The Long Way Home

This series chronicles our cross-country road trip from Pennsylvania to Washington, in the first half of February 2017. The posts begin in Oklahoma, as this was where we were when the idea to conduct such research occurred to me.  I may return to the earlier states at a later time.

This series digs into environmental justice issues in the United States, at a time when political forces are seeking to drastically change the way environmental protection is practiced. Our journey took us through the Midwest, the Southwest, and back up the Western coastline.  As one may imagine, the cultures and perspectives we encountered during this trip were diverse and eye-opening.

The nomination of now Justice Neil Gorsuch was announced the day we drove through Oklahoma.  I found myself spending much of this trip reflecting on how the previous months had challenged my ideals and how the US had come to a place where a centrist candidate for the Supreme Court brought a sigh of relief. The conversations I had and overheard throughout our trip brought a renewed sense of unity, empathy, and urgency, for those sharing these complicated times.  The trip left me feeling centered, determined, and more than a little grateful.

If you call any of these places home – or, if you don’t – I would love to hear your thoughts on these posts.

Thanks for reading. 


Part 1: Oklahoma

Atoka Lake 2017

Oklahoma’s growing cities compete with small towns in the Southeast for ever-shrinking water sources, exacerbating economic inequality. “In many ways, the history of Oklahoma is a story of water. Our geography is drawn by rivers and streams. And our cultural legacy is informed by drought.” – Andrew Knittle, NewsOK.


Part 2: The Texas Panhandle 


Farmers here produce food for the entire country and they use a lot of water to do it. Groundwater mining “is not an accident here; it is a way of life … it is also a way of death.” – William Ashworth, “Ogallala Blue.”


Part 3: New Mexico


The expansive landscapes and seemingly endless skies of New Mexico make it hard to believe that the state has a “massive” air pollution problem. Unfortunately, NASA keyhole satellite photos do not lie; neither do child asthma rates.