It was August of 1989 when I first heard about the Walk. I was in my air-conditioned office in New York City when my friend Linda stopped by. She was the kind of woman who enjoyed the many experiences life could offer ... and the one that was coming she did not want to miss.
She told me a group of up to 500 people were going to walk from Los Angeles to New York to raise awareness about the environment. They would live in tents and create a mobile community as they journeyed from coast to coast. I was enthralled. The thought of living off the land -- experiencing the nation step by step -- was incredible to me.
After making the decision to join the Global Walk for a Livable World, I spent the next few months fundraising and taking short walks to exercise my body. I gave notice at my job and arranged for a one-way flight to Los Angeles. I bought a comfortable tent, sleeping bag and shoes and set out to the West Coast on Jan 13, 1990.
I arrived in Simi Valley, California that evening in what would be the only rainstorm I would see in that state. A freak storm was wetting the desert lands with gallons of water. After sleeping on a bus floor that night, I set up my home at the pre-walk camp, a place where we would be for two weeks. During these two weeks we got to know each other and discussed how we envisioned our community. Personalities often clashed during this period, everyone had their own vision. My vision was rapidly changing. The walk was not going to be as large as first described. We had around 120 people joining us at this point... a far cry from 500!
Upon completion of building our mobile kitchen and fitting the buses with toilets, office equipment, and baggage areas, we set out for our journey east.
The walk began on February 1st at the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. There were over 3500 miles before us on this hot summer day. Our send-off ceremony featured talk and music about the very issue we were walking for. Casey Kasem, the voice of Scooby Dooby Doo and popular disk jockey, bid us farewell from the podium as the lot of us set out.
Over the next three weeks we trekked across some of the toughest terrain in America. The vast emptiness of the Mohavi Desert surrounded us for miles and days. Occasionally we would pass a small shack that many years ago was occupied by a homesteader, but literally the entire desert showed no signs of human life. The desert was quiet with the appearance of lifelessness. Humans are funny creatures, when we don't see the likes of ourselves, we assume that there is no life. The desert was filled with life though. Creepy crawlies roamed every which way. Snakes and coyotes could be found with a little looking. Plant life sprung up in every direction. In fact, the desert is very much alive, it just is difficult for humans to survive there.
We reached Phoenix on March 1st and were part of a large fair which featured exhibits about ecological issues. The Global Walk shared how the people of Earth could tread a little lighter. We exhibited recumbent bicycles and demonstrated both solar cooking and electrical panels. We offered insight on how cities of the future could be planned with the environment in mind by building housing and shopping in the same vicinity. Low-flow toilets were demonstrated and information on composting toilets was available. All the simple things we're accustomed to in life were given twists that could help our environment dramatically.
The Global Walk was a community that lived by demonstration. Our mobile office and kitchen were solar powered and one of our buses ran on methanol instead of gas. All of our toilets were low-flow and we used our recumbent bikes to move things around.
Flagstaff was our next major stop and by this point many new people had joined the walk and others had dropped out. I had played music for most of the journey, in particular with David, a guitarist, and a flautist named Mary. We formed a group called Land's Crossing. Both David and myself wrote songs with themes related to environmentalism and peace. We were performing at most of the Walk's public functions and began to arrange our own gigs.
While in Flagstaff I purchased a bicycle so I could get around with greater ease. As meditative as walking was for me, I always yearned for speed and excitement. The simplicity of walking showed me the vastness of our planet -- but I felt I wanted to explore more of its vastness in a shorter period of time. While walking I could see every blade of grass and each plant and animal along the way. On a bike I would miss this, but I wanted to take side trips and to spend more time in towns sharing my visions of an environmentally safe planet.
I left Flagstaff on my shiny new red bike and pedaled the miles out across the desert down into Navajo. This nation within the United States was the largest remaining Native American nation. It was at this point that my mind began to wonder and began to think about how we treated this race over the past centuries. It all correlated to how we treat the planet, too. Our lack of care for the living became very clear to me. A deep thought struck me -- while our forefathers set themselves free from a king, they also destroyed nations of peoples. Now, only a couple of centuries later, we are destroying the very land we slaughtered them for.
The Navajo people are poor but the most giving people I have ever met. In each community we walked through, feasts were cooked and stories were told. Our two week journey through their nation was a big eye-opener to how living in harmony with nature is possible.
The state of New Mexico is where the most destructive weapon on Earth was first tested. Yet, with all of our sophistication we have been unable to dispose of the waste from this weapon. Over the years, the stored radioactive waste has been destroying the land and will become more unstable through time. In a world where intelligence seems to be so abundant, we can't agree to disagree. We prefer to build weapons of mass destruction that will kill the very people they were designed to protect. The waste from these weapons is deadly, as is also true with the waste from nuclear power.
Land's Crossing in New Mexico
We arrived in Santa Fe on April 20th, just before Earth Day. The thoughts of the Earth's pending fate loomed in my mind. The Global Walk participated in a large Earth Day Festival where we shared our thoughts on these issues and, of course continued to demonstrate our methods for living more in harmony with the planet. Land's Crossing gave a wonderful performance which was recorded. The recording would be part of a fundraiser for the walk and also featured the Global Walk Chorus, which was made up of about 12 walkers.
We saw snow for the last time on May 1st, during our last night in Las Vegas, New Mexico. How odd that our natural perception is that New Mexico is warm most of the year, when in actuality portions of the state are at a very high altitude and are commonly cold this late in the season. Walking off the high plains down into Texas really maps the major climate differences between the regions. Within 20 miles we had descended thousands of feet into the rich heat of the Texas Panhandle.
