Ride for Climate by State….

September 19th, 2007 by David
David, Bill, Golden Gate Bridge

We have now completed the northern route across the U.S. – a 5,000 mile, 5 month journey from Boston to San Francisco. We talked to thousands of people and gave over 45 presentations on global warming. Read our final impressions here on the next post below.

Here is an index of our trip by state – starting with Massachusetts and ending in California. Click on the state to read about our travels there. To read general comments, click here. To see all of our video logs, cick here. Thank you.

What is next? We need to take some time off, but stay tuned and check back here for a potential return trip across the south (we need to do significant fund raising and planing to make it a reality). Until then, thank you for following along, and let us know if you have suggestions for such a return trip.

Go Light

September 18th, 2007 by Bill
Bill riding through South Dakota

When I was thinking about taking on this project and the USA bicycle tour, someone told me: If you want to hate this country read the newspaper every day; if you want to love this country ride a bicycle across it. They were certainly right about the second part. We live in a country with exquisite physical beauty and amazing human diversity of all kinds. I encourage you to go see it along the back roads at ten miles per hour. It will give you hope.

Ride for Climate is simply a few people who took a bit of their time to tell people about a large problem and encourage action on solutions to the problem. The bulk of the work was done by a handful of people. Many other people supported us along the way. We gave over 45 public talks, kept a website, and reached thousands of other people through newspaper, radio and TV interviews. Anyone could do something similar. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too. I’m fairly certain that in 40 years I won’t look back and say “I wish I had done something else with that year of my life.”

One of the most striking things to me on this journey was the interest in enacting solutions to global warming once people understood the nature of the problem and the kinds of solutions that are available to us. When given good information about the problem, the vast majority of people wanted significant action. Yet, too often people were happy that someone else was taking action and speaking out without recognizing their personal responsibility to make changes in their own life and lifestyle. Too many people are still waiting for someone else to come to the rescue without recognizing that each of us can and must be a part of the solution.

Along the journey some people have posed the question “who is your target audience?” You are. Have you changed out a few light bulbs? Great – change out all of them. Have you purchased a more fuel efficient vehicle? Excellent – try to leave it parked a couple days a week and find alternative ways to get to work. Have you written to your legislators to tell them that they need to promote solutions to global warming? Don’t wait; do it today.

Some people say that personal action – changing a light bulb or getting a home energy audit – has far too little impact to address this problem. They are certainly correct – we will need to make significant policy changes and changes in the way we create and use energy if we are going to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by what scientists say is needed — at least 80% by 2050. But all of these larger changes begin with individual action – the action of a student, a soccer mom, a business leader, a politician. Don’t underestimate that first small step. A friend of mine emailed recently to tell us a story. We stopped at the summer camp she helps to run and gave a talk to the kids. One of the kids, she told us, returned home after camp to find that a new coal power plant is proposed on the Zuni reservation where she lives. She has taken it upon herself to organize a campaign to fight this new coal power plant.

We have a choice – we can have a world that is a little bit hotter or one that is a lot hotter. Science tells us that the planet will warm in the next century, but whether it warms a couple degrees or many degrees depends largely on how much carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels. Our actions in the coming years will determine if we give our children a healthy planet or one with a dangerously high fever. It is our choice.

Bike path into Hartford

I had never done a bicycle tour before this one. On April 21st, I started this bicycle tour with a ride of 60 miles. That night, tired and very sore, I looked at a map of the USA and saw how little of the ride I had completed and how incredibly far I had left to go. It felt impossible. Yet, the next day we rode 60 miles and then again the day after that. Now, five months later, I have crossed the USA and what is most apparent is not how difficult it was, but how easy it was. And so it is. Take action – you will find it is easy and it will make you happy. You’ll have something to tell your grandkids.

A few weeks ago I attended the wedding of two very close friends. On their wedding program was this poem. It seems like an appropriate way to end this portion of the journey.

In the next century

or the one beyond that,

they say,

are valleys, pastures.

