Drop in the Bucket: Wrapping up the Six-Month Commute Challenge at Milkweed Editions11/14/2012
Our challenge this summer: to commute by car as little as possible for six months. We biked, walked, and bussed our way to and from the office—through spring downpours and the sticky humidity of August—and now, the tally is in: Our staff of eight avoided approximately 3,846 miles of automobile commuting. By our estimate, this means that some 167 gallons of gasoline were left at the pump, unburned. Somewhere around nine barrels of oil did not need to be fracked, drilled, or extracted from the earth on our account.
And yet, to put that volume in perspective, the world’s people consume 89 million barrels of oil and other liquid fuels each day. So all of Milkweed’s conscious commuting thwarted the oil industry for less than one ten-millionth of a second. Six months of collective sweat amounted to a microscopic drop in a very large oil drum.
So what was the point? Well, beyond the countless reasons other than energy conservation to leave the car in the garage, we also wanted to call attention to the numerous authors we publish who are exploring the consequences of our consumption. From America’s northern tundra to its southern wetlands and everywhere in between, they are roving widely and wildly to illuminate the fallout of widespread energy addiction.
Hot on the hooves of the Porcupine caribou herd, Karsten Heuer walked across four mountain ranges and more than a thousand miles to witness the animals’ annual migration to calve. Being Caribou, his chronicle of the journey, describes how the energy industry is disrupting this ancient route. Bill McKibben’s tireless journalism and advocacy has inspired environmental policy reform around the globe. Just last year, he was arrested protesting the Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would transport nearly 1 million gallons of tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico every day. In Hope, Human and Wild, McKibben takes an uncharacteristic approach and spotlights three inspiring regions where common-sense solutions have made a real difference against the vexing problems that follow development. Travelling through the Gulf region, David Gessner met the people displaced, poisoned, and run out of business in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. His rumination on the trip, The Tarball Chronicles, warns of dangers still looming in the area—many exacerbated by the oil industry’s chokehold on the local economy.
Inspired by the perseverance of these three and many other authors we’ve published, some of us at Milkweed will take up the commute challenge again this winter in their honor. We’ll march through snowdrifts, install studded tires on our bikes, and bundle up for the morning wait at the bus stop. When a motorist inevitably questions our sanity, we can reach into our messenger bags and hand them a book, confident that its transformative message will get stuck in their head and begin to work some magic.
 A workout, safety, blowing off steam, etc.