The Lonely Road… Inspiration and Credit from a Blind Man!

After three days in Albuquerque, and overloaded with CNN, I felt ready to start the next leg of Trumped by Nature, a US Public Transport experience:  Its 27 hours by Amtrak railway to Chicago, then a 9 hour overnight Greyhound bus connection to Minneapolis, just over the Mississippi River from my Blind friend Imi in Wisconsin.

I hear Imi saying to me: “It would have only taken you half a day from San Diego by air: We could have spent a whole lot more days together and it would have been a lot easier for you?”  In our past three US adventures (See here) I did do the ‘flying thing’ but this time the adventure includes the goal of me trying to do it within my One Point Zero restraints.

My Amtrak home for 27 hours to Chicago
My Amtrak home for 27 hours to Chicago

Knowing that “Easier for me” wasn’t the goal I had to remind myself that I’m exploring sustainable travel, and ask myself how I’m doing so far?  Well I proudly tell people I’m in the USA, having crossed the Pacific Ocean, with no bigger footprint than if I’d stayed in Nelson, NZ, living a ‘normal life’!  But you have just driven 900 miles with Bob in his car, how does that fit in, Howard??

Well I was sort of a hitch-hiker, riding on the back of Bob’s trip to Albuquerque anyway. I can tell you this wasn’t easy, as right up until the last minute I said to Bob: “I ‘d rather take the bus, if you going there just for me, hey?”  This was challenging for me, and tested my One Point Zero priority and resolve. In setting out on this ‘Trumped by Nature’ adventure, I wanted to experience the coalface of the conflict and here it was again. Bob said he wanted to go anyway, so I took a hitch hiker’s credit, and left him with the full footprint cost?

A foot print that would have amounted to 5% of my annual footprint allowance!  Yep, just 3 days of motor car travel with two of us sharing the total footprint. For someone driving solo there and back, or a ‘taxi’ loading the whole footprint onto ‘the passenger’ it would be a scary 20% of their total annual footprint ‘allowance’. The average American drives 13 400 miles a year, and if that’s done alone that person is over their ‘allowance’ just on driving, let alone all the other ‘just living’ footprint generated! Obviously all those miles are not as the only one in the car but I hope you can see the seriousness of ‘our’ problem.  The concept of an ‘allowance’ for each one of us is probably totally foreign to many of ‘you’?

The ‘allowance’ here assumes each of us 7.6 billion humans is allocated equal share of Nature’s scarce regenerative bio-capacity. The very bio capacity that we currently need 60% more of and our planet hasn’t got it. One Point Zero is about living within the single planet capacity Nature has available. Back to the ‘allowance’ of this capacity:

As I often get told: “That’s how you (Howard) have decided to allocate that capacity, but I haven’t agreed with that yet!!”  That’s true, and wondering if ‘they’ have even accepted the fact that that we are 60% over the capacity, I respond:  “Yep, ‘mate’ I accept that and ‘Yep’, I can’t force you to accept how I worked out my capacity allowance, but let me know what planet bio capacity allocation you come up with for You? May be you have a better way that would help me too… ?”

That's my coffee cup still from Los Angeles. That's the morning breakfast bin at the motel I stayed at. It needs to be emptied every half hour over breakfast!
That’s my coffee cup still from Los Angeles. That’s the morning breakfast bin at the motel I stayed at. It needs to be emptied every half hour over breakfast!

This is challenging stuff, but once I accepted ‘My allocation’ I became surprisingly peaceful and it’s now all a fun exploration of how to do it that fits perfectly with my soul!  ‘My allocation’ works out at some 3-5 times lower than what an average developed world citizen uses…..! That’s the extent of ‘Our Challenge’, but I just wish more would see it as OUR challenge….

The great lounge cafe coach on the train for all to share.
The great lounge cafe coach on the train for all to share.

Travel by train and bus both have very low footprint versus flying and so that’s what this current travel leg to Minneapolis and my friend Imi, is about. (Of course the best footprint is not travelling, but I‘m not giving up on what I love yet!) I’m writing this on Amtrak’s Superliner, but in the non-elite, coach class section, and really enjoying the different experience as the New Mexico terrain changes from semi desert to what I’d call more fertile savannah!  Interestingly, all the people I ask why they are going by train, give ‘cost’ and / or ‘just very pleasant’ as the reasons, none about ‘their foot print’.

