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Seeking local on a global scale

Posted: May 18, 2012 - 12:01am

I once read that there was no single man or woman on planet Earth who could make a pencil.

Think about it.

How many people out there really have sufficient knowledge of graphite mining, wood working, and manufacturing? A person who could actually go out into the world and build a perfect pencil from scratch?

Not many.

No, instead we rely on a network of people who are continuously trading skills and materials to build the things that we use everyday. This system allows each of us to specialize in one field or another, contributing our small part to society as a whole. However, this inherently leads to a significant problem.

The issue is that we have grown accustomed to having our oil from the Middle East, bananas from Ecuador and gizmos from Japan. This disconnect from our resources leads us to neglect the very things that we depend upon. It is neither reasonable nor practical for every consumer to visit the fields, farms and factories from which all of the things we use are being produced. Yet if we strive to identify aspects of our lives that can be replaced by local goods and services, we will improve our connection with our own places and thus live more fulfilling lives. You could get on the web and “like” a group that pledges to live sustainably, but that will not change how things operate. While the internet certainly has a role to play in this movement, I believe that the most effective way to truly change the global mindset is to start at square one; community.

On June 1 a group of five Juneauites — Colin Flynn, Kannan Bausler, Andrew Flansaas, Max Stanley, and myself, Chris Hinkley — will be leaving on an open-ended adventure to seek out “community” on a global scale. Moving at the pace of paddles and peddles, we will first kayak from Juneau to Vancouver Island and then ride bicycles southward to the Southern tip of South America, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. We expect the trip will allow us to observe the world from a unique perspective. We plan to visit communities along the Pacific coast and explore how each group interacts with their specific place.

Seven of our closest friends — Lucas Merli, Mallory Story, Lia Heifetz, David McCasland, Elyse Kennedy, Will Geiger, and Lucy Squibb — will be joining us for the kayaking portion of the trip to explore the coastal rainforests of the Inside Passage. It is our hope that others will either join us throughout the journey or be inspired to go on an adventure of their own.

As we continue to move south, we will share efforts to write a monthly article for the Juneau Empire Outdoors section. The articles will recount specific instances during the trip, and we hope they will enable readers to connect with what we are doing. An article might tell of the wisdom we gained from the homeless man in San Francisco who taught us to moon walk, the watermelon that kept us alive for a week in the Guatemalan jungle, or how we made it back to Ketchikan after losing six paddles in Misty Fjords. Each update will attempt to define what it means to be a community, as well as the role of localized thinking within the global structure. We will aim to educate, inspire, and, hopefully, entertain, as well.

It has been challenging planning a trip like this as there are no firm deadlines or a set itinerary. We do not know who we might meet along the way and we lack a defined route. We encourage followers to track our trip and the pictures, videos and words that we will post to the web as much as possible; find us at www.atripsouth.com. In addition to all of the updates along the way, we will be creating a documentary of the lessons we learn. To help make the documentary a reality, check out http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atripsouth/atripsouth (April 28th to May 26th).

We could not be more excited to start this project and we look forward to sharing this experience with our own community.

Several years ago, we looked at a map and realized that you could draw a pretty long line south from Juneau. Why not follow it and see where it goes?

 

• Chris Hinkely is a Juneau resident and headed south to the tip of South America.

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