With all the causes in the world you could support, maybe cook stoves don't top your list. But in my opinion, they should because, much like unsafe drinking water, there are serious social, environmental and economic issues that come from cooking over an open fire.
What's shocking is that 3 billion people around the world are subject to open-fire cooking every day, which means forests are disappearing, women and children are dying from smoke inhalation and families are spending vast amounts of time and money just to cook. And the reason I am walking 136 miles from San Diego to Los Angeles next week, carrying a 50-pound bundle of wood on my back, is to demonstrate what women all around the world go through just to cook.
Nearly a year after shooting the first episode of Stoveman, I find myself preparing for yet another journey. I am walking from San Diego to Los Angeles with a 50-pound bundle of wood on my back like you see in episode one of Stoveman. Only I'll be doing this for eight hours a day, 10 days straight.
Thankfully, I won't be sojourning alone. A group of supportive friends and wonderful people I've met through The Paradigm Project have elected to do this with me. Invisible Children, The Modern Gypsies, People of the Second Chance and friends from both San Diego and my hometown, Park City, Utah, will rally around what The Paradigm Project aims to do--eliminate open-fire cooking for 25 million people through 5 million clean burning cookstoves by 2020.
Where did this idea come from? Well a few months ago Paradigm CEO, Neil Bellefeuille, and I sat at a dinner table talking about how to bring to life the struggles that the women we met in Kenya face, walking up to 15 miles round trip to collect wood just to cook. We challenged ourselves to bring the issues to life here in the US and to do something different and, hopefully, special. A "woodwalk" seemed like the perfect solution - especially if it was up the Pacific Coast Highway through Southern California's most beautiful and highly trafficked neighborhoods. So we created an "African cooking experience," complete with a traditional Kenyan hut that we'll be cooking in along the way and have set up for a day at the finish line at Space 15 Twenty. We want to show you what it's like to walk into a hut where the atmosphere is the equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. We imagine most visitors will last for just seconds in the smokey hut that women and children are living in every day.
Without any blueprint for what this experience could be, we imagined what we could do to bring to light the hardships and realities experienced by women around the world just to cook. Once we put the idea out there, everything started to fall into place. Humanitarian clothing brand Jedidiah offered to create an official T-shirt, we were generously given event venues at UC San Diego and Space 15 Twenty in Hollywood and friends and supporters began to rally around us to get involved. Little Hurricane even agreed to play at our finish line on October 13th.
I honestly have no idea what to expect on this journey. I'm thankful to have Austin Mann, photographer and co-creator of Stoveman, with me as well as a long list of friends and supporters. If this walk gives me rope burns, scoliosis and no cartilage left in my knees, it will still be a small price to pay if this helps to encourage change and support for the women in East Africa through cleaner burning, more efficient cookstoves.
The Paradigm Project will be walking through Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to Los Angeles on October 4th-13th so please join us, hang out with us, honk at us and consider sponsoring us as we walk and advocate for the millions of women that cook over an open fire for every meal. For more, visit The Paradigm Project Woodwalk.