Dear Indiana: Let’s Be Awesome and Break a World Record Because We Can – World’s Largest Domino

Fact #1

The largest group of scientists ever assembled in human history say we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030.

If we don’t, among other effects, this could cause between 100 million and 1 billion “climate refugees” around the world. If this isn’t your highest priority please immerse yourself in this article (or this interview with the author).

Fact #2

This is an enormous undertaking — like how we mobilized for World War II.

Fact #3

The scale of the crisis often feels overwhelming.

We doubt we can have a positive impact — or we don’t know where to start — so we just shut down.

Fact #4

Our collective consciousness is not giving this the attention it deserves.

Which brings us to…

Fact #5

A domino can knock over another domino 150% it’s size.

They look innocent enough… Ba hahahaha!

I was never the same after seeing this video. It’s the perfect demonstration of how “a mustard seed of faith (and action!) can move a mountain.”

Some domino nut even wrote a scientific paper detailing this phenomenon.

So I commissioned a digital artist to create this for any presentations I give:

Please, whatever you do, do NOT stare into this animation for more than two minutes and 45 seconds. Don’t do it. Don’t!

About a year later I asked my friends: “Know any woodworkers?” Despi Ross put me in touch with my new friend Jamison Hemmert. He finished it a few days later.

We blocked the road because… science.
Jamison Hemmert was building a treehouse. He took a break to indulge my bizarre request.
The result: first David hiccups, then he knocks over Goliath.

When I picked the dominos up, I told Jamison about the youth climate strikes last spring. 50,000 people participated in over 100 countries.

And kids are organizing more strikes this September. It’s going to be enormous.

“We need to stage a spectacle,” I said. “Something fun which will get everyone’s attention in Indiana and inspire them.”

“What if we broke a Guinness World Record for the largest domino toppled?Thousands would come to see such an outlandish sight.”

“And what if each of the dominos had goals painted on it like ‘shut down the Petersburg coal plant‘ or ‘100% renewable energy?’ We could rally Indiana’s environmental community! This could be the movement’s Rosa Parks moment!”

Can Indiana beat North Carolina’s no good, downright measly 30 foot domino? Here’s one of the largest dominoes in the world:

“You know what,” he said, “You need to talk with the people in Casey, Illinois (“Big Things Small Town”). They’ve broken Guinness records for outrageously large things.”

World’s largest mailbox.
World’s largest rocking chair.
World’s largest pitchfork.

A week later I was on the phone with Jim Bolin, the mastermind himself.

Jim with the world’s largest knitting needles. Giant grandma not pictured.

Jim told me that Casey, Illinois has about 2,000 people.

“You know many small towns are shutting down. Everyone is moving to the larger cities. Everything is a pendulum. I think more people are going to move back to small towns.”

He told me about the global media attention he’s garnered for his town — with tens of thousands of his own money. This man is incredible.

“I do this to give back to my community. As people learn about us maybe some will visit. Maybe some of them will move here.”

“I’d rather have 100 small companies open shop here with 10-15 employees each than I would one huge factory. Maybe that’s what will happen. We’ll attract people to live here and create a life for themselves.”

“You know what,” he said. “I could help you. This could be a collaboration. I’d love to break world records with large objects like these in small towns along the National Old Trails Road. It would give people a reason to go on a road trip across the country and rediscover small towns.”

The National Old Trails Road stretches 3,096 miles — right through Indianapolis, Indiana.

Before we hung up I agreed to visit him in a week.

To be continued.

Post Script

Mechai Viravaidya saved over 7 million lives, according to the World Bank. It’s a shame nobody’s ever heard of him. Read his story here.

Critical to his success, he said, were the symbols he created. “In every program you need a symbol.”

Dominos could become our symbol. Breaking a world record is ridiculous, fun, inspiring. It’ll get us laughing… and thinking about what’s possible.

Mechai Viravaidya. Read his story here.

Post Script^2

On the weekends, C-SPAN airs book discussions. For example, you may see a history professor talk about her new book on George Washington.

Several years ago I saw one I’ll never forget.

It was about how the Statue of Liberty came to be. The Frenchman Édouard René de Laboulaye imagined it as a symbol for liberty. His friend, the architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi described it to anyone who would listen. It took incredible persistence. He had to keep the vision alive in his mind even though many said it was unreasonable.

Now we have French imagination to thank for giving us our country’s most magnificent symbol.

The full discussion is worth watching: Edward Berenson, author of Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story, discusses his book with Melissa Martens.

Thank you French imagination.

Post Script^3

Jim Boling and his son Drew want to help Indianapolis break this Guinness Record. To be continued…

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