The Unfolding Story of the TerraTrek

Over the first 3 months, the TerraTrek expedition has revealed that a focus on the environment offers much to be discouraged about – and at the same time surprisingly significant reasons for hope.

By Dave Santillo, TerraTrek Coordinator

January 1, 2021

There is an overwhelming and exhilarating energy and enthusiasm emanating from people who are stepping up to try to make a difference for the environment. This positive theme is rapidly emerging as TerraTrek discovers the depth of passion and care for the environment people demonstrate through their willingness to volunteer or work for modest wages on its behalf.

An equally overwhelming theme that is emerging as we focus our cameras on the environment is the number and severity of the environmental problems that our country and world are facing.

What is someone to do when they are simultaneously blown away by the magnitude of bad things and good things at the same time? When discouragement and encouragement each are doled out in immeasurable doses? I believe there is much to be gained by shining light on both. Acknowledge and welcome the good – and acknowledge and face down the bad.

This is both the challenge and the opportunity of the TerraTrek.

The Challenge

There is so much in life that demands our attention on a daily basis and consumes the time of days that already seem too short. Work, social life, kids sports, latest television shows, podcasts, the latest political crises, taking the dog for a walk – all of these things and more are like produce on the attention-grabbing eye-level shelves in the aisle of a supermarket. The environment…well that’s something on the bottom shelf, a place that the eyes of most people rarely wander to. As a result, environmental problems can be difficult to comprehend and allowed to fester, and solutions can prove to be evasive.

There are powerful governmental and corporate interests in the world that are happy to have our attention diverted from environmental conditions. It’s in the best interests of ‘bottom-lines’ to not have the public pay much attention to how they exploit, consume, or destroy, and how they are hiding the environmental costs of their activities or passing the burden of fixing environmental problems on to the public.

When we allow our eyes and awareness to focus on the environment, as we’ve done on the TerraTrek, we quickly realize that the magnitude of the environmental challenges facing us, from our local communities to the world, are staggering. It could be the amount of garbage along the highway on your way to work or woven into the seaweed on the high tide line at your local beach. Perhaps it’s paying attention to the air quality rating on your weather app and noticing how often the air is unhealthy for outside activity. Shoreline erosion, encroachment of invasive plants, waterbodies gasping for life because of the runoff laden with fertilizers and pesticides, fewer birds singing in the spring, trees in the local park that are dying for any number of reasons…and the list goes on of environmental issues that surround us just outside of where we happen to be looking at any given time.

Compounding the problem of unseen environmental problems is that we in the sophisticated “developed” world would rather not see our dirty laundry. We hide our rusted automobile hulks behind fences, our landfills and transfer stations in the quiet part of town…or even better the next town over. Out of sight, out of mind seems to apply for many things related to environmental problems.

The TerraTrek is focused on those things having to do with our environment that escape everyday awareness. Our cameras and eyes are focused on the problem – and it ain’t pretty.

An Apparent False Division

As I noted in the beginning of this article, the second theme that is rapidly emerging from the TerraTrek is how many people care about the environment and how hard they are willing to work on its behalf. We are finding these people everywhere – and they are a formidable force. Interestingly, however, there seems to be a poorly developed and weakly organized awareness of both their power in numbers and their commonality in values that prevents it from being a unified and effective force that demands attention.

One doesn’t have to be a “conspiracy theorist” to recognize that those who control the government and large corporations like to see a public that’s divided. A divided public is a distracted and weak public. With regards to the environment, the public is falsely forced to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

The truth that the TerraTrek is revealing is that there are very few people who don’t enjoy the outdoors and appreciate and desire a clean and healthy environment. Our ‘investigative series’ “Who Gives a Shit About the Environment?” is making clear that pretty much everyone gives a shit about the environment. There is the random person who will toss a can into the lake that he just caught a fish from, but they clearly are the exception rather than the rule.

We are only 3 months into our journey, but already we’ve met with scientists documenting the impacts of climate change on the Gulf of Maine, volunteers working to clean up discarded plastics before they make it to the ocean, inner city standouts fighting to make parks available to youth, government agencies monitoring falling bee populations, specialists working to make the public aware of coastal hazards, and so many more. We’ve talked to people in all walks of life – auto-mechanics, nurses, surfers, golfers, landscapers, and more – to hear what they have to say about what’s important to them related to the environment.

We have been blown away by the support and enthusiasm for the TerraTrek mission. We’ve been welcomed with open arms by individuals, educational institutions, and government organizations that we’ve approached for participation, whether it’s for a one-minute opinion or a day-long film shoot. Friends and acquaintances have come out of the woodwork to offer us couches and spare bedrooms, backyard barbecues, and their encouragement. Our expedition is riding upon some seriously firm ‘environmental’ roads.

The Hidden Enviro-Web

There is a largely invisible but thick-as-honey matrix of support and effort on behalf of the environment that the TerraTrek is exposing, like an unseen spider web revealed by morning dew. Like the myriad of night-time lights visible from space above densely populated areas of the earth – the awareness of the sheer number and power of the support for a healthy environment and willingness to work on its behalf is awe-inspiring.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s reported that record numbers of people have sought relief from the darkness of isolation and social distancing by heading to parks and preserves for healthy infusions of nature and exercise. Nature always seems willing to accommodate us when we come calling, no matter how much we abuse it.

The truth, however, is that it’s a weakened and unhealthy nature that is welcoming us, and the potential is there for the environment and nature to provide us with so much more in terms of health benefits and quality of life, if we would only give it the support it deserves. Similar to the assault of COVID on our immune systems, our environment has been and continues to be under assault by a formidable collection of those who are willing to degrade and destroy it for short-sighted financial gain.

The TerraTrek Promise

The TerraTrek will continue to do its part to continue to reveal the power and connectivity of environmental support. We want to show that a healthy environment isn’t one of those issues that can be dismissed as divisive, available for compromise, or something that should only be the concern of special interest groups.

We hope to see you on the road along one of the web lines our expedition is traveling along, or even better at one of the intersections as a point of light working on behalf, or supporting in your own way, a healthy environment!

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