Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

Awards for The Bicycle Diaries

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

When you publish a book, you don’t know how it is going to be received. Will anybody read it? And if they do, will they like it? I’d like to say that I don’t care much about the response — that I’m content to have published a book that I’m proud of — but let’s be honest. It makes a huge difference what readers say.

I’m extremely honored to have 50 positive reviews on Amazon. It was even encouraging that some ‘climate skeptics’ read the book and enjoyed it.

Also, at the recommendation of my editor, I submitted The Bicycle Diaries for a number of awards. The book has been honored with the following:

  • Shelf Unbound Notable Book of 2014
  • Finalist for the 2015 Montaigne Medal
  • Finalist for Forward Review’s IndieFab Book of the Year
  • Finalist for the 2015 Eric Hoffer Award
  • Runner up in the General Non-Fiction category at the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
  • Bronze Medal for Travel Essay, 2015 Independent Publisher Book
  • Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 9.29.25 AM

    The Man Who Made My Bicycle: Bruce Gordon

    Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

    This past weekend Lindsey and I took a bus to Petaluma and then biked back to San Francisco over the next two days, enjoying a lazy 40-mile-per-day bike tour.

    In Petaluma, before we started our ride, we stopped by Bruce Gordon Cycles. A little over twelve years ago, Bruce welded together del Fuego, a bike that I have since ridden from California to Argentina, Turkey to Myanmar, and across the U.S. twice. All told, I’ve traversed more than 32,000 miles on the frame (every other part of the bike, except the racks, has been replaced).

    Bruce makes very nice bicycles (del Fuego was a graduation gift from my Dad — I wouldn’t have gotten such a nice bike otherwise). At Bruce’s store, he showed me a number of show bikes that he’s made over the years.

    You can also see pictures from Lindsey’s and my weekend tour here.

    East Coast Tour Pictures

    Friday, April 24th, 2015

    My book and slideshow tour was more or less an extension of our past 10 months of travel—every day I had to figure out how to get to the next venue, where I’d be spending the night, and pack and unpack my panniers.

    I flew to DC on a Wednesday (Lindsey joined later, in New York). I assembled del Fuego at the airport (thank you S&S couplers), rolled up the soft-case bicycle bag, and started biking toward the city.

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    Through a combination of cycling, trains, buses, and car rides, I made it from DC to my hometown of Amherst, giving 10 presentations in under two weeks. It was a great way to share the stories from my journeys; I’m also glad now to be taking some time off!

    Below are some of the best pictures from this trip. An album of the best pictures is here on flickr.

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book Tour

    East Coast Book and Slideshow Tour – March 26th to April 7th

    Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

    I will be doing a short tour through cities in the Northeast to share stories from this journey and also my book, The Bicycle Diaries, a Shelf Unbound Notable Book of 2014. The slideshow will include the best pictures and videos from 30,000 miles of bicycle touring across three continents and 28 countries — and it will also share the on-the-ground observations of the challenge of climate change. Copies of The Bicycle Diaries will be available for sale.

    Click on the links for the location of each event.

    Washington DC – Thursday, March 26th, 8:00pm – Bicycle Space (Facebook)
    Baltimore – Friday, March 27th, 8:30pm – Red Emma’s Bookstore
    Philadelphia – Saturday, March 28th, 6:30pm – Conshohocken REI (Facebook)
    Philadelphia – Sunday, March 29th, 2pm – Marlton REI (Facebook)
    New York City – Monday, March 30th, 7pm – NYC Velo at Hell’s Kitchen Location (Facebook)
    Brooklyn – Tuesday, March 31st, 7pm – Red Lantern Bicycles (Facebook)
    New Haven – Wednesday, April 1, 6pm – The Grove (hosted by Elm City Cycling)
    Boston – Thursday, April 2, 7pm – Trident Booksellers and Cafe (Facebook)
    Amherst, MA – Tuesday, April 7, 7pm – First Congregational Church of Amherst

    Get The Bicycle Diaries for FREE

    Monday, June 23rd, 2014

    This Monday to Thursday, my book, The Bicycle Diaries, will be FREE to download to any Kindle device. Just go to Amazon and click to download.

    This is a special limited promotion, designed to get this story into more hands. So, get the book in your hands, and tell your friends!

    Five Chinas & The Cartoon Guide to Climate Change

    Sunday, June 15th, 2014

    In the past six weeks, Lindsey and I have biked across Turkey, talking to people about climate change. While a summary of our impressions can be found in this blog post, what struck us the most is how much new infrastructure — and especially power plants — Turkey is building. In fact, in the next decade, the country plans to almost double its electrical generating capacity.

