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In, and On, UTopia

By April 24, 2019May 27th, 2019One Comment

I’m On TV, And It Isn’t The Local News!

In case you don’t follow us on Instagram, we are no longer in Texas.

We hoisted sail in early March and left Gleatherland’s safe harbor in our wake. Despite headwinds, doldrums, and a few groundings, we made it to the California territory in time to enjoy a sample of the soggy spring they had. I raced in a race in Santa Barbara, then Vikki and I parted ways as she drove to Los Angeles and then Bishop (Women’s Climbing Festival) for work. 

I drove the truck and the dog back to Utah, because I had to host a TV show.

That feels weird to say. Let me try to explain.

It ain’t a secret that we are fond of Joe’s Valley. Through the years of coordinating the Festival here, we’ve had the benefit of getting to know a lot of the locals. One of those locals is the mayor of Castle Dale, Danny Van Waggoner. 

Mayor of Castle Dale, Danny Van Wagoner.

One night in December I get a text message from Danny, who says he’s sitting with Erik, the producer of UTopia TV. He says Erik’s looking to replace broadcasting legend Jim Kelly with a team of younger co-hosts. Danny says I’d be perfect, and I should give Erik a call. So I do.

UTopia- Inspiring Conservation Through Recreation

UTopia is a 1/2-hour, weekly program that highlights Utah’s incredible outdoor recreation options, while informing viewers about conservation-related projects and politics. They’ve made episodes about climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon, mountain biking the San Rafael Swell, and hiking Goblin Valley, while educating viewers about issues like destructive forest management practices, the politics of (and threats to) public lands, and food waste. The program airs every Sunday at 11:30AM on KJZZ (pronounced K-Jazz…like the NBA team). 

UTopia BTS.

Vikki and I watched a couple of episodes on the website, and agreed that our goals and values align perfectly with the messaging of UTopia. I signed the contract.

Passion Project, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Absurdity Of An Economic System That Rewards Material Creation While Ignoring Externalities

I met Erik for the first time in person on March 19th, the day we filmed for the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival episode. Lemme tell ya, I ain’t used to my mug being the focal point for lights and cameras; I prefer the “dark side of the lens.” Watching Erik and his (not very big) crew at work rather effectively demonstrated that UTopia is not anyone’s cash cow. Instead, this is a project brought about by people who are excited by the chance to share their stories and knowledge in such a way as to nudge society in a healthier direction.

Me, on TV.

In a perfect world, an educational program about recreation on public lands, political involvement, and environmental stewardship would automatically receive some kind of subsidy or grant. Even in today’s world, I’d wager the majority of taxpayers would prefer to fund a show like UTopia than, I dunno, paying for the legal defense of elected officials caught sexually harassing subordinates, or buying bombs to drop on Yemen.

Then again, the world’s a funny place. According to the economy, it’s fine to cause earthquakes in an effort to pump oil out of the ground, because that oil could be turned into a lightweight, food-grade, injection-molded solid in the shape of a small spoon to accompany a knife and fork in a little plastic sleeve to be thrown away, all because washing a spoon is, sometimes, a little inconvenient. Tis a far, far better thing, to have too many plastic spoons in the ocean, than to hold up Progress while someone washes the dishes.

The beauty of being on TV.

We ain’t Jesus. We get 18 mpg (closer to 10 with trailer in tow). We order crap on Amazon. We throw stuff away because recycling is barely extant in rural Utah. But we try. Our home energy needs are minimal, and partially provided by solar panels. We rarely get take out, horrified as we are by the absurdity of single-use styrofoam food trays. We don’t accrue things for things’ sake because “the things you own end up owning you.” And anyway, we are more or less maxed out for storage.

I’m excited to see how UTopia progresses, and I hope people continue to develop this kind of programming. I just recently heard about a show called “Oregon Field Guide” that’s been on OPB for 30 years (!) and counting. Wonder what else is out there?

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