A JOURNEY FROM APATHY TO HOPE
Hike the Divide is a feature-length documentary that follows jaded, millennial substitute-teacher Connor DeVane 2,700 miles from Canada to Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail as he seeks hope in the face of climate change. The film, structured around a physical journey through environments both harsh and breathtakingly beautiful, shares the stories of the community activists and problem solvers Connor meets to mark a trail from apathy and resignation to hope and engagement.
Hike the Divide presents a spectrum of approach to climate solutions, including grassroots community organizing, land restoration to store CO2 in soil, civil disobedience and more. The film explores the intersectionality of climate change and its root causes with other justice issues and systems of oppression.
Connor's journey reminds us what we are capable of, what we stand to lose, and how little we need to thrive; a host of diverse and powerful voices unite not only to pick us up off the floor, but also to shove us out the door to build a better future.
A Conversation about Climate Action on the Continental Divide Trail
My name is Connor DeVane. I feel like I’m constantly reeling, unable to stop myself from keeping up with the sleepless circus that is our national news cycle — maybe you can relate. Though it’s certainly gotten worse since January of 2017, it’s not a new experience for me. Reading about the disruption of our planet's natural systems, the extraction and consumption that drive this destruction, and the political climate that allows it is a source of despair for many people, myself included. In many ways, it's counterproductive. It can feel as if the stories we tell about our changing climate weigh us down into apathy, hopelessness.
As a global community, we understand the threats that a changing climate poses, but hardly anyone is acting accordingly. We seem to be paralyzed by the doom and gloom of the seemingly looming climate crisis, when in fact the situation is urgent. Even those who grasp the urgency seem overwhelmed by the scale and gravity of the challenge. Talking about climate change and the future reminds me of talking about death; it's as if there's an unspoken agreement to not bring it up. But that's the thing - everyone is affected by climate. We need to get ourselves off the sidelines. Is there any hope?
Hike The Divide is a storytelling project that answers: YES! HOPE IS RIGHT HERE!
What if the stories we tell about our changing climate could inspire people to stand up and take action instead of instilling dread? This is the mission of Hike the Divide. Hike the Divide shares stories that breathe life into the sparks of hope we all harbor: stories that stoke the embers of engagement. These stories however remind us that, as Rebecca Solnit said, “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”
In 2016, I set out to hike the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico: over 2,800 miles through the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. For five months, I walked up and down mountains, through all weather conditions, carrying everything I needed on my back. I slept beneath the stars, drank from the earth, and absolutely destroyed a few pairs of shoes. I did all this for a number of reasons. One reason is that hiking is my practice. The Trail is where I feel most at home in myself, and at peace with my place in the universe.
But the driving motivation of my journey was to dispel apathy. Throughout my hike I sought out folks who are taking matters into their own hands: people who aren’t waiting around for anyone else to take the reins; people working towards a more livable future. I wanted to see what kinds of action people like that are taking, especially in places that don't get much attention. I wanted to know where these people find hope, what keeps their fires burning.
Now, I want to share their stories with you.
We are the people we’ve been waiting for.
Since finishing my hike in November of 2016, I’ve been working with Brave Alice Productions and Goodluck Productions on a field documentary that gives my journey a radical purpose. Hike the Divide is a film that gives a platform to the unsung heroes leading the way on our collective response to climate change. Their stories inspire audiences to take local action to build a future that isn’t shaped by climate disruptions and provide a framework for doing so. The people you'll hear from share a broad wealth of experience, bringing to light stories of unlikely cooperation, creativity, and fierce resolve to shape not just a livable planet, but an equitable one.
The people I met and interviewed range from a retired railroad brakeman to a middle school student; fourth-generation rancher to university professor; former UN worker to Navajo grandmother and more. You’ll be surprised how much these people share in common.
Spoiler: There are paths forward. Initiatives to be hopeful about. There are clear and simple ways to be a part of meaningful action and plenty of people to align your news feeds with and change the narrative about climate change.
The goal is to inspire people to take local action to combat the climate crisis and provide a few examples for doing so. I’ll be bringing to light stories of unlikely cooperation, creativity, and fierce resolve to build a better future.
Hope is not a weighing of odds; nor is it blind optimism. Hope is a recognition that the future has not been decided, and that uncertainty allows for agency. There is a world of difference between "best case scenario" and "worst case scenario," especially with climate change.
We don't know exactly how bad the climate crisis will get, and we have power today to make an impact on our shared future: to choose, steer towards, and strive for a livable planet. We need to be reminding ourselves of our agency, of the power we hold together. We ought to be telling stories of how the people have risen against the odds to change history, time and time again. We ought to be reminding ourselves and one another what it looks like to be engaged in the shaping of our world, and that if we don't shape it, someone else - say, the fossil fuel industry - will.
Like the CDT, traversing the steep and unpredictable terrain of documentary storytelling has been both challenging and immeasurably rewarding. We’ve woven together stories spanning the length of the US into a compelling, informative, and empowering tool to activate both individuals and communities. With over twenty-six hours of dense and revelatory interviews, finding the heart of the story was a meditation of deep listening, bridging, and supporting the universal concepts behind winning climate struggles. The story we found is beautiful.