For almost the entire first half of the 19th century, a Bostonian by the name of John Chapman took it upon himself to plant apple seeds in wilderness areas, especially in Ohio and Indiana. He became widely known as Johnny Appleseed.
Tens of thousands of trees made up his environmental legacy. But Appleseed’s lasting example was that of one person walking and talking and doing through the countryside what he wished to contribute to his society. He inspired many other Americans to “walk the country” with their own causes.
People everywhere, and the media, too, are fascinated with anyone who leaves the home town to travel day after day to communities far and near to make a point. Nearly 10 years ago a Hawaiian journeyed through 40 states to urge support for limiting the terms of office for senators and representatives. He was received with great enthusiasm and hospitality.
Just this past summer, three Americans and two Canadians got into a converted school bus and started their Acid Rain Caravan on a 4,000-mile trip to mobilize informed citizen opposition to the ominous increase in acid rain so damaging to lakes, woods and human health.
From Canada to New England and New York State, they distributed materials, took down names and addresses and gave interviews to the local media, municipal councils and citizen groups. The old bus carried displays, films, slide shows, pamphlets and buttons. Their case was to build pressure on politicians and industries to clean up. More than a million people were reached in this manner. The total cost of the six-week caravan was less than $15,000.
Plans are underway for another caravan next spring to the Midwestern states where many of the poorly controlled coal-burning sources of acid rain are situated.
Soon to take off in the tradition of traveling citizen is Hank Ryan. Starting from Winsted, Ryan is launching a coast-to-coast, three-month “whistlestop tour” of his “Rolling Greenhouse Educational Outreach Center.” Ryan, who just turned 30, wants to show everybody who will listen how practical and economical it is to cut home energy consumption by the use of passive solar structures. With experience in energy audit work and hands-on knowledge about “low-tech” or simple solutions to retrofit your home, Ryan wants to spread the way of energy self-reliance and document the many doings of people across the country in low-income weatherization.
The Rolling Greenhouse is a mobile display and communications vehicle. Ryan had driven it all over Connecticut and Massachusetts. He says the “Greenhouse can’t even have a flat tire without people stopping by to pick up tips on building and designing their own passive solar structure.”
He is receiving sponsorships for his trip from community action groups, schools and individuals. When the trip is completed, Ryan wants to publish an “illustrated portrait of the ingenuity and inventiveness devised by those who would not be defeated by a lack of public funding.”
“I guess you could say I want to be the Charles Kuralt of Appropriate Technology,” says the Connecticut native. Well, Hank, here’s hoping that the television cameras meet you and your local enthusiasts at most stops.