Archive for April, 2007

Amherst, MA to New York City

April 29th, 2007 by David
Asking at the fire station in Wilbraham, MA, if we can stay the night.

Leaving Amherst, Bill and I biked south towards Connecticut. As night came on the first day, we had to find a place to camp, and Bill suggested I ask at the fire station. For those of you who followed my journeys through Latin America, you know that I stayed at almost 40 fire stations across Latin America, simply because the firefighters would let me stay with them when I asked. I asked at the Wilbraham fire station if we could stay (I showed them my patches from many different fire stations across Latin America). No, I was told. It is against the rules.

Behind the Maconi household
Dinner with the Maconi's

Fortunately, while buying some food at a gas station, we met John Maconi, who offered us camping space behind his house, as well as a shower and some dinner (he left us a comment). While in the U.S. fire stations may have more rules and more worries about liability than in Latin America, it was good to see that strangers would still welcome Bill and me into their house.

Traveling on, Bill and I biked into Hartford Connecticut, where we gave a talk at at Alchemy Juice Bar, and then into New Haven, where we gave a talk at Yale University. We also appeared in the Greenwich Post and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

From New Haven, we followed the Connecticut coast towards New York. I am still amazed by the size of U.S. houses in comparison to the houses I saw across Latin America – I remember a woman in the mountains in Peru, who lived in a three-walled hut, who asked me “Don’t you have nice houses in the U.S.?” I kept hearing that phrase as I biked. Houses in the U.S. are so comfortable.

Houses on the waterfront in Connecticut
Houses on the waterfront in Connecticut
Bill and Connecticut Shoreline

Many of these houses in southern Connecticut, which are extremely comfortable, are built right along the shoreline, and it was hard not to have another sensation passing them: Any bit of sea level rise will damage or flood so much property here. For a discussion of how much sea level may rise, you can read a former post of mine.

After a night in Greenwich Connecticut at the house of Zaac, a bicycle tourist who found out about our project, a group of cyclists met us and guided us through secondary streets and into New York City.

Team of cyclists riding into NYC
Group of cyclists to ride into NYC
Bill and David on the street in NYC

Boston to Amherst – The Journey Begins

April 23rd, 2007 by David
Cycling Boston
Presentation of the two lanterns to Bill and David at North Church

Two days ago, on Saturday morning, Bill and I met a group of riders at North Church in Boston and began our journey across the United States. Reverend Patricia von Handloss of North Church said a blessing for our journey, and then symbolically presented us with two lanterns to symbolize the lanterns that were lit for Paul Revere during the Revolutionary war. The large group of cyclists, organized by Bike Rides for Ordinary People, joined us and we cycled out of the city.

Bill, Tarptents, Campsite
A rest stop on the first day
Bill and David riding small roads through Western Massachusetts

A few more people, mostly friends of Bill and I, joined us in our two-day ride to Amherst. Arriving into Amherst, another group of cyclists, this time the North Hampton Cycling Club, rode out to meet us, and escorted us to the South Amherst Common, where even more cyclists waited to bike with us into town. So many people in Massachusetts support action on global warming, and seeing such groups makes me optimistic about what the state can do.

South Amherst Common, and the Northampton Cycling Club

Amherst, where we arrived, is my hometown – I grew up here, and it felt strange, after biking for a year and a half, to arrive somewhere I have actually lived. Arriving at the South Amherst Common, I had another realization. Every snow day in high school, my friends and I would converge on this common and play ‘snow football,’ where we tackled each other (almost) without consequences. In a global warming world, however, New England would be without snow, nixing skiing, snow forts, and, of course, snow days and snow football. Everything else would be different as well. Trees that change colors in the fall may be replaced by less intense southern species. According to one study, in a ‘a business as usual’ scenario, the climate in Massachusetts will look more like South Carolina, with over 60 days a year hotter than 90 degrees and almost no snow by the end of the century. This would also be accompanied by more variable weather – both more storms and more droughts. New England would be unrecognizable.

Part of me has the feeling of ‘you can never go home again,’ but, another part of me asks ‘why should we accept these changes?’ We can solve global warming – why not do it? Why not take major action?

We are in Amherst today, where we are staying with my parents. I visited my old Elementary school and gave a talk this morning, and Bill and I will be giving a talk tonight at my old church. Tomorrow we will bike to Hartford, and then, from there, to New Haven and then New York City.

Starting Tomorrow….

