From: May Boeve and Jamie Henn
Published July 18, 2005 12:00 AM

The Road to Detroit

The whole thing began over a midnight snack of nachos at the small, dimly lit student café at Middlebury College in Vermont. After four months of sleepless nights and last minute conference calls, a dedicated group of students from around the country has partnered with the youth coalition Energy Action to pull together what is perhaps the most unique, exciting, youth campaign of the summer: the Road to Detroit.

On the surface, Road to Detroit (RTD) may look like your average college road trip: a painted school bus, good friends, bad food, and an ambitious schedule of over 13,000 miles. A closer look, however, reveals that this is no ordinary undertaking.

From the start, Road to Detroit has been dedicated to a not-so-typical environmental message. Instead of the usual gloom and doom, these students want to offer a compelling vision for America based on long-held values and convictions. At each stop, the students explain to people that they are taking action against global warming not just because of some scientific statistics, but because of moral and spiritual reasons: they are acting with their hearts as well as their heads. “After seeing the loss of biodiversity in Florida as a child,” says Sarah Trapido, a student on the bus, “I wanted to dedicate my life to doing whatever I can to save what is left.” For Sarah, stopping global warming means a chance to save the Florida coast.

Having identified the American Auto Industry as one of the leading contributors to global warming, RTD focuses on the solution. As anyone in Detroit could tell you, the automotive industry is no longer competitive with foreign automakers and thousands are losing their jobs. RTD envisions the Big 3 automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) revitalized by an aggressive campaign to increase the fuel efficiency of their entire fleets to at least 40 miles per gallon and to invest in zero emissions technology. By building the more fuel-efficient cars that consumers demand, Detroit autoworkers will profit while they help America towards a cleaner, safer future.

RTD is dedicated to showing Detroit that the demand for better vehicles exists now. The students are traveling the country on a 1991 GMC bus they have converted to run on used vegetable oil as well as biodiesel, an alternative to diesel fuel derived from vegetable oil. The bus last stopped at Cape Hatteras Light in North Carolina. For scientists and activists, the extreme erosion on Cape Hatteras is visual evidence of how rising sea levels caused by global warming are beginning to threaten the US coastline. My dream is to return to Cape Hatteras in a hybrid,” says bus member Brett Edmonds, “But first, US automakers have to start making them.”

Throughout the summer, the Road to Detroit bus will appear in over 50 towns and cities from coast-to-coast, collecting signatures on their Clean Car Pledge, which they will present to Ford Motor Company on August 22nd in Detroit. The bus members encourage everyone, young and old, to sign the pledge which asks automakers to produce more fuel-efficient, cleaner, union made vehicles. With over 7,000 signatures, the organizers are well on their way to their goal of 25,000 signatures and plan to shoot for 50,000 by the end of the summer. The pledge can be found on the website:

The bus tour culminates with a convergence in Detroit on August 20-22nd. Working with everyone from a youth theater troupe and hip-hop artists to environmental justice activists and union leaders, Road to Detroit organizers hope to celebrate the Detroit community and build the youth clean energy movement at the same time. By coming to Detroit as consumers, not protestors, Road to Detroit is attracting broad support from Detroiters and people around the country. “Everyone wants to help us dialogue about these issues,” says organizer Jamie Henn. “By focusing on our common goal and not our different approaches, we have been able to move the industry forward together.” People from across the USA are invited to join the bus in Detroit to help celebrate a brighter future for the industry and the country.

Keep track of the bus at our website: More information on Energy Action can be found at


1. Sign our Clean Car Pledge! More than 5,000 signatures were collected on this pledge in just four days. Although the pledge is targeted at youth, the car buyers of tomorrow, people of all ages have signed the pledge. Visit the Road to Detroit website at to sign.

2. Send a donation! Contributions are tax deductible and greatly appreciated. Checks should be made out to Energy Action, with Road to Detroit in the memo. Mail to:Road to Detroit, 75 Arkansas, Suite 1, San Francisco, CA 94107.

3. Finally, join us for the convergence in Detroit on August 20. People are encouraged to take the road to Detroit as renewably as they can in order to show their support for clean cars.

May Boeve, a senior at Vermont's Middlebury College, spent last fall traveling the country as part of Project BioBus, an educational outreach tour promoting biodiesel. She couldn't get enough of bus tours, so is spending this summer organizing Road to Detroit from her native Northern California.

Jamie Henn, a junior at Middlebury College is especially interested in environmental education. He is excited to spend the summer talking to people, young and old, about Road to Detroit's compelling vision for the auto industry and country.

Source: An ENN Guest Commentary

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