Kurt Hoelting, author, fisherman, wilderness guide and meditation teacher, citizen of Clinton on Whidbey Island and a lifelong resident of the Puget Sound area, discovered to his horror that his carbon footprint was two and a half times that of the average American. He was shocked, among other reasons, because he drove a Prius. Apparently, investment in a hybrid is not enough to save the world from the ravages of climate change. So, Kurt decided to do something about it. He decided he would localize. That is, he would stay home for a year, defining home as an area within a 62 mile (100 kilometer) radius of Clinton. He would forego the use of an automobile and not fly for the entire year traveling only by foot, bicycle, kayak or public (not jet aircraft) transportation. (He alleges in an interview that the idea of writing a book about the experience came only later. We are not here to debate that point, but for an author this seems like a fertile idea for some best-selling non-fiction).
The Circumference of Home is an interesting concept for Transition. Obviously it represents a year of complete energy descent. In Mr. Hoelting’s case, he was motivated by climate change. His experiment gives us a case history for what is possible living locally. Speaking of climate change he says, “If there is a hidden gift embedded in this crisis, it is this potent new motivation to reexamine our lives, to make changes in the direction of more balanced and sustainable living—changes that we have resisted too long. That our overall quality of life may actually benefit from this effort is a prospect often lost in the public rhetoric about anticipated hardship and self-sacrifice that we’ve long associated with such changes.”
When Hoelting drew his radius on the map he discovered that the arc passed “…directly over the summit of Mount Olympus…It swung north to just include the San Juan Islands, before passing directly over the summit of Mount Baker…From there is passed directly over the summit of Glacier Peak…crossed Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass…then swung around to just touch the southern tip of Puget Sound.” This would mark the circumference of home. And a pretty nice territory it is.
Being a locavore can mean more than eating locally. It can meant living locally and taking full advantage of what the circumference of home, however you wish to measure it, has to offer. As Mr. Hoelting astutely points out, “Living on an island in the sound has its advantages. One of them is that you don’t have to wonder where the boundaries of your home terrain are. Walk in any direction, and you hit a clear line of demarcation where land meets water. Head either way down the beach, and you eventually wind up right where you started. It’s a comforting feeling.”
His year living locally, transporting himself primarily with muscle powere dramatizes what a motivated person can do to reduce their use of energy and told from an islander’s point of view.
Hoelting planned several adventures for his year of living locally and low on the energy chain. The first was a 130 mile walk though the Skagit Valley and back onto Whidbey from the north and down its full length. He started his year without a car on the winter solstice by walking four miles in a cold driving rain to the ferry dock.
What he learned will be helpful for anyone attempting to prepare for the future and will be of interest even to those who are not.