Project Tandem

Tandem 4

Alan Winslow and Morrigan McCarthy recently returned home after a very long trip. Over 10 months and 11,000 miles these two travelers road bicycles across the country and back again. Departing from New York in October of 2008, they pedaled down the Atlantic Coast, across the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean. They road up through the Pacific Northwest, over the Rocky Mountains, back across the Plains and returned to the Adirondacks in early August.

In itself, this is not such an amazing feat. But as Winslow and McCarthy made their way across the county they collected a series of personal interviews and incredible photographs. Their mission was to document the nation’s thoughts on the subject of the climate change.

Winslow and McCarthy spoke to ordinary people in big cities and small towns throughout the United States. Their plan was to discover the overlooked stories of everyday Americans who struggle with notions of human contributions to a warming planet and they role they might play in environmental protection. In their blog called Project Tandem the two share their pictures and tales of people they encountered on their journey. In this interview they tell us a little about their experience.

star:

What prompted you both to take up this project to tell the story of climate change through the lives of ordinary people around the country?

Winslow and McCarthy:

You always see polls in the news about what “Americans” are thinking about climate change. We wanted to see what they were actually thinking, not just what their answers were to some poll. We figured a country this diverse would have a lot of interesting ideas on a topic as huge as climate change and we wanted to give them a chance to express them.

star:

Climate change is a BIG global crisis. Do the people you have met have a realistic expectation that anything they can do will make a difference?

Winslow and McCarthy:

People seems to feel that they can impact their local environment (cleaning up a river or piece of land) more than they can have an impact on a global scale. It was interesting to hear people so involved in the movement on a local level but feeling so helpless when it comes to larger issues like air quality and climate change.

star:

There are many out there who firmly believe that climate change is a myth. Have you encountered people on you journey who share this belief? What is their reaction to your questions? How were you received?

Tandem 1Winslow and McCarthy

We tried to interview people with very open-ended questions and made it clear before we even started that we were just interested in collecting opinions. In that way people seemed to feel pretty comfortable telling us what they really think, and certainly we encountered folks who believe that climate change is a myth. We actually think that hearing from those people is an incredibly important piece in figuring out how to work together to get this thing under control and we really appreciated people’s honesty and willingness to open up and tell us how they really felt.

star:

The green movement seems populated mostly by affluent white people who have the free time and disposable income to invest in climate change mitigation. What about minorities and the poor? What are their thoughts on climate change and how it might impact their lives?

Winslow and McCarthy:

Yes! Excellent question. That was a big part of why we wanted to get out and talk to Americans face to face.  For better or for worse, being “green” or saying that you are is very trendy right now in big cities and amongst those who can afford to buy organic food or recycled toothbrushes or trendy canvas shopping bags. The fact is, when we interviewed people without much disposable income or who were less educated, often times they would shudder at being called an environmentalist, but in the same breath be telling us about how they save money by eating food they grow or hunt themselves, paying for things by collecting cans to recycle or walking where they need to go rather than driving. Their environmental impact was far less than many of the affluent “environmentalists” that we interviewed.

Tandem 2star:

Young people are perhaps better aware of climate change then their parents or older adults. How confident do you suppose teenagers are that they can help affect lasting change that will slow or reverse climate change in their lifetimes?

Winslow and McCarthy:

We actually found that teenagers seem to be so saturated by the “green” messages they’re getting all the time that they are often overwhelmed and feel like the problem is so big that they don’t know what they can do about it. It’s actually folks somewhere between 20-50 who seem to feel more like their actions can really have an impact.

star:

What do you hope to accomplish with your work? What do you hope people will do once they see your images and hear the stories you’re collecting?

Winslow and McCarthy:

We just want to bring about a better level of understanding regarding the opinions of Americans. We think that talking about different opinions and trying to understand where others are coming from is integral to finding a solution. So often our country is painted as being polarized on the topic of climate change- believers and non-believers, religious and atheist, affluent and disadvantaged… we found that we all actually have more in common on the issue than we’re often led to believe.

star:

Did I miss anything? What did I neglect to ask that you want people most to know about your work?

Winslow and McCarthy:

I guess we really want people to know that we were out there collecting data. It will be presented in the form of art, but the point is to generate discussion and hopefully facilitate understanding. We don’t want to push our personal opinions on anybody, but we do want people on all sides of the issue to sit up and listen to each other.

Tandem 5

Tell us about yourselves:

Where’s your hometown?

Alan: Charlton, NY

Mo: Williston, VT

How old are you?

Alan: 25

Mo: 26

Are you married?

Nope!

Do you have children

Nope!

What’s your degree of education?

Alan: BA in Environmental Science and Photography from SUNY Buffalo

Mo: BA in English Literature from Connecticut College and some post-grad work at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies

Where is your favorite place in the world? Where do you find peace in your soul just being there?

Alan: My secret hiking spot in the Adirondacks. A pond surrounded by wild blueberry fields.

Mo: My family’s place in the Adirondacks.

What’s your favorite music? Style? Band? Performing artist?

Alan: I hate that cop-out answer of “everything” but I truly do love all types of music. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hold a special place in my heart though.

Mo: Jazz. All types of jazz. The greats, like Miles Davis and Dave Bruebeck- it’s like poetry!

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

4 Responses to “Project Tandem”

  1. mom
    October 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    I think your work sounde real intersting and very involed hope all goes well

  2. mom
    October 25, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    I think your work sounde real intersting and very involed hope all goes well

  3. April 12, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    this is cool, but you know what i'm gonna say don't you…..why not on a tandem?? It seems like the obvious choice given the name 🙂

  4. April 12, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    this is cool, but you know what i'm gonna say don't you…..why not on a tandem?? It seems like the obvious choice given the name 🙂

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