In two days, I’ll be getting on a plane to fly to New York to partake in the second Brita Climate Ride. I’m helping organize the blog along with Thom Wallace, another Climate Ride. Here is the “live blog” www.climateridelive.org. You can also donate to my ridership here.
Here is something I wrote about last year’s ride:
What do you when confronted with global warming? Change a light bulb? Retreat into a hole? I have studied the problem in detail—I have a masters’ in climate science—and even though I think I know what we need to do as a society (heavily invest in clean technology, adopt energy efficiency measures, and impose a cap on carbon emissions), I am often at a loss over what I should do on a day to day basis.
Perhaps that helplessness is why I joined the Brita Climate Ride, a five day bicycle tour from New York City to Washington DC. Of course, there were many reasons why I joined. The ride raises money for climate change advocacy groups, and it also allowed for direct advocacy—I physically visited the offices of my elected representatives. The event also exposed me to scenic rural parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, all during fantastic September weather. Perhaps the biggest draw, though, was the ability to be part of a rolling rally of people and meet those who are making a difference in this movement.
We began in New York City early on a Saturday morning. Caeli and Geraldine, two charismatic women who are the event’s the co-directors, rounded a few of us up at six a.m. to bike over to CBS studios for a brief cameo on the Early Show. Perhaps millions of viewers saw my groggy pre-coffee face along with about ten other Climate Riders, standing on a cool September morning wearing our red Brita Climate Ride jerseys.
After our brief moment of fame, we joined the hundred other Climate Riders and biked New York City’s wide avenues—which are surprisingly pleasant on a Saturday morning—and then took a 30-minute ferry to Sandy Point Hook Bay, thus avoiding Newark and the rest of “unbikeable” New Jersey.
I was joined by my father, now sixty two years old, who was riding a Bike Friday, an odd-looking bike with 16-inch wheels and a folding frame. He claimed to be riding a bike that looks like an oversized kids’ bike because he is still “trying to embarrass me.” The two of us have biked across the United States together, as well as across Nicaragua and Costa Rica. But this event was the first group ride we’ve taken together.
We cycled through rural New Jersey, passing by forested land and estates with mega-mansions, and I soon found myself chatting with other cyclists. I met Evan O’Neil, a managing editor at Policy Innovations. Evan had just turned 30 and had been planning to buy a motorcycle to celebrate. But then he received an email from Climate Ride and decided that he would buy a bicycle instead. I met Jenny Nordstrom, a recent mother who was riding with a miniature stuffed polar bear on her helmet. And I chatted with Jake Stewart, who had started a bio-fuel company in Austin, Texas. I then had to slow down and wait up for my father, who had been chatting with an ornithologist from Montana.
In Princeton, after fifty miles of pedaling, we arrived on a plush field by showers at the YMCA, where our gear was delivered by a biodiesel truck (and yes, the other support vehicles are priuses). After setting up our tents and enjoying a well-earned lasagna buffet, a few of the riders attended a talk by Betsy Taylor, the president of the 1Sky coalition, who gave an optimistic presentation on the future of the climate movement.
The next few days were fairly similar—wake up, pack up our tents, load them into the biodiesel truck, bike fifty miles, set up camp and repeat. Some of the riders rode the fifty miles by noon, while others walked their bikes when they encountered hills and finished just before sunset. I met scientists working at MIT, energy engineers from San Francisco, and even a pastor from Wasilla, Alaska. I also biked with The Lazy Environmentalist, Josh Dorfman, who is the spokesperson for Brita’s “Filter for Good” campaign.
We stayed at Valley Forge National Park, and then biked through Amish Country in Pennsylvania, riding through rolling farmland and passing horse carriages.
The final day, we followed a bike path into the center of Washington DC, where we congregated and then biked the final five miles together—a pack of 100 cyclists in their Climate Ride jerseys. Arriving at the Capitol Building, we were met by two congressmen, Lloyd Doggett from Austin, Texas and Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon. Earl, who is the head of the “bike caucus,” and who wore a suit with a bow tie, rode from his nearby office to the rally on his own bike.
Did we make a difference? The funds we raised allowed Focus the Nation and Clean Air – Cool Planet to hire new staff and apply political pressure that helped result in the recent climate legislation. And the ride itself received over 18.5 million media hits, meaning that millions noticed a group of people who were willing to take a week of vacation time to fight global warming.
I also left the event personally inspired. The people I biked with are out there every day fighting climate change in some way, whether big or small. Whether it was the mother worried about the life of her new daughter, or the Lazy Environmentalist who has a television devoted to green issues, each person was advocating change in some way. When I think of what needs to be done to fight global warming, I now think of the faces of the people I met on Climate Ride, and I think of each of them making a difference.
Climate Ride will be back this September 26th to 30th, and I will be there again. Will you be there too? For more information and to sign up, visit www.climateride.org.