by Eileen Weber
A little over a week ago, five college-aged bikers whisked through New Haven. Why, you ask? They’ve been on a more than 900-mile journey as a statement of solidarity against the burning of fossil fuels, of course.
In a day and age in which the tangible signs of environmental damage—from climate change to air pollution and everything in between—the danger of fossil fuels is all too real. And these students are trying to make that point on two wheels instead of four with an exhaust pipe.
Some of the riders are from the Northeast region; some are from as far away as Singapore. But like any self-respecting environmentalist, they are all united on the concept that we must change the way we live in order to preserve our planet for future generations.
“Instead of being dependent on fossil fuels, we should be dependent on each other and rely on renewable resources,” said team member Tara Escudero in a recent press release.
The team also keeps a blog of their travels and Escudero has her own comments on the ride so far. In one entry posted on July 31, she mentioned that the experience turned out to be less about the environment and more about realizing a sense of community. In all this time riding around, the team’s focus has been finding shelter and food in their down time. That has led them to strangers opening their homes to them in different towns. It has also helped them see what makes a community thrive and what doesn’t.
Escudero discussed the fact that New Haven has a hopping nightlife while other Connecticut cities like Hartford fall asleep once it gets dark. The concept of “live, work, and play” all occur simultaneously in New Haven.
“I’d expected this summer to teach me about reconnecting with the earth,” she said, “but it has instead been an extended lesson in the need to reconnect with our homes, our neighbors and our communities.”
But isn’t that how grassroots movements start? One neighbor mentions an idea to another neighbor, et voilà! Suddenly, things change. Whether it’s banning plastic bags at the local supermarket or pushing for single stream recycling, communities have a voice and they can use them to make a difference.
While a sense of community has added to their experience, the students are all too aware what this ride has been really all about. Carrie Watkins, who is enrolled at Brandeis University, blogged that her plan to change the world had been to graduate and get a nice environmental non-profit job.
“I realized that there’s no time to wait around until fighting climate change is more convenient or pays well, and I can’t just hope someone else will fix it.” she said. “We are all part of the problem, and we are all affected by it, so we all have a responsibility to work together to fight it. I wanted to live that realization, and I wanted to spread that message to as many people as I could, so here I am.”
The group of students is one of six teams participating in New England Climate Summer, a program of Better Future Project that aims to support local groups in their efforts towards sustainability while communicating the need for a rapid and responsible transition away from fossil fuels. The program also is working to compile a State of the Movement Report that will catalogue local efforts towards sustainability and serve as an inspiration and resource for other communities and organizations looking to join in the movement.
During their time in New Haven, the group is planning many different interactions with the local community, including gardening with Grow New Haven, meeting with the New Haven Office of Sustainability, tabling at the CitySeed Downtown Farmers’ Market, working on the Yale Sustainable Farm, and participating in Friday evening’s Critical Mass. Following their week in New Haven, the group will make the three-day bike ride to Roxbury, Boston, MA, where they will work with their last community before reconvening with the other five Climate Summer teams for an end-of-the-summer celebration and wrap-up.
For more information about the Climate Summer program, visit www.newenglandclimatesummer.org. You can also track the riders’ progress throughout the summer on their blog, http://climatesummer.wordpress.com, or follow Climate Summer on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of the Climate Summer blog,