A testament to the life of Mark Baumer

Image credit: Unsplash

Mark Baumer seemed more like a character from a film than something belonging to today’s world. Long-haired, large, wiry glasses, an irrepressible spirit of life that glimmered through even in still photos – he was the American activist, author and poet who set out in October of last year to walk across America bare-foot to raise awareness for climate change.

Tragically, he was struck by an SUV on Saturday, 21st January, while walking along Highway 90 in Walton County. He died at the scene, and with him, one of the most unique and personal forms of expression of recent times.

Baumer’s journey to reach the Pacific Ocean from the East Coast was his second attempt; he had first succeeded in reaching the beaches of Los Angeles in 2010, a feat he accomplished in just 81 days.

Reminiscent of Forrest Gump’s own coast-to-coast journey across America, Baumer set out for the second time in October, armed with few possessions and a desire to raise donations on behalf of the environmental organisation FANG Collective.

Look him up on Google Images, and you will find many of them are of him sitting on the ground, his legs stretched toward the camera and his feet covered in grit and calluses. They were his marks of honour, his personal emblems, physical evidence for his own walk through life.

His mission statement on crowdfunding page YouCaring is “Crossing America Barefoot to Save Earth from Climate Change”. It may sound like a grand ideal, but although Baumer admitted that such a great distance was a “lofty goal” on his crowdfunding page, his subsequent statement was revealing of his determination to try anyway: “If we are ever going to overcome climate change we all need to do everything we can to stop it.” Everything, for Baumer, was crossing America.

Activism can take many forms – more people undertake it by donating money, but effort, regardless of the form it takes, is effort nonetheless. Baumer walked so that we would take on the mantle in our own ways. In a time of uncertainty and divisive politics, seeing a man traverse so bravely in the name of a worthy cause was all the more inspiring.

A car accident can feel like a fleeting moment, but the legacy that Baumer left behind will not; the fact that donations on his crowdfunding page have far surpassed his US$10,000 goal to US$25,608 (as of 31st January) is proof of this.

"Why stop at 10k," he posted on the page back in October. "I want to reach $100,000,000.” 

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