Ken Pentel believes if you are going to run an ecological campaign for governor you should at least spend some of your campaign time traveling on a bike or in a canoe.
Since starting the Ecology Democracy Network in 2008, Pentel, who doesn't own a car, has logged 7,000 miles. He also took a three-week bike tour of Central Minnesota and a three-day canoe trip campaigning down the Mississippi River.
“The reason I do what I do is to maintain the integrity of our habitat, to promote an ecology-based economy and campaign for a more representative government,” said Pentel in a telephone interview.
Much of his traveling campaign was during the oil spill in the golf floor.
“You have more time to listen and observe from a bike seat. Traveling through the suburbs of Minneapolis I realized the inefficiency of our automobiles, our homes and the suburban sprawl isn’t much different then the oil spilling out of the golf floor. Just a terrible waste,” said Pentel.
Pentel ran for Governor under the Green Party banner in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Beginning in mid-July, Pentel road up the Lake Wobegon Trail to Sauk Centre, up to Browerville, over to Brainerd on his Trek 440 carrying as much as 350 pounds.
When a breakdown led him to a Brainerd bike shop for repairs the owner noted this was the worst condition he’d ever seen a bottom bracket bike in.
From the bike Pentel stopped in small town cafes, farmsteads and campaigned door to door.
“I found popular support for what I am talking about. People in small towns and on the farms get it. They can see how our corporate consolidation has closed small town businesses. You can see how the common interest has been overcome by commercial interest,” said Pentel.
While biking through farmland he noticed the mono-culture.
“Corn, corn, corn is all I saw. I asked where are the forests. Where are the wet lands. We’ve become way too dependent on chemical agriculture,” said Pentel.
He appreciated the bike trails he road on and said as governor he would push for a trail between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, a trail along Highway 71 and a trail to Morris.
He canoed from Brainerd with a lunch break at Crow Wing State Park spending their first night camping across the river from Camp Ripley. Their goal was to reach St. Cloud but heavy head winds ended the trip at Little Falls.
At a campsite across the river from Camp Ripley then went to sleep to the sounds of guns and helicopters and woke up to the same.
“We talked about the high price this country pays to maintain its empire through the wasteful consumption and oppressing of people around the world,” said Pentel.
He said he was impressed with the beauty of the river which had very little development along the way. He agreed more political candidates should see Minnesota this way.
“The lushness of the river banks, the wildlife from loons, hawks were eagles. It gave me a renewed commitment to take care of our rivers,” added Pentel.
Pentel recommends everyone tour the state on bikes or in canoes for the fitness and a chance to slow down to listen and to think about what you hear.
“Oddly enough my strongest memory is of the horses that would follow me as I biked along. I got a good look at the beauty, the suffering and the possibilities of the rural parts of Minnesota that we need to protect from the moneyed interests,” concluded Pentel.