My journey started off as a question: How can I really understand the impact we are having on our planet?
I am by no means a scientist that can spend many hours a day breaking down the problems that exist in our world of consumption, so I decided to take a trip to see things for myself at ground level. Being a motorcycle enthusiast, I decided to travel the entire country and talk to the people on the ground.
When I suggested this, the first reaction from my colleagues and family was “you’re nuts! At 56 years old, how are you going to ride over 4,000 thousand miles on a motorcycle?”
Well, that was all I needed to hear. Off I went, dragging along some great friends who found my mission intriguing.
Launch day was exciting. I packed my entire wardrobe in a backpack and side bags.
Traveling light was very important, but I had to tell the story of the Emerald mission throughout the country, so naturally I took along some Emerald products.
My First Lesson
As the journey began I quickly realized how many tractor trailers were on the roads throughout the country.
It was here that I came upon my first lesson: We need to have a more efficient and cleaner way to move the goods we consume every day. This is a no brainer, but you don’t often realize how many products are traveling every day on major highways. It is definitely time to rethink our transportation systems, which are a tragic result of the incredible increase in imports, and the decrease in local commodity manufacturing in the USA. This change has dramatically increased shipping containers moving from ports all over the country. We need to revitalize manufacturing, so we can service regions of our country with finished goods in a local manner.
We continued on, traveling outside the urban areas of so many cities – New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Flagstaff, Cedar City, Bakersfield, and so many more.
In every single case there was one common denominator: there were so many empty manufacturing plants. I could not believe the emptiness in the rural areas surrounding so many urban cities, where so many factories once prevailed.
I met many people along this journey, young and old alike. I quickly learned what the stats on domestic migration have indicated, people are moving to larger urban cities looking for a better life. The rural areas in which they and many generations before them lived and where this country once prided itself are being abandoned.
I witnessed so many vacant farmlands, For Sale signs everywhere, boarded up streets, crumbling roads and bridges. Trends to move away from the heartland are visible. The local farmers are all struggling with cost and challenges from agricultural imports. Fracking is quickly replacing what once was prevailing cropland.
It was obvious. We have abandoned the bread basket.
The youth of our generation is not seeing a future in farming or manufacturing because their parents and neighbors continue losing their jobs in small businesses, in manufacturing, and in agriculture. This common thread was echoed in every small city I visited.
I certainly understand we need to re-educate and prepare for the new economies, but I found myself asking “what exactly is the plan?” How have we come this far, where we have allowed millions of American jobs and thousands of small towns to be wiped out. If we as a country have always found ways to deliver innovation and competitive products to the world, then why are we told we need to make things elsewhere to keep prices low? Are we to believe we lost our competitive edge?
My Best Lesson
As our journey continued, I so desperately wanted to see a shining light of hope, and I think I found it when we finally reached the plateaus of the 4 corners, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico all converge.
It takes time to absorb what pictures and videos can never duplicate. I sat there, discerning a way to better understand what is it that we are missing in our everyday life that blinds us of all of this beauty right at our feet.
While roaming the small Native American kiosk of handmade goods, I found my answer.
It didn’t come from Google or Siri, it didn’t come from any text books I read in school, and it didn’t come from listening to all the news networks. It came from an 80 year old Navajo man.
I explained to him what my company is doing, and how we have attempted to inspire the young generations to respect nature and learn how to consume things that have a real positive impact on our planet. I tried to explain our technology to use renewable agriculture to avoid deforestation and petroleum based plastics, and to bring the land back to use in a positive way. At one point, I thought I somewhat was confusing him with all this “renewable” language, but I was wrong.
He already knew what we have been blind to for so many generations – blinded by consumption, by inexpensive options to keep us happy. He said something so profound it blew me away,
“Son, nature is a living spirit. We have messed with it for too long, and it will fight back in ways we will never understand.”
Wow – my journey is over! Now the real work begins.