April 20th, 2007 by David
Bill scouting out North Church, where Paul Revere started his ride, and where we will start our ride in only a few days.

Tomorrow we will start our bicycle journey across the U.S. We will be starting at North Church in Boston, where Paul Revere started his ride over two hundred years ago. The America we live in today was determined by what our ancestors did during the American Revolution, and it only seems fitting that we are starting from the same church and calling for action on global warming. Two hundred years from now, maybe people will look back on our generation as the generation that left them a better world.

A number of cyclists will be joining us for this send off, as Bike Rides for Ordinary People is organizing a ride, so, if you are in Boston and have a bicycle, feel free to join us. We are meeting at 8:45 at North Church. (To the right is a picture of Bill scouting out the church). Other events of note in the past few weeks: Bill and I gave our first presentation at the Boston REI and I also attended rallies last weekend for Step it Up. We are starting to get some press as well (including recently appearing on, and, of course, spending a lot of time working on our presentation, our route, and contacts down the road (photo left of us working).

Bill and David working hard to get ready for the trip.
A Step it Up rally in Sommerville
Presentation at REI Boston

Personally, I am still recovering a bit from returning to the U.S. after biking across Latin America the past 17 months. It has been disorienting to undo in one plane flight what took 17 months to bike, and I underestimated the amount of time I would need between trips to organize my photos, spend time with my family, and contact old friends, let alone prepare for this next trip. Nonetheless, I know that now is the right time to start across the U.S. and while it has been stressful to have such a short turnaround time, I also know that this is the right thing to do now.

The trip begins tomorrow. Follow us via our email list, or keep checking in here!

Getting ready to ride…

April 17th, 2007 by Bill
The stormy Nor’easter has just about passed and we are getting ready to begin the ride this Saturday. We’ll be starting at the Old North Church in Boston where Paul Revere rode away in April, 1775.

Someone told me that if you want to hate this country you should read the newspaper every day, and if you want to love this country you should ride a bicycle across it. I have to admit that reading newspaper articles about global warming can be depressing (see story below). But the story they are often telling is what happens if we don’t do something to address global warming. The other story, which not told enough, is what happens if we do. This is the story we’ll be telling as we travel across the USA. There is a crisis and an opportunity in our future.

Ex-U.S. military chiefs warn warming worsens security

Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:17PM BST

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Global climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” in some of the world’s most volatile areas, and raises tensions even in stable regions, 11 former U.S. military leaders warned on Monday.

To combat this, they urged immediate planning and international cooperation without waiting for total certainty on the consequences of global warming.

“We can’t wait until we have absolute certainty,” retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former U.S. Army chief of staff, said at a briefing where the report was released. “We know that we never have 100 percent certainty and … if we wait, we might wait too long.”

The military leaders’ assessment of the national and international security risks posed by global warming was made public on the eve of the first debate in the U.N. Security Council on climate change.

Their report found climate change is a “threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.”

Extreme weather events, drought, flooding, sea level rises, retreating glaciers, habitat shifts and the increased spread of life-threatening diseases are part of the threat that could prompt U.S. military involvement, the report found.

These climate problems factors will make life more difficult in places that are already unstable, including parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states.

“The U.S. may be drawn more frequently into these situations, either alone or with allies, to help provide stability before conditions worsen and are exploited by extremists,” the report said.


Beyond this, the United States and Europe could be pressured to accept environmental refugees as drought increases and food production declines in parts of Latin America and Africa.

The United States — the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases that spur climate change — needs to form strong partnerships with developed and developing countries, including China and India, where emissions and economic power are growing, the report said.

“This is an issue that the United States alone can’t solve,” said retired Adm. Joseph Prueher, former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. ambassador to China.

Vice Adm. Richard Truly, a former astronaut and NASA administrator, noted the threat of global warming will be different from other threats to stability.

“It’s not going to be the sudden appearance of something that we can deploy, plan on and deal with,” Truly said. “It’s going to come upon us very slowly in an incremental fashion … it’s going to be happening essentially everywhere all at the same time …

“These are going to be the kind of hard-to-predict stresses that go beyond climate into geopolitics,” Truly said.

The report, published by the non-partisan CNA Corporation think tank, adds to a chorus of unexpected voices calling for urgent action to curb global warming.

These include corporate leaders who joined with environmental groups to call for mandatory caps on U.S. carbon emissions, evangelical Christians who called for environmental stewardship, and the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollutants.