Edina, Mo., family walks to raise awareness for climate change

Gavain UíPrichard, left, stands with a cart he and his family used earlier this year as they walked from Edina, Mo., to Duluth, Minn., to raise awareness for climate change. (H-W Photo/Maggie Menderski)
Posted: Nov. 14, 2013 10:29 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2013 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

EDINA, Mo. -- Dana McGuire walked more than 500 miles for a cause she wishes she didn't believe in.

McGuire and her husband, Gavain U'Prichard, left their home in Edina in May with camping supplies, a pickup truck that ran on vegetable oil and her four children. An article titled "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" by Bill McKibben in the July 2012 issue of Rolling Stone outlined the rapid progression of climate change and inspired the couple to walk to Ontario, Canada, to raise awareness of what they saw as a growing problem.

McKibben, an environmentalist and journalist, has written more than a dozen books about the climate change. He also founded the grassroots campaign, which has organized 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.

McGuire and her family chose to live without air-conditioning during the hot and dry summer of 2012 to, they say, feel the full effects of climate change.

"We were having to give the children four baths a day just to keep them cool," McGuire said. "That was the setting for us reading that article, and we really felt it."

McKibben's article claims global temperature are rising, destroying a third of the Arctic's summer sea ice and making the ocean 30 percent more acidic.

McGuire believes rising temperatures will turn the Midwest into an unlivable desert during her children's lifetime.

"We're at a crossroads globally, and these next couple years are really what's going to determine what happens for decades," U'Prichard said. "So what's driving us so hard about this is that it's been forced upon us."


Taking it to the streets

McGuire and her husband have lived in intentional communities for most of their adult life. The couple left the West Coast in 2011 and settled in Edina to be close to the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge and The Possibility Alliance in La Plata, two communities that strive toward environmentally responsible lifestyles.

They had planned to renovate a home on North First Street, but McKibben's article refocused their priorities. They believed they needed more than a home garden, a wood-burning stove and a crank-powered ceiling fan to make a difference. So in May, they took to the streets.

They raised $2,000 through to fund a climate walk to Canada. The couple bought camping gear and built two carts to pull both the children and supplies for the journey that centered on preaching the climate change message.

The family met elderly farmers who shared stories about how they had watched the weather and their crops change. They received Bibles from religious people who saw the climate switch as God's way of ending the world. They spoke with students about the science of climate change and gave presentations when space allowed. Several strangers echoed their climate concerns, while others were horrified and reported the couple to child services.

"We were expecting more hostility than we got from it," McGuire said. "In the Midwest, there's a lot of climate denialism, but it seemed like the farther we went on, the more people were curious, or at least neutral."

McGuire knew that many didn't want to hear her message. Still she proceeded, knowing she may have acted differently in her own life had she known the dangers sooner. McGuire said she may not have moved to Missouri or even had children if she had known what kind of world they might inherit.

"Our children and grandchildren are probably going to have to adapt to a situation that can't be adapted to," U'Prichard said.

The family chose to walk in hopes that others might join them. Each day, U'Prichard would drive the truck and the supplies 5 to 10 miles ahead of his family, park at a camping spot and then bike back to them. Individuals and small groups joined them for a couple scattered miles, but otherwise, they operated alone.

"It seems easy enough when you read about it in ‘Little House on the Prairie,' but it was still very challenging," McGuire said.

New friends near Ames, Iowa, gifted the couple a camper, which eased their rustic lifestyle. As time went on, the travel pattern shifted. Some days the children would ride ahead with the trailer, and one adult would walk alone. Other days, the family roller-skated their route, which bumped travel time to about 20 miles per day.

"Most of the walk that we did this summer was much more difficult than we expected it to be," McGuire said. "We were two adults and four children and all the logistics -- walking, cooking, laundry, bathing."


What comes next

After about 500 miles on foot, halfway toward their goal, the family piled into the vegetable oil-powered truck in Duluth, Minn,. and drove back to Edina. They parked the bright purple supply cart in the front yard and eased themselves back into a four-walled routine.

U'Prichard, who works as a massage therapist, restarted his practice, and McGuire joined a roller derby team. She figured the community might respond better to an athlete with a cause than a family of six traveling along the side of the road.

"One of the takeaways of this walk was that people are not comfortable talking about serious subjects, generally," she said. "I thought I could channel my climate concern into a sport."

The family hasn't retired from climate walks yet. They will join 1,000 others in a countrywide walk from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., next year in the Great March for Climate Action. The eight-month walk aims to be the largest coast-to-coast march in U.S. history. The walkers will travel 14-15 miles per day, ideally reaching Phoenix in early April, Denver in early June, Omaha in late July, Chicago in early September, Pittsburgh in October and finishing at Washington D.C. on Nov. 1.

While McGuire doesn't intend to walk for the cause for the rest of her life, she believes she needs to stay active as long as there's a hope to halt or correct the climate change.

"Our children are going to look at us one day and say, ‘How did you let this happen?' " she said. "I'm not ready to say, ‘I was busy.' "