What do you say when people ask, "What do you do?"
I say I am a Planetwalker. Then I have to explain that a Planetwalker is anyone who walks the planet as a lifestyle choice, as part of an education in the spirit and hope of using the journey to benefit the world. For me my walking journey has been a sort of rite of passage and part self-discovery. I started off walking as a protest, but that changed into walking without the angst and became a way of life. I began observing, making paintings of my surroundings, taking a vow of silence, listening, composing music, writing, and making time for formal education. Then I started telling stories.
What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on how people think about sustainability or the environment?
While loss of habitat and species, pollution, and what we typically think of as environmental problems remain important issues for me, after walking across America listening and studying the environment for 17 years I realize that people are part of the environment. If this is true, then our first opportunity to treat the environment sustainably, or even understand what sustainability is, can be found in our relationships with ourselves and each other. So this is definitely a change of consciousness and practice that will allow us to address the great environmental difficulties that we face. It may come simply from each person's heart. The environment is therefore also about human rights, civil rights, gender equality, economic and education equity. It is about all the ways we relate to one another because how we relate to each other manifests itself in the physical environment around us.
What's something that most people just don't understand about what you do?
Ultimately when I gave up the use of motorized vehicles, I walked everywhere, from town to town, across states and two continents. When I stopped talking, I mean literally I stopped speaking. I took a complete vow of silence. I did not speak, no words. I practiced listening, a very important part of communication. I was also able to go to university, teach, and receive a doctorate in environmental studies.
What's are some emerging trends that you think will shake up the sustainability world?
The greening of the military, the birth or rebirth of "green cities," and affordable energy technologies that are accessible to ordinary individuals and families. There are still government incentives for solar panels, and energy conservation retrofits, etc. This needs to continue and grow. But when we really decide that war is obsolete and that this is really is about how we treat one another and that we all are in this together, the technologies that come from that paradigm shift will be beyond anything that we see on the horizon today.
What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?