Traveling the country in the Biodiversity Bus
The Carpenters are drastically changing their way of living. Jonathan, Laura, Cypress (3), Darwin (5 months) and Jantzen, the dog (age unknown), have shed themselves of their home base in Jasper, Tennessee and loaded up the 1994 Fleetwood Flair for life on the road with a mission. The old recreational vehicle has become a Biodiversity Bus. The Carpenters fervently wish to spread the word about the importance of biodiversity to all lives. They are modeling what they passionately believe in, namely sustainable science education and its connection to well-being and happiness.
“I guess we want to strike a balance between environment and social footprints,” said Jonathan. “People who don’t have money have to live toxic lives. Young families can’t get out of their situation,” notes Laura.
The Carpenter carbon footprint will certainly be small and their operating expenses low. Their vehicle runs on biodiesel fuel with solar panels on top. Little energy is required to heat and cool the small square footage enclosure.
“We plan to paint the bus with environmentally safe paint and entice artists to paint biodiversity themed graphics on it,” said Laura. “It will be a banner!”
Inside there are the obligatory beds, tiny bathroom, kitchen, table, seating and driving area, but also Wi-Fi, television and bioblitz equipment—nets, vials, fish traps, binoculars, optics, interpretative materials, and nature library. A wildlife motion detecting camera, bat detector, white patch for moth inventory, microscopes plus two knowledgeable scientists round out the tools required for fun and important education.
Bioblitzes are events gathering scientists and citizens to conduct an area species inventory. This tool can bring a community together, show scientific relationships, understand the part biodiversity plays in sustainability, and teach how our actions can help or hurt other life. Bioblitzes allow people to learn about their own places and also make contributions to science. Many new species have been found through bioblitzes.
Findings are uploaded to iNaturalist.org, an international citizen science biodiversity database and open sourced app. Anyone can submit nature observations, photos, or sounds to share at this site. The site holds scads of information about particular animals or plants, where others have seen them, and where they exist on the planet. Such information over time can identify trends and patterns. Reasons for change may be connected to weather patterns, climate disruption, agricultural practices, or habitat destruction. Once such trends are analyzed, it helps identify land worth saving and how to offset carbon impacts.
Now what form of madness has possessed the Carpenters to make this dramatic shift forsaking roots for the road? In fact, it’s a love story filled with passion. Jonathan had a bit of an unstable upbringing floating from college to college, but was studying biology at Louisiana State University doing baseline studies on biodiversity during the BP spill. Wanting to make a difference he moved into sustainable living, experimented with permaculture farming, and with yurts and geodesic dome homes that protect against severe winds. Along came Laura, an intern from California to work on a biology project and love ensued. Eventually they moved to Tennessee where biodiversity is rampant.
Jonathan is a passionate naturalist dashing off to grab a net as soon as a moth passes in front of him. He can rattle off Latin names of any plant or animal you might put in front of him. He has contributed heavily to iNaturalist and wants to create a field guide. His enthusiasm is catching!
Laura is also passionate about biology and biodiversity, but there is more. She muses, “I feel a real strong call to live simply and do what I can for my family—after being a mom, I feel responsible to live more sustainably and make a difference for the lives of children.” She adds, “Then it will be their responsibility to make the shift.”
Indeed. Safe travels Carpenter family.
Sandra Kurtz is an environmental community activist and is presently working through the Urban Century Institute. You can visit her website to learn more at enviroedu.net