Here is a short montage we put together combining the best videos and pictures from South Dakota and Wyoming. Thanks to the Resophonics for letting us use their music in the background.
Archive for the ‘South Dakota’ Category
We received these awesome thank you cards from kids at the school near Toledo where we gave talks and led a bike ride in May. It was really nice for us to see that our project had an impact. Have you made any changes or become more aware of global warming since we gave a presentation or appeared in the media in your town? Let us know! We want to hear your stories.
Speaking of media, we have done quite well in the past month. The more conservative parts of America seem much more intrigued by our message on global warming. Crossing South Dakota and Wyoming, we have completed 6 newspaper interviews, 3 radio interviews, and 1 television interview. You can see them here.
In other news, we just spent two days at a summer art camp just outside Sheridan, WY. The Bauen Camp, which attracts teenagers from around the country, sits on the side of the Big Horn Mountains in a spectacular setting. We used our time to have an extended conversation with the students about global warming. (We also just received an email from them saying that, after we left, they did a dramatic interpretation of global warming in the form of a play).
We became very familiar with South Dakota’s wind energy potential. Every day the wind would howl at us from a different direction. We were a bit lucky as well – we ended up have slightly more tailwinds than headwinds.
The map shown on the right shows the potential wind energy from different states around the region (I took this photo next to a wind farm in South Dakota). One of the problems with wind is that it is most windy in the Great Plains, where few people live. Also, it isn’t windy all the time (so you can’t create electricity all of the time). But, usually it is windy somewhere, so if we have a large electric grid, we can distribute the electricity. We also don’t currently have the distribution network to carry the electricity away from the Great Plains – why not build it? According to the map shown on the right, and comparing with U.S. energy statistics, the combined wind energy potential of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota is roughly equal to the current U.S. yearly electricity generation from all sources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc.).
Yes, there are concerns with wind energy, and I am not sure we should cover all of the Great Plains in wind turbines. I encourage you to read this link to learn more (especially issues concerning bird and bat mortality). The bottom line is that the wind turbines are far better than the alternative of global warming.
The 30 second video below, though, sums up how I feel about wind power:
Leaving Minnesota and crossing into South Dakota, the land became drier and more sparsely populated, and towns were less frequent. We still saw many fields of wheat and corn, but grazing land became more common. We passed through many small towns, and learned that most of the towns are far smaller than they used to be, as fewer farmers are now needed to farm the same amount of land.
Crossing South Dakota, we expected to find resistance to our message. For some reason, people who are more conservative are less likely to trust the science of global warming, and South Dakota is fairly conservative. How did people respond when we asked them ‘what do people around here think about global warming?’
One woman, a schoolteacher (the wife of a farmer who gave us a tour of his farm and who is shown right), told us that people here are starting to take the issue seriously. In one small town of 100 people, another woman remarked that summers and winters are far warmer than they used to be. Without us telling her what we were doing, she added ‘must be global warming – it’s affecting us too.’ And we found this many places – people are starting to believe it’s for real.
Yet many others gave a reply like the owner of one gas station, who flatly said ‘We are conservative here, we don’t believe it’ (I am unclear on this reasoning). The owner of a bike store in Pierre said that we are just seeing a ‘natural cycle’ and that there was nothing we could do about it (both not true). And, if you look at the article about our trip in the Rapid City Journal, take a look at the comments (readers can comment on the online article) and you can see plenty of resistance.
Most people, though, seem to be like people everywhere else – confused about the basic ideas of global warming. The owner of a steak house, after hearing what we were doing said, ‘that’s a big issue – who do you believe?’ One man argued that he sees smog in cities, and not in South Dakota, so they didn’t have to do anything in South Dakota (smog has very little to do with global warming). One woman, when we told her about our project, looked up in the sky and said ‘it’s too bad when there is a hole in the environment,’ which, we think, was referring to the ozone layer (many people confuse global warming with ozone depletion – they are in fact very different issues). My favorite was an older rancher who, after telling us some jokes, said it is getting warmer due to ‘earth warming,’ but had no explanation for what ‘earth warming’ is.
I guess that it is fair that people are confused on this issue – it is a complicated issue (and, there have been large campaigns to confuse people). Bill is convinced that we need some type of national education program on the issue, to help communicate the basic ideas of global warming – what do you think about this?
We should note that no one was hostile to us – in fact, most people were exceptionally friendly. The restaurant owner who seemed skeptical still ended up giving us dinner when he heard we were biking across the country. The gas station owner had a long friendly conversation with us.
We departed South Dakota via the badlands and the black hills – a scenic finish to the state. Below are photos.
We rode into South Dakota today. It was a great ride because we averaged over 14 mph with a tail wind and cloudy skies kept the weather cooler. It’s amazing how quickly things can change; the last 3 days we’ve been riding into a fierce head wind that had us averaging 7 mph. Today the wind shifted 180 degrees and the world became a far better place.
When we arrived in Watertown SD, we stopped at a restaurant where we could set up the mobile office and plan our radio interview, check email and catch up on the blog entries. A quick news search showed some incredibly positive news. The Senate agreed on a fuel efficiency increase for cars and trucks — an average of 35 mpg for cars, SUVs and pick-ups by 2020. This seemed impossible just a few years ago, but the winds have shifted 180 degrees and the seemingly impossible just happened.
Keep in mind that this is just the Senate that has agreed on a fuel efficiency increase. Now the House of Representatives will have to agree on one, the two bodies will have to come up with a compromise that they can both agree on and the President will have to sign it. Our elected leaders are debating a major energy bill that will play a huge role in addressing (or ignoring) global warming. You should contact (write, email or call) your two Senators and one Representative and let them know that you care about global warming and want a smart energy bill that will help address the problem. Now is a great time for them to hear from you and you can use this link if to find their contact information.