The New American Road Trip is an 11 day, more than 2,900 mile journey with an electric vehicle from San Francisco to New York’s 10th Climate Week and the One Planet Summit to inform and discuss with the public the Call to Global Climate Action issued from the Global Climate Action Summit. By Nick Nuttall, Global Climate Action Summit. 

Road Trip Update: How the Paiute Tribe are Transforming their Future with Solar and Learning More About the Prophetic 19 C Explorer, Geologist and Early Environmentalist John Wesley Powell

17-18 September–This morning, we hit Highway 70 from Green River, Utah heading for the Rocky Mountains and an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where a large slice of its energy comes from hydroelectricity and at some of its world-famous resorts geothermally from local hot springs.

Just before departure I chatted with a local resident about The New American Road Trip and she told me how the installation of charging points for Tesla vehicles last year had boosted the hotel, restaurant, souvenir and famous melon trade for the town’s around 1,000 inhabitants.

The charging points are hosted by the John Wesley Powell museum, which is kind of fitting.

Wesley Powell was the second Director of the US Geological Survey and famous for a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers in 1869.

He also argued firmly – to the ire of the railroad companies of the day – that the arid, spectacular lands through which our road trip has passed since Vegas, Nevada and into Utah should be largely conserved.

Indeed, he prophetically warned the railroad companies, who wanted to boost land prices through agriculture, that their plans were unsustainable on all but two per cent of the land.

In 1883 he urged: “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water”.

In the 1920s and 30s, some 40 or more years later, the West experienced a catastrophic Dust Bowl bringing untold misery to subsistence farmers and their families.

Earlier in the day, some members of the Road Trip team stopped by to meet members of the Paiute Tribe whose 112 square mile reservation – around 30 miles north of Las Vegas – is home to the first solar farm on American tribal lands.

The 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, switched on in 2017, has more than 3.2 million panels covering 2.2 square miles and generates enough clean electricity to power over 110,000 homes.

The Paiute Tribe is planning two more projects with private sector partners, totaling a further 300 megawatts.

One of the customers is Los Angeles where the city—whose Mayor Eric Garcetti attended the Global Climate Action Summit last week—has ambitious plans for sustainable transportation and clean energy spurred further by its hosting of the Olympics in 2028.

Chair Greg Anderson of the Paiute Tribe told the Road Trip team that the solar plant was good for nature, good for his people and good for employment and was providing skills to “everyone that wanted a job”.

Today we also visited the stunning Arches National Park , 110 miles south west of Grand Junction, Colorado and described as a Red Rock Wonderland with over 2,000 natural stone arches.

It gets ‘millions of visitors a year’ and today the team’s light blue electric compact swished through the Park’s landscape catching the eye of the tourists.

After overnighting in Glendale Springs, the team will tomorrow head to Boulder, Colorado—a city that has a target to reduce its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and policies to increase the deployment of electric vehicles.

Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones and actress and comedian Jo Firestone will welcome us at our third major stop where there will be electric Ride and Drives, music and street food.

The fun starts at 4.30pm at 1056 Canyon Boulevard Parking lot between the Library and the Municipal Building—join us!

The New American Road Trip is being organized by Purpose with support from foundations including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Hewlett Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the IKEA Foundation and Climate Works Foundation. Follow the progress of the road trip online here.

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