A love for this country, an effort to reduce my carbon footprint, a protest against fossil fuels, and an opportunity to fundraise for climate action.
As a native east coaster who lived some years on the west coast, I have travelled across the country many times. Over four years living in California, I flew home and back about once a year and made the drive about four times. This past October I flew from New York to San Francisco to visit friends. One week after landing in California I committed to walk back east, a decision I am attributing to my love for Santa Cruz, reading David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth, being unemployed, and having two nieces I love deeply.
The idea came while exploring one of my favorite spots, The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. As I hiked in the redwoods I considered this year’s record-breaking wildfires that ravaged Santa Cruz County and the west, the people who were forced to leave their homes, and the communities experiencing loss from climate-related disasters around the world. I imagined the impact of my frivolous cross-country travels over the past five years, and felt certain of my decision to walk.
Since January, 8.5 million acres have burned in wildfires across the U.S., which surpasses the average of the past ten years by over 2 million acres. As I write this, 70,000 people are evacuating Orange County – just a small percentage of the amount of people displaced by fires this year (Red Cross alone has provided shelter to about 360,000 people).
There are countless effects of climate change beyond wildfires, and many behaviors that contribute to ones’ carbon footprint beyond travel, but it was those two factors that led to my decision to walk. I love this country and the beings that live here (human and non). The climate emergency is not going away, but there is still time to plan for and protect against the inevitable effects of climate change. This journey is an effort to reduce my own carbon footprint, a protest against fossil fuels, and an opportunity to fundraise for climate action. I hope to inspire others to keep the climate crisis on the forefront of their every decision.
We need immediate, systemic changes to move towards renewable energy, provide green jobs, and prepare our communities for an increase in climate disasters. For those reasons I have chosen Sunrise Movement as a the recipient of funds in support of a youth-led organization holding our leaders accountable and making serious strides for climate action. With over 400 local hubs, Sunrise Movement is mobilizing climate activists nation-wide, uniting folks of all backgrounds in the name of a sustainable future for ourselves and our children.
Many people have questioned this decision, equipped with lists of why now is not a good time – including the fact that it is winter, we are experiencing a pandemic (see main page for my Covid plan), and the political unrest that is evident across the country. To this I respond that life happens, and that if I don’t walk now, I’ll never do it. My ability to live without employment will soon expire, and I am determined to make the most of this time while I have it. There are always a million reasons not to do something, and if you let those reasons creep into your mind they will change your heart. My heart is in this journey, and I am so grateful for that. I plan to ride that wave all the way to the Atlantic.
I continue to think about my circumstances that have allowed for this walk – I have no children, am unemployed due to Covid and lucky to have a small amount saved for the journey, and I walk this earth in white skin that allows me to feel safe in most places. I understand that planning for and completing such an adventure is a privilege, and I will do my best to carry it respectfully.