    I’ve been looking for good ways to explain why this is a problem. Turkey’s per capita emissions are about one quarter of the U.S.’s, comparable with China’s per capita emissions. Turkey makes up only one percent of the global population, and emits only about one percent of human-produced greenhouse gases — why should it matter if they dramatically increase their emissions?

    A great explanation can be found below, courtesy of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, a new book by Grady Klein and “Stand Up Economist” Yoram Bauman. It sums up why “business as usual” is a major problem. If Turkey, and all of the other countries with similar per capita emissions, “catch up” with the developed world using energy from fossil fuels, emissions – and global warming – will spiral out of control.

    80a copy

    80b copy

    81a copy

    81b copy

    The Future of Energy in Turkey

    Friday, May 9th, 2014
    Highway in Istanbul

    Turkey’s economy has transformed over the past few decades. In 1960, according to the World Bank, the country’s GDP per capita was just over $250 – roughly the level of the poorest country on earth today. Now the average Turk is more than 40 times wealthier, and the country is, by many standards, a developed nation. The past decade has been particularly prosperous, with the economy more than doubling. And as we’ve traveled around Istanbul, we’ve seen signs everywhere of this growth: new buildings, packed shopping malls, and new roads.

    Unsurprisingly, energy consumption has also increased many times, and greenhouse gas emissions have increased by more than 20-fold since 1960. And there’s still room to grow – the average Turk still uses about one fifth as much electricity as the average U.S. citizen, and emissions per person are much lower than in most wealthy countries.

    What does the future look like? Will emissions keep climbing? How can a country like Turkey keep increasing the wealth of its citizens, yet also cut greenhouse gases?

    To answer these questions, while in Istanbul Lindsey and I spoke with Adonai Herrera-Martínez of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The bank, a public institution, was founded in the early 1990s, largely to help former Soviet countries transition to market economies. Unlike other multilateral public banks (such as the World Bank), the EBRD provides financing largely for the private sector. Adonai is the Principal Manager for Energy Efficiency and Climate Change, and his projects help industries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

    According to Adonai, the next decade in Turkey may look very different from the past decade. In the past decade, the growth in electricity consumption was supplied largely by coal or natural gas. In the next decade, the government plans for gas and coal to continue to play a role, but also intends for almost half of the new capacity will be provided by wind power. In other words, according to this official plan, natural gas will grow more slowly, and renewables other than hydropower – of which there are barely any today – will jump upward on the graph below.

    The reason, Adonai explained, is twofold. First, and most importantly, the government wants to be “energy independent” and reduce its exposure to foreign markets (although the country does have coal reserves, so it may increase coal while decreasing natural gas use). Second, because Turkey is considering joining the European Union, and because the EU requires its members to set emissions targets, Turkey must develop such targets. Thus, through a combination of a desire for energy independence and pressure from the international community, renewables have a bright future in Turkey. This is, though, only a government projection and goal – whether or not it is met depends on many factors.

    But even if the government meets these targets, Turkey’s emissions will continue to rise. In the best-case scenario, emissions will rise “only 30 percent” by 2030. And this is, I think, what success looks like in the next decade or two: Emissions from rapidly developing countries grow much more slowly, even though their economies continue to grow quickly. (Although Turkey’s per capita emissions will still be far below that of the United States.) In the long run, though, we need to figure out how to grow economies and decrease emissions.

    Below are two videos of me talking with Adonai. The first is an interview, and the second is a longer, more informal discussion on energy issues and development.

    A Week in Istanbul

    Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

    We have just wrapped up almost a full week in Istanbul — we stayed longer than expected, partially because we enjoyed the city so much. A few of the most memorable moments:

    Hosts. We stayed with two different hosts in Istanbul: a couple from the U.S., Dawn and Heesoo, and a cyclist from Istanbul, Kemal. Both were fantastic, and allowed us many days to get our bearing (and lent us their metro cards). Dawn and Heesoo told us what it’s like to be an American living in Istanbul, and Kemal helped us with our Turkish and played folk music for us.

    City Layout. Istanbul is partially in Europe and partially in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus, a waterway connecting the Black Sea and Mediterranean. The city’s center is on the European side, including the old city, but we did cross over to Asia to visit a bike shop and the Turkish Water Institute. Also, Istanbul is huge: more than 15 million people live here.

    Traffic (on streets and sidewalks). There is a lot of it. And right of way is determined by whoever gets in front first. We are getting better at this, both on the road with our bikes, and on the sidewalk.

    Our Turkish. It is improving. We can now count to five, say hello, thank you, how much, and a few other necessities. It is challenging, though, when something costs six Turkish Lira, and we’re still struggling to hear the difference between o and ö.