The skyscrapers of Chicago from the train as I arrived 30 minutes ago!
The skyscrapers of Chicago from the train as I arrived 30 minutes ago!

After arriving in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Imi and I are renting a car to drive from his house in Wisconsin to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota for our two week canoe expedition in its pristine wilderness. The car trip there and back, will be some 800 miles. “Now how does that footprint work for you, Howard?”

For both cost and carbon footprint reasons, we did try to get a bus or lift to the Boundary Waters, but this proved a huge challenge, forcing us into the rental car option, and I had a footprint challenge, that had to be solved.

Well just like the master wheeler dealer, Mr Trump, I came up with a deal. Unlike his one’s which no doubt all increase the planets carbon footprint, and feed his appetite for greed, mine seems footprint legitimate, enables me to be with my buddy, and fits with my soul!

Africa 2 401s
Imi in Bagamoyo on our Tanzania expedition

Imi, (Professor Imtiaz Moosa, Head of Philosophy at Wisconsin University, River Falls) is one of the few people of his socio economic class who is a sub One Point Zero-er, and has been for years, even before the concept came up! I’m always interested in how he managed to avoid be sucked into the western consumption, greed and materialism life? His blindness has helped, reduce temptation of visual marketing, but it all started well before he went blind, and is a complex mixture of cultural upbringing, his philosophical explorations, and an ability to belong with himself which means he is not swayed by the ‘fashions’ required to belong to ‘The Crowd’.

That's Imi's tent at The Boundary Waters a few years back... Simplicity deluxe!
That’s Imi’s tent at The Boundary Waters a few years back… Simplicity deluxe!

From day one on our 2010 Yukon River trip, we just hit it off as two ‘boys’ who value the simple life, and had a pretty common view of Nature, how our planet works and how we humans fit in to it all. Imi sometimes puts me to shame on the simplicity of need, I know that may sounds scary for some of you, but having spent so many months with him in the USA, Canada, Tanzania, and New Zealand, I know Imi is a rare, USA based, icon of low consumption, simplicity of need, and a total abhorrence of conspicuous consumption, and The Good Life ideology.

So in the context of One Point Zero, Imi lives a life that is below ‘the allowance’, and as such is a walking carbon footprint credit!

Imi loves the wilderness, I love the wilderness, Imi and I love sharing time in the wilderness together, and this time I’m constrained by my One Point Zero, ‘allowance’.

I realise Imi has his footprint credit and being blind can’t drive himself to the wilderness? (Yet, amazingly he can navigate me there!) I can help him spend the credit for something we both want, provided I don’t get the footprint loaded on to me? So if he signs ‘my indemnity form’ to say I’m ‘Just his driver’, we have a wonderful win-win-win deal!!

Ha-ha, ‘Donald’ I’m learning from you, man, without paying your rip off ‘University’ tuition fees, but can you see how my deal is all above board and also doesn’t result in some huge footprint generating and Trump enriching result! The carbon fingerprint of a casino is huge, and surely can’t be justified as being necessary for human flourishing in a future One Point Zero world.

Now when Imi reads this he will ‘hit the roof’ as he is an inspiration in independence and self-sufficiency, and so ‘help’ is not a word in his vocabulary!   Anyway given our relationship, I know he will understand the whole intent of this Post!

In sharing the above I sense many will conclude that there are much more fun, important, meaningful things than trying to fit my ‘footprint in my allowance’?  I could see why one could conclude that, but for me the whole mindful step is the most valuable and one that makes me realise I am part of a home that I should care for and Nature’s system that I should respect. I’m mindful of consequences of my decisions to the planet and my fellow humans, both current and future generations.  I know this may sound so cute, stupid or pointless when so many others are not doing this, but I wish I could describe how liberating it feels as I strive to be a mindful, and ‘proper human’, not an arrogant, exploiting, couldn’t care less, anthropocentric one….. And I say that not wanting to come across ‘holier than thou’, but rather from a point of real despair that society can’t see the flaw of its journey to ‘The Facts’ of today.

Fingers crossed for the Republican Convention going without serious incident
Fingers crossed for the Republican Convention going without serious incident