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Fixing the Future - NOW on PBS Fixing The Future NOW on PBS

David's Travelogue

The economy does not have to be the way it is right now. If you didn't believe we were in trouble before the financial tornado hit in 2008, you probably do now, regardless of your political leanings. One response is to put a new coat of paint on the old economy, maybe even fumigate it. But who is trying something fresh, experimenting with ways the economy can better serve more people and be less prone to getting destructively out of whack?

"Decision number one, no driving solo in a rental Hummer from sea to shining sea."

I am embarking on a national road trip to explore economic experiments going on in Main Street America to see if they offer a path toward prosperity. For good measure, my team and I are also trying to lower the environmental impact of our road trip. Plus, we're keeping an eye out for the benefits and costs of eating local, staying local, and generally doing business local.

But here's the problem with a road trip: I will use energy to move from place to place and much of that energy, this being early twenty-first century America, is likely to come from less sustainable and carbon-dioxide producing sources. Is there a way to lower the impact of my travels? One way is to never leave home. Set up Internet video calls, do interviews with some disembodied, blurry, two- dimensional images, never really meet anyone in their element, and call it a wrap.

I have always believed in-depth journalism means getting out into the world and watching and learning from people first hand. Which means travel. It would, however, be nice to do it, if not green, then greener. Decision number one, no driving solo in a rental Hummer from sea to shining sea. Decision number two, examine some greener alternatives.

My Fixing the Future journey starts in Aspen, Colorado, where I am wrapping up a few days at the Aspen Environmental Forum, a gathering for sharing state of the art thinking about the state and preservation of the natural world. I need to get to Austin, Texas where I am going to meet the founder's of "Yo Mamas Catering Cooperative," a worker-owned cooperative, part of a trend that may be part of fixing our future. It's rather pathetic boarding a fossil fuel-slurping, carbon-belching airliner after spending four days talking about climate change and I'm determined to stick to decision number two about, so I investigate alternatives:

  • Passenger train from Denver to Austin: not possible, at least according to Amtrak's website.
  • Passenger bus: 4 1/2 hours from Aspen to Denver, then 23 hours via Greyhound to Austin.
  • Air travel: 1,450 air miles, about 3 hours flight time. I find out that Continental Airlines offers a way to calculate miles flown and carbon dioxide used (.436 of a ton for Aspen/Denver/Austin route). For this trip, I could make up for at least part of my carbon consumption for just $2.60.

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Since a passenger bus requires a day and a quarter that I just don't have to spare, I head for the airport, where I swipe my credit card and pay for the airfare and a few extra dollars for my carbon consumption.

In few hours I'll be in Austin, Texas where I'll meet a group of women who are part of a movement to take the idea of worker-owned co-operatives to a totally new level.

Next: Austin, Texas

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David on porch
David with a farming family in Page, North Dakota.

David in a soybean field near Page, North Dakota.
David in a soybean field near Page, North Dakota.