We can meet there in peace

if we make it.

To climb these coming crests

one word to you, to

you and your children:

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

~Gary Snyder

Thoughts from Nicky

September 17th, 2007 by David
Dawn ride out of Bend - the sisters behind us, moon

Nicky Phear, a faculty member at the University of Montana, volunteered and coordinated our events along the west coast. She also joined us for this stretch of the trip and helped make the final weeks of Ride for Climate USA a success. She shares some of her thoughts on this trip here:

I was excited when David and Bill invited me join the Ride for Climate and set up events from Portland to San Francisco. I cast a wide net and was amazed by how inviting total strangers were to our message. Teachers brought their entire schools together for assemblies and designed curriculum around our talk; a pastor wrote a column to his congregation in advance of our visit to stress the importance of learning from climate scientists and caring for creation; the mayor of Eugene gathered her full transportation and sustainability leadership group to meet with us in Eugene.

A presentation at Zoe Barnum School in Eureka
South Fork High School in Miranda

In the three weeks that I was with Ride for Climate, we appeared on television three times, had three radio interviews, and a handful of articles in local papers. More importantly, we talked directly with over 1000 people from a wide range of demographics (through school visits, community events, churches, businesses, interviews at Safeways). After each talk we’d discuss what we felt was effective, and how the message might be best framed for this or that particular audience. It is hard to measure the success of these talks, but each time David showed pictures and spoke about the disproportionate impacts poor people in the south will suffer due to our excessive emissions, I felt the crowd grow quiet and still. When Bill spoke about solutions, people piped up with suggestions and shared ideas about initiatives in their particular communities.

Nicky, Oregon Coast

Most of us reading these blogs know things we can do to make a difference. And for those of us making a difference, it has taken hearing the message many times and from many different messengers to begin to change our ways. (It wasn’t until this last summer that I finally got an energy audit and changed my own light bulbs!) I’d like to see the Ride for Climate continue because they both motivate the choir (like me) and reach beyond the choir. It was touching to see students and church members swarm David after his talks, thank him for coming, and offer ways they were going to make a difference.

Thanks to David and Bill for their tremendous efforts and care. Thanks to everyone that hosted, fed, and funded us. I enjoyed meeting you all! And let’s try to support the return trip and make it happen!

Sonoma and the Ride into San Francisco

September 16th, 2007 by David
Biking Sonoma Wine Country

Our last few days of riding were through California’s wine country in Sonoma County. As we were approaching the San Francisco Bay Area, where both Bill and I used to live, a number of old friends either hosted us or came out and biked with us.

In Sonoma county, we gave a flurry of presentations: a talk at Roseland University Prep High School, a talk for the Santa Rosa community at New College, a talk at Marmot (Marmot sponsored us with gear), and a talk at Sonoma High School.

David gave a talk at Roseland University Prep in Santa Rosa
David and Bill gave a talk at Marmot, one of our sponsors!
Sonoma Valley High School

It is amazing how different these audiences are. At Sonoma High School, many students drive their own car to school. Roseland University Prep, on the other hand, is a charter school that serves largely an immigrant population. After the presentation, I talked to one student whose family was unable to pay their electricity bill.

After another day of biking, we reached Fairfax, just 20 miles north of the Golden Gate. On Saturday morning, a group of cyclists, mostly friends or people who have been following Ride for Climate, met us in the morning and biked across the Golden Gate bridge, celebrating the end of this leg of Ride for Climate USA.

Cyclists joining us to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco
Ride for Climate supporters celebrating on the Golden Gate Bridge
Nicky, Bill, David, Golden Gate Bridge

Another Great Reason to be in California

September 14th, 2007 by David

Two years ago, when I left California, there was no law to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Now it is law to reduce emissions by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050. This is great! And this is what we need to do. Hopefully the rest of the U.S. will be able to follow.

Return to California

September 11th, 2007 by David
David returning to California, after 22 months of biking
Nicky, California Coast

California! It is great to be back!

