do. Ben says the trip has given his life purpose that it hadn't had before. "It is a really powerful feeling when you stop worrying about stuff, and you start taking action to help. It's uplifting." Mark Dixon agrees. "One of the big lessons for me is that we need to make it okay to move fast enough to solve this problem. We will have huge grass(roots) support for that because everyone we talk to is already moving in that direction."
What's next for the YERT team? They hope to make a film and write a book and live the lessons they learned on Your Environment Road Trip.