Bakersfield man passes through Berkeley on walk across country

Graph Massara /File

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Luke Wonderly rolled into Berkeley on Friday, wheeled sign in tow, as part of his attempt to walk to each of the contiguous 48 states’ capitals.

Wonderly, 57, began his “peace walk” in his hometown of Bakersfield, California, and aims to raise awareness about the Venus Project, an organization that advocates social change and a resource-based economy. After camping out in tents in Berkeley, his first destination will be Sacramento, where he hopes to speak with Gov. Jerry Brown before continuing on to Carson City, Nevada.

Though it’s not his first time on the road — he said he has hitchhiked along the West Coast of the United States before — Wonderly said the journey has been rewarding but difficult so far.

“I have no projections about what I can do,” he said. “(But) I know it needs to be done.”

Dan Staples, who said he was Wonderly’s friend, said he helped to repair the wheeled sign and the cart in which Wonderly keeps his belongings and provisions. Staples said he felt his visit with Wonderly was uplifting and praised his activism as “a respectable vision of a better world.”

The Venus Project promotes an economy based on the exchange of shared global resources rather than money, which it says is to blame for societal ills such as war, hunger and environmental pollution. For example, Wonderly said, the technology to give everyone on Earth clean drinking water exists — but the equipment would be too expensive to distribute widely, and “the guys upstairs” wouldn’t do it.

“Your society, based in money and profit, is incapable of helping human beings,” Wonderly said. “Something wonderful is happening in this world that most people are not aware of — a resource-based economy (using) Earth’s resources, shared equitably to all the Earth’s people.”

UC Berkeley professor of economics Benjamin Hermalin, however, noted in an email that when those who believe global problems can be fixed “only if we re-educate people and change their basic behavior” gain power, it can result in the dissemination of  “mass-murdering” ideologies, such as those of communist dictators.

“The history of what happens when such people get power is unbelievably nightmarish,” Hermalin said in the email.

A former ballroom dance teacher, Wonderly said his life was changed after he spent a week with the Venus Project’s founder, designer and social engineer, Jacque Fresco. Wonderly said he left a female companion and his job behind to spread awareness about the project.

“Every bit of kindness becomes manifest in our Earth,” he said.

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @BylineGraph.