It has been almost two years since I left California by bike. We celebrated the return to California with a big day – a tailwind pushed us south along the coast and Nicky and I biked/sprinted 117 miles to Eureka. Nicky had to endure me talking for hours about how excited I was to return to California, and to hear me tell various stories of my eight years living in the state.

A presentation at Zoe Barnum School in Eureka

In Eureka we visited an alternative school and we gave a talk to 120 students. One of the students posed one of the hardest questions I have had yet: “If the problems of global warming are going to be 50 to 100 years down the road, why do you care?” The school, Zoe Barnum, helps students who are struggling in other schools complete high school, and many of the students have more pressing concerns than global warming.

I have thought about this question a great deal since the school visit, and I have realized that the reason I care now is different than when I started biking two years ago. The places and people at risk to global warming are real to me – subsistence farmers who rely on glacial water in Peru, ecosystems in Costa Rica where we have already seen extinctions due to global warming, islanders in the Caribbean who live two feet above sea level, or forests in Wyoming that have been destroyed by beetle infestations. I have been able to visit these places, and I am scared for their future. The students at Zoe Barnum will likely not get to travel this much (but I am sure some could). I hope I was able to convey to them some of our interconnectedness with these people and places.

South Fork High School Earth Club

From Eureka, we traveled south, riding inland through giant redwoods and giving a talk for 100 students at South Fork High School in the town of Miranda. The student Earth Club then hosted a fund raising dinner, and shared stories of how many people in these remote areas live off the grid, using solar energy and batteries to keep their houses powered.

First Presbyterian Church in Fort Bragg

Returning to the coast, we followed California’s famous highway 1 south, and arrived in the town of Fort Bragg where we gave a talk at the First Presbyterian Church on Saturday night. The pastor, Dan Fowler, let Nicky and I camp in his backyard, and the following morning we attended his service.

Dan incorporated what he learned in our global warming talk into his sermon. He remarked that he had learned that by turning the lights on in his house, he makes life more difficult for subsistence farmers in in the tropics. Dan has spent some time in Nicaragua, and he shared the recent news that a hurricane had just hit the coast of Nicaragua. He asked for prayers for those living on the coast, and remarked that our emissions of greenhouse gases are likely making hurricanes worse. What we do here affects them. Dan finished by promising to his congregation that he would bike one day a week to church.

Nicky, California Coast
Nicky, California Coast

From Fort Bragg, we continued following the rocky California coast south before cutting over the coastal mountains to Santa Rosa, where we will make our final stops before riding into San Francisco.

The Oregon Coast and Wave Power

September 5th, 2007 by David

Nicky and I arrived at the Oregon Coast at the city of Reedsport, where we learned that 2 miles off shore they are developing a project to make electricity from wave power.

While they are developing only 2 megawatts of power, about enough for 20 homes, the energy will be clean and be far more predictable than wind power. There are currently plans to install about 30 megawatts of wave power capacity throughout Oregon – producing clean electricity for about 300 homes, and helping Oregon towards its goal of producing 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Oregon Coast
David, Oregon Coast

Following the coast south, we enjoyed the rocky coastline which as been shaped by waves beating against the shore. We are now further south along the California coast – look for our next entry on visiting schools and communities along California’s north coast.

Join us on Sept. 15th in S.F.

September 3rd, 2007 by Bill
Our flier for the final ride across the Golden Gate bridge into SF

On September 15th, we will complete the 5,000 mile northern tier of Ride for Climate USA. We invite you to join us for the last 20 (or 2) miles. With the help of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, we are now organizing a group bicycle ride from Fairfax (Marin) over the Golden Gate bridge and into San Francisco on Saturday, September 15th. It will begin at 9am in Fairfax. Some people may also join us at 11am for the last 2 miles over the bridge and into San Francisco. We hope you can join us if you live in the Bay Area and be sure to tell your Bay Area friends about it. You can find out more here.

To the Oregon Coast via Eugene

September 3rd, 2007 by David
Dawn ride out of Bend - the sisters behind us, moon
The road is closed and they aren't letting bikes through.  This makes us sad.

