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.
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.
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.
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.
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.