Overland to Rio+20 with the Permacyclists Overland to Rio+20 with the Permacyclists


The official plans for Rio+20 are ambitious – a new international accord on oceans, strengthening UNEP, commitments to new “Sustainable Development Goals,” the list goes on and on. Governments are already negotiating and debating, NGO’s are pressuring, and yet all the while ordinary people all over the world are wondering the same thing: can we even believe anything they say anymore? How many environmental agreements already exist in the world, and yet the state of the planet gets worse every day – and now they want to add more? They want to have another conference?


The truth is that saving the planet is easy – the solutions already exist and we can start changing the world tomorrow if each of us only decides to take action.


Enter the Permacyclists project: 2 people traveling overland from New York to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, making short films about grassroots environmental organizations along the way. Ordinary people with ordinary resources doing extraordinary things.


There is Eufemia Herandez-Sanchez in Chiapas for instance, a campesina who has reforested 200 hectares of rain forest despite receiving death threats from uncomprehending neighbors. Or the folks at Alterna in Guatemala, who don’t need a government commitment to renewable energy to know that designing biodigesters that fit on urban rooftops and run on kitchen scraps just makes sense.


The idea is to show positive environmental stories – to show that solutions for all our environmental problems exist, and that all it takes to make a brighter future is for each of us to decide to take action.


We left New York in April 2011, but the trip actually began much earlier. In November 2009, we were working in Brussels, Dave as a writer and Anna as a criminal lawyer, when we decided to take off, quitting our jobs, breaking our lease, and buying two bikes to set out to bike around the world. We spent the next 16 months cycling 12,300 kilometers through 12 African countries, with the hope of visiting permaculture projects along the way (hence “Permacyclists”).


The experience was tremendous, but sobering as well. As we rode through areas suffering from deforestation and desertification, or along coastlines destined to be changed forever in the coming years by climate change, we began to realize that it was time to be part of the solution to the world’s problems rather than merely spectators. When we finished our time in Africa we stored the bikes in our parents’ garage, bought a video camera, and set out by bus through the Americas, learning how to film and make movies along the way and looking everywhere for the most inspiring environmental stories we could find. When we set out, we thought: Rio+20, that is where things are going to happen, that will be our goal…


Fortunately, inspiring stories haven’t been hard to come by! We began in Houston, visiting with the local branch of the Transition Movement and a group of young professionals who have started a network of green housing co-ops. Since then, we’ve met cycling activists in Mexico organizing rides with thousands of participants, indigenous tribes in the Amazon working to buy back and protect their ancestral land, the dynamic young folks who started the global movement of and everything in between. We’ve seen the solutions happening, and they are driven and implemented by the people, often with little or no resources.


Rio+20 will be big, we’re still sure of that – but not because the governments will be there, because the people will be there. It’s the People’s Summit that really matters, and where change will really come from.


To find out more about the trip, to check out the videos, or to see how you can get involved, visit:, or



Details of the initiative
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