We left Bend, Oregon before dawn in order to bike the 120 miles to Eugene in one day and arrive for our presentation that afternoon. Crossing the cascades, though, we met our match. The road was closed to construction, and they would not let bicycles through – we would have to backtrack and take a longer route.

Due to road closure, we had to hitchhike to make it to Eugene in time for our presentation.

In order to make it to Eugene that night, we hitchhiked. Nicky and I caught two rides. The first ride was from a contractor who is working to make his developments more environmental. The contractor coincidentally had a booklet about energy independence in Oregon, which we had learned about the day before by talking to the director of 3EStrategies. It was great to see that the information was getting out. The second was from a pair of hairdressers, who were excited to share that they had just started recycling. They also shared their entire life story.

In Eugene, we gave a talk at the library, appeared on television, and met with the mayor, Kitty Piercy. It was good to hear about the efforts Eugene is making to fight global warming – pushing energy efficient buildings, buying wind power for the town, and encouraging biking as a form of transportation. Kitty has signed on to the mayor’s climate protection agreement, and you can see what the town is doing at her website, sustaineugene.com.

Interview for Eugene CBS news
David meeting with the mayor of Eugene, Kitty Piercy.  Kitty is spearheading a number of sustainability projects in Eugene.
Nicky and the mayor of Eugene Kitty Piercy show off their muscle
A morning organized ride to escort us out of Eugene
Randy and Scott, two loggers out bow hunting, talked to us about logging issues in the coastal forests.

Accompanied by the Greater Eugene Riders, we left Eugene and crossed the coastal mountains, where we met Randy and Scott, two loggers who were out bow hunting. While they told us they didn’t believe in global warming (they gave us the standard ‘natural cycle’ argument), they were open and friendly to conversation with us, and it was great to see the environmental perspective of people working in the forests. It gives me hope that we will be able to work together for some solution. They also let me cock their bow.

We are now on the Oregon coast, following one of the more famous bike routes south towards California.

David, one-lane road through forest to Oregon coast
Oregon Coast Bike Route

National Public Education Campaign?

August 30th, 2007 by Bill

It felt strange for me to watch David and friends ride off from Portland and know that I would not be with them.

A group of cyclists escorts us out of Portland

But I have stayed behind for a couple weeks to begin searching for a job and to work on what will hopefully become an op-ed or otherwise published piece that highlights some of our major findings from this journey. Nicky Phear, our friend from Missoula who teaches at the University of MT, is taking my spot and the three of us will complete the ride into San Francisco. I will catch up to them in Northern California and ride the last week into San Francisco (including the big group ride on Sept. 15th!).

We’ve learned an incredible amount along this journey. As much as we have taught people about the science, impacts and solutions to global warming, we have learned from Americans all across the country. David and I both feel that a national public education campaign on global warming is necessary. There were two main things that led us to this conclusion. The first is that almost no one could explain the most basic concepts around global warming. The second is that almost everyone was open (and often strongly in favor) of the kinds of solutions that we were discussing.

We came to believe that if people had a better understanding of the problem and the kind of solutions that will be most important that we could really begin to move forward. But this will require a broad national education campaign to help all Americans understand the basic key points: global warming is a serious human-created problem, the most significant issue is carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), solutions need to deal with the quantity of fossil fuels that we are burning and that solutions (energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy) make good economic and environmental sense. We recognize that there are other important issues (methane, deforestation, etc.) but we feel that the complexity of the problem requires us to focus on the key issues.

How to best convey this information is another issue. It probably isn’t through a technical PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and footnotes. The best example I can think of from the past is the Keep America Beautiful ads from the 70’s. If you don’t remember these you can watch one here. I was about 6 years old when these aired and I still remember them well. Making a national public education campaign happen will require a President who understands the gravity of the issue. We can all take action by asking the Presidential candidates about this and supporting efforts, such as Focus the Nation, to get the candidates to make global warming a priority.