It was in Amarillo where I experienced rubbing rust-colored mud over my naked body. The lot of us was bare to the world in a large pond -- each transforming into a new creature. The mud was warm and clung to the skin like clay. It became difficult to recognize each other after our heads were encased with Earth's highly malleable elements. If there was ever a moment during our journey to get close to the land, this was truly the one.
We began following the famous Route 66 east, which also paralleled the Santa Fe freight line. Some nights were spent within feet of the tracks. Through the silent night a rumble louder than ten thunderstorms would roll by us. A horn of piercing volume would blow as it passed and the ground shook from the thousands of tons weighing on it. Today's world survives on those tons of products which scream across the land. Yet, while we could produce most things locally, we do not.
This continent is vast and its size becomes very apparent crossing Kansas and Missouri. The horizon reaches far and the night sky begins to really feel like the inside of a globe. Roads carve through fields of crops which are planted in straight lines. The only thing that changes is the variety of garbage left behind by many people who look at the earth as their landfill for disposable containers, wrappers, cigarettes, and the like.
After a long bicycle ride into Kansas City to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash, I took a side trip to a national convention up in Milwaukee. I went back to New Jersey and onto State College, Pennsylvania to record with my friend David who was taking a leave from the walk to work on his first release. Greyhound brought me to Missouri outside of St. Louis by a few days' walk.
St. Louis offered me great experiences. First were the botanical gardens which had an entire rainforest section. Meanwhile, down in South America, U.S. companies are profiting from the destruction of these forests to turn the land into a grazing ground for livestock. Yet it takes 20 times the amount of land to feed one meat-eating person versus a vegetarian. This double edge sword of waste amazes me.
Secondly, I visited with an old family friend who works for one of the larger chemical companies in the nation. The strong differences of opinion were evident during my visit. He believed that any chemical is natural, because to be created, it first had to come from the earth. Though it is not a natural compound and often very toxic to the planet, my friend still called it natural. He didn't see chemical destructive power as anything truly dangerous, simply he felt that it could be controlled by another compound to counteract its devastating effects.
Upon leaving St. Louis, I began to see the world in a new light I had never seen. We were walking to save the planet, yet there were such varying opinions on how to take care of the planet. It seemed unlikely that a consensus could ever be reached. Wars have been fought over differing opinions. Lands have been destroyed, races buried and yet we still disagree. There is a segment of our population who would much rather abuse the planet to benefit their comfort now and forsake future generations' pleasure of its splendor.
The plains of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio were upon us. The dense population of the east coast metropolis loomed just east of us. Town after town came and went as we came into Morgantown, West Virginia.
I have loved monorails since I was a kid. Everyone knows that Disney World has them, but few know that a few our cities built them as well. Morgantown was one of these cities. This monorail system reflected one of the most crafty uses of public transport I have ever seen. The university built the rail to take students between its campuses. Instead of making a simple loop, the cars had logic and would go directly where the person would specify. A personal taxi, yet a public transit system. Imagine if all towns and cities had this... we would not need all the roadways and cars we have today!
Leaving Morgantown was sad, it had been an exciting time for Land's Crossing who had played three gigs there. But we ventured out over the rolling hills of West Virginia and the western tip of Maryland and down alongside the Chesapeake into Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., the United States capital, a place where decisions change the face of society. At one time there were no interstate highways, but Eisenhower changed that. At one time, cities blacked out from lack of electric power ... but nuclear energy and large scale dams changed that. Today we suffer from these decisions of our past leaders. Today our cities are smoggy, our waters polluted, and the land is filled with nuclear waste.
You can ask yourself: What do I really need in this life? Our ancestors homesteaded and farmed the land without phones, power, automobiles and the like. Yet, today we can't move down the block without all of that! Maybe it's not that you should give it all up and live like the Amish People. Maybe it's better to conserve and be resourceful. The people of the great depression would use old clothes to make blankets to keep them warm at night. Yet our landfills are filled with broken televisions, old toys, worn clothes and a plethora of package wrappers.
In Washington decisions are made not for the good of the society, rather for the profit of an elite group of individuals, owners of companies and political figure heads. Do you really need to empower these people while your neighbors and you are dying from toxic poisons dumped on vacant lots in your town?
The Walk's stay in Washington covered visiting Senators and Congresspersons to lobby for changes that would improve our environment. These improvements may not be the most profitable, but in the long run they are the best for everyone. Many of us visited the House and witnessed legislation in action, and others of us spent time with national organizations that work for the same goals for which we walked across the United States.
It was only two weeks before the culmination of the Walk. Our journey from Washington to New York was along the most congested roads in the nation. From suburb to suburb, town to town, city to city we stepped through Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton, and to our final destination New York City.
There were two closing ceremonies in New York, the first was held at the Statue of Liberty and second at the United Nations building. Both shared our experience during the walk and our personal growth during its time. Many of the walkers would continue their efforts to change the world, while others would return to their lives. Some would start the second phase of the Walk in Europe only a few months later. This phase would complete the journey around the globe - truly a Global Walk for a Livable World.
Myself, I came back to my hometown and began working for a local peace organization. For me I realized that without peace, there was no caring, and without caring humans ignored the mother earth. Peace seemed so very important, so crucial to our long-term survival. I practice what I preached on the walk, although not 100 percent of the time. I walk where others would drive, I reuse or recycle where others would toss and forget. I do the simplest things to help our environment ... the only environment we have. I hope that someday all people will see the world as a place to care for rather than a place to abuse.
Until then I share these thoughts with you, in hopes that you will make any changes needed to improve our environmental state.
Check out Haven McClure's writings on the Global Walk