    Turkish Water Institute. We visited the Turkish Water Institute, a government-sponsored think tank, and interviewed a few of their employees and their president. Stay tuned for a blog entry on Turkey’s water situation!

    Energy in Turkey. We also visited the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where we talked with someone who is promoting investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. More soon on Turkey’s energy situation (short story: the economy is growing quickly, and so is demand for energy).

    History. Istanbul was the capital of two empires — the Byzantine and the Ottoman — and we see why both empires chose this spot. Istanbul sits on a hill (technically, 7 hills – what is it with great cities being on 7 hills?), almost entirely surrounded by water, overlooking the narrow strait that connects the Black Sea and Mediterranean. In our week, we found some time to be tourists: We biked by city walls more than a millennium old, visited the palace of Sultans, took a cruise on the Bosphorous, and walked inside Aya Sophia, which was the world’s largest church for nearly a thousand years, and was then converted into a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city.

    Protests. See the next blog entry… or look at the photos in the previous.

    What’s Next. We are now biking to Ankara. We’ll probably be offline much of the next week!

    We’re Off!

    Thursday, April 24th, 2014

    next photo

    At SFO

    At SFO

    Why We Are Biking Across Asia

    Monday, April 21st, 2014

    Lindsey and I just turned 35. We’re at the point in our lives when we’re supposed to start a family or plunge fully into our careers. Some of our friends are buying houses, others are waiting for their second child, and a few are negotiating for tenure track professorships. In contrast, Lindsey and I just left our jobs—hers with the state of California helping communities adapt to sea level rise, mine with a private foundation researching global environmental challenges.

    Next Thursday we will pack our bikes into cardboard boxes, take them to the San Francisco airport, and get on a plane to Istanbul. And then, over the next eight to twelve months, we will pedal more than 8,000 miles from Turkey to Bangladesh.

    (Note about this map: we may have to skip large parts of the route in China due to challenges with visas.)

    People have asked if this is our honeymoon (we got married last November), and to some degree it is, although we started planning this journey well before we got engaged. The real reason we’re doing this ride is the same reason we chose careers focused on global environmental issues: We’re fascinated by our planet, and we want to explore it in order to better understand it and meet the people with whom we share it. And, in our opinion, the best way to experience a large swath of the Earth is to bike at 10 miles per hour for months on end, riding at the mercy of the elements and learning about the lives of people we meet along the way.

    Eight and a half years ago I departed on a similar journey, leaving a research job at Stanford to bike to the southern tip of South America. As I traveled, I used my background in climate science to draw attention to the effects of climate change. My goal was to broadcast a message: Climate change is serious, and we need to act. While I reached many people with this message, through both classroom presentations and media appearances, what struck me the most was how my own views changed, and how much I learned.

    While I set out to talk about climate change, I witnessed firsthand many other global challenges, such as poverty and violent conflict. Climate change is just one of many pressing problems that humanity faces, and these problems are all interconnected—we’ll have to reduce emissions while also increasing energy for people around the globe who currently use almost none. The trip also deeply personalized the threat of climate change; sharing meals with subsistence farmers who suffer due to storms and droughts, and visiting unique ecosystems that may be destroyed by rising temperatures, showed me just what is at risk.

    I have captured this trip – the adventure, and what I learned – in my recent book, The Bicycle Diaries: My 21,000-Mile Ride for the Climate. On this next journey through Asia, Lindsey and I will continue the effort to put a face on climate change and to expand our own understanding of the issue. We’ll be writing here, and on our website, about our trip and about what climate change means for the places we visit.

    It’s an enormous privilege to take time to explore the world, and we know that long bicycle trips documenting areas at risk won’t solve climate change (the carbon emissions from our flight to Asia will actually make it worse). But we do believe that if we’re to build public will to address this challenge, we need to do a better job understanding how our emissions affect both our backyard and the far ends of the earth. Our goal is to increase people’s understanding and encourage action through sharing what we learn – we’ll be giving presentations during our trip and when we return to the U.S.

    The countries we plan to bike through face serious challenges: In Turkey and the surrounding Mediterranean region, drought is expected to increase dramatically. Water shortages may have even played a role in the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria. The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, once one of the world’s largest lakes, has shrunk from overuse to less than one-tenth its original size. Though not caused by climate change, this environmental disaster highlights the extent of our dependence on natural resources, many of which are threatened by rising temperatures. Further south—in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh—people in some of the most densely populated river basins in the world live under the threat of flooding every year, and rising sea levels put tens of millions of people at risk.

    Or at least, that’s what we’ve read. Next week, we’re going to get on our bikes and see for ourselves. Follow us here, or on, and we’ll share with you what we learn.