Sitting on his front porch one day, Joe is approached by two
strangers on bicycles. They strike up a conversation. A factory
worker from London, Ohio, Joe says he’s concerned about being
laid off from his job making replacement vents for Ford and Chevy
vehicles. He lives in the house he grew up in, and talks about how
the neighborhood has changed over the years.
Asked to share his views on the environment, he says he
doesn’t have any. Eventually, he opens up about how the
factory he relies on to earn a living is the top polluter of the
Then there’s the woman fishing in Saratoga, Wyo. She walks
to her job in town, and hunts and fishes for the majority of her
food. She, too, insists she doesn’t have much of an opinion
on environmental issues, but later says: “It doesn’t
matter what you eat, it comes from the earth. It doesn’t
matter what you wear, it comes from the earth.”
These are just two of the many people UB alumnus Alan Winslow
and his partner, Morrigan McCarthy, encountered in 2008 on their
11,000-mile bicycle journey across America documenting the views of
ordinary folks about the environment. Many of the people they spoke
with shared the same sentiments as Joe.
“He, just like many other people, told us that
they’re not ‘environmentalists’ and they would
never be labeled ‘environmentalists.’ But they are
concerned about global issues and the things that they can
impact,” Winslow says.
Winslow and McCarthy shared their adventures with an audience at
UB last month, and have put together a multimedia exhibition,
called Project Tandem, featuring photographs and audio interviews
with their subjects.
The pair’s visit to Buffalo was sponsored by UB Green, the
Interdisciplinary Degree Program in Environmental Studies and the
UB Environmental Network, with support from Buffalo Big Print,
Buffalo CarShare, Merge Restaurant and the Elmwood Village Inn.
During their trip across the country, the pair encountered some
surprises—among them trying, unsuccessfully, to outrun a
fierce hail storm in Nebraska.
Most surprising, though, was the fact that while many of the
people they interviewed and photographed shared concerns about
their natural habitat, many—even those who by their actions
appeared to be stewards of the environment—refused to be
labeled as environmentalists. It seemed to be a bad word.
Winslow and McCarthy were living in Brooklyn when they got the
idea for Project Tandem. Initially, they planned on driving across
the country, but McCarthy’s father suggested they ride
bicycles instead. From Brooklyn, they ventured up to Maine, then
down to Florida and across the southern U.S. to San Diego, then up
to Seattle before zigzagging their way across the Midwest and back
Most of the trip was improvised. Other than following a cycling
map, “nothing was planned,” says Winslow, who graduated
from UB in 2007 with a BA in environmental studies and photography.
“Everybody that we had met, we met in passing and just
started chatting with.” Winslow and McCarthy asked their
subjects if they could photograph them and record their
The pair never stayed in a motel, opting instead to camp out,
asking permission to set up for the night on farmers’ fields
or in homeowners’ back yards. “The generosity of people
around the country was absolutely amazing,” Winslow says.
“The entire trip, we got turned down twice for a place to
It was an eye-opening experience, and they believe bicycling
made it more fulfilling. “Cycling is a great way to see the
country at 10 mph. You’re forced to look at everything and
observe everything,” Winslow says. “The culture in
these small towns is so much different. It was just a really
fascinating experience to see what’s important to
Bicycling across the country can be an unforgiving experience.
Winslow’s bike weighed more than 100 pounds fully equipped;
McCarthy’s about 80. And then there was the weather.
“The biggest mistake we made on the trip was that we rode
through tornado alley during tornado season,” McCarthy says.
She recalls trying to outrun a hail storm in Nebraska. “It
turns out, you can’t do that.”
Adds Winslow: “We researched what to do if a tornado hits
and everything told us to get under a bridge. We didn’t see a
bridge for the entire time that we were in tornado alley. The only
thing we could do was jump into ditches when these hail storms came
Many times, though, compassionate souls reached out to help the
travelers. Tammy, a single mother from Kentucky, saw Winslow and
McCarthy standing outside in a cold rain. She told her young son to
invite them in.
“She told us all about her life, gave us a ton of Gatorade
and then we left. It was just one of those sweet moments on the
road when you realize just how wonderful people can be,”
To view photos and listen to audio from Project Tandem, visit
the Project Tandem