Online gonzo documentary SOUTHERN TIER explores environmental attitudes… on bikes

Project: Southern Tier PROMO from Jeff Hyland on Vimeo.

Traveling cross-continent by human power isn’t new: Peter Jenkins walked across the US in the seventies, and Terry Fox attempted a run across Canada in 1980. Producer Jeff Hyland, along with long-time friend Mike Tryon set out on January 1, 2008 to do something similar: cross the continent by bike along the Southern Tier of the United States. And just as Jenkins and Fox set out on their journeys to answer questions and support causes, Hyland and Tryon’s nearly four month bike ride was dedicated to exploring the question “In a world of environmental change, where are we at?”

Hyland, through his production company Positive Social Change Documentaries, is releasing a four-part web series on the ride, and the people he and Tryon met along the way. While the series’ opening may lead you to believe that SOUTHERN TIER might be another AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, Hyland’s uses climate change as an entry point into the issue of American consumption, and the toll it’s taking on the environment… so more Annie Leonard than Al Gore.

The first two episodes are available on the project’s site, and address issues ranging from plastic pollution to water consumption (in Las Vegas, of course) to solar energy developments in Phoenix. Hyland features people you’ve heard of (Ed Begley, Jr.), as well as scientists, resource management professionals, and people on the street. The third episode will be released in July (there’s a teaser up), and the fourth in December.

Each episode is about an hour long, but really engaging: Hyland intersperses the story of the journey itself (and the many challenges he and Tryon must overcome) with many short interviews, and frames environmental issues within the cultural contexts of the people dealing with them.

Check it out, and let us know what you think… I’m really enjoying it so far.