Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Road to Detroit Project

Jamie Henn and May Boeve have not spent their summer vacations hanging out at the beach or lounging around with friends.

Instead, these two college students - both undergraduates at Middlebury, a small, liberal-arts college in Vermont - have spent their time planning, organizing, and preparing for a national outreach campaign that is set to culminate in Detroit this weekend.

The focus of the summer-long endeavor, called
Road to Detroit (RTD), is two-fold: the first goal is to educate America's youth about the negative by-products of oil consumption - pollution, loss of American jobs, shaky foreign relations, and increasing costs - and the second is to motivate this same group, the youth of America, to join with thousands of their peers in demanding that U.S. automakers step-up production of more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles.

General Motors, the world's largest automaker, is rapidly losing marketshare to Toyota. Would a plunge into more fuel-efficient vehicles help cure its woes?

"The foreign automakers are already way ahead of the American ones in terms of producing fuel-efficient cars and trucks," Boeve says. "The Detroit automakers need to recognize that...they also need to recognize that today's youth are aware of the importance of finding a less expensive, more efficient fuel source, and if Detroit is still making cars that only run on gasoline, they will lose us as customers."

Henn agrees, and points out that Detroit automakers are taking a major risk if they ignore the needs and wants of the 22 million individuals that make up the American youth population. This is largely because many of them will be purchasing cars for the first time in the next few years.

With these ideas in mind, the core members of the Road To Detroit team - 15 individuals, most of whom are college students - decided to target America's youth, an age group that the RTD members believe are often the most innovative, visionary members of a society.

So, how is the Road to Detroit campaign faring so far?

To date, the project has gotten the support of more than 11,000 people - all of whom have signed the Clean Car Pledge.

This document, which is being circulated by the RTD Outreach Bus Tour and is also available to sign online, is a personal statement that calls on auto manufacturers to begin the immediate mass-production of zero-emissions vehicles, and sets forth the promise that the next car purchase each pledge-signer makes will be for a vehicle that meets three items: fuel-emissions standards set forth by the state of California, a mileage per gallon ratio of at least 40, and product manufacturing that is done solely by union workers.

Henn, Boeve, and the rest of the Road to Detroit team aren't stopping at 11,000 signatures, though; they have an entire 3-day roster of activities set up this weekend in Detroit to encourage more youth to get involved with their campaign for cleaner cars.

* * *
The Drive the Future festivities begin on Saturday, when the Road to Detroit Bus makes an appearance in suburban Detroit's Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual event that showcases classic and unique automobiles on America's first highway, Woodward Avenue.

The RTD Bus, which has transported 7 of the project's members across more than 12,000 miles this summer, has been powered solely by biodiesel, and will certainly make a splash in this year's Cruise.

The annual Dream Cruise, which draws over one and a half million people, will be followed up with a BBQ at Royal Oak's Memorial Park, where the RTD crew and its supporters will celebrate the Motor City's innovative nature with food and fun.

Sunday is education day for the Road to Detroit crew, who will gather at Detroit's First Unitarian-Universalist Church, along with local and national environmental, academic, religious, and business leaders to inform the Detroit public about their mission, and how Detroit can play a major part in it.

Activities scheduled for Sunday include teach-ins, public seminars, theater performances, and activities centering around the country's immediate need for cleaner cars and alternative fuels.

Also on the agenda are discussions about Detroit's history of innovation, and how the Motor City can continue its legacy of invention by choosing to play a prominent role in the research and production of fuel-efficient vehicles. Sunday's events are scheduled to run from 10 am - 8 pm.

Henry Ford's Model T is considered by many as the greatest invention of the 20th century. The creation of a vehicle not dependent on fossil fuels would banish the country's reliance on oil, and reaffirm Detroit's role as the powerhouse of the auto industry.

The third, and final, day of the Road to Detroit's Drive the Future events is scheduled for Monday.

RTD team members and supporters will gather at downtown Detroit's Piquette Plant at 5 pm, where they will deliver the thousands of signatures they have collected to the automakers themselves, showing them that there is a demand for cleaner cars, and that the demand can be filled: right here in Detroit.

* * *

The Road to Detroit Dream Cruise events are scheduled from 10 am - 8 pm on Saturday, followed by a two-hour after-party, which starts at 8 pm. The BBQ will be held at Memorial Park, which is located at 13 Mile Woodward in Royal Oak.

Sunday's events run from 10 am - 8 pm at Detroit's
First Unitarian-Universalist Church on Cass and Forest.

Monday's Pledge Rally and delivery of signatures is at 5 pm at the Ford Piquette Plant in downtown Detroit. It is located three blocks east of Woodward on the corner of Piquette and Beaubien.

For more information on the Road to Detroit or the Drive the Future events in Detroit this weekend, please contact May Boeve.

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