Drivers in New England may witness an unusual sight this summer; teams of 5-6 young adults on bikes, clad in bright orange t-shirts, will be lugging two 100 pound trailers from town to town to work to build upon the movement towards sustainability. The riders are part of Climate Summer, a New England wide effort started by Better Future Project to raise both awareness of climate change and the energy to fight it. There is one team of riders per state (Rhode Island and Connecticut are one team) which travel exclusively by bicycle. The teams bike to and stay in one community a week, and work with members of the community who are involved in some form of sustainability effort, and try to connect their work to others’ in order to strengthen the movement away from fossil fuels.
Team Maine has spent time in Biddeford, Portland, Lewiston, and Belfast, working with as many groups and leaders as possible who are working in some way towards a sustainable future. The team has been working to connect communities in Maine, and has worked with the Bike Coalition of Maine, Cultivating Community, 350 Maine, and other organizations. The team has already worked in Biddeford, Portland, Lewiston, and Belfast, and will be working in Rockland, Cumberland, and York in the coming weeks.
The program’s main focus is building upon the movement against fossil fuels; a movement which they say is already well underway. Team Maine is concerned, however, about the plans announced for the Trail Breaker pipeline, which currently transports natural gas from Portland to Canada. If the plans go through, the pipeline will begin to take tar sands from Canada to be shipped out of Portland. Several members of the group already have experience opposing tar sands. Rider Laura Lea Rubino, who was at the Keystone XL protest in Washington D.C. this past fall, expressed her concerns, “Tar sands are thick and carbon-intensive. Their development shows a marked unwillingness to address the root cause of climate change.” The group is working with 350 Maine to create a day of action on August 4th about the issue.
“A lot of effort has been spent on trying to inform the public about the science supporting predictions made about global warming,” says rider Trevor Culhane, “but this hasn’t created the response we need. We’ve been trying to emphasize the human health impacts that climate change is going to have, to try to connect with people on a more emotional level.” Some of these impacts, such as deaths due to the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves and natural disasters have already begun to occur, says Trevor. “At least 46 people have died from the recent heat wave in the US according to the Washington Post, and severe hurricanes and other natural disasters are becoming all too common.”
The group emphasized staying positive, because they all know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by a problem as big as climate change. Every rider expressed serious concerns about their future and their children’s futures, and agreed with rider Sara Mitsinikos when she said that, “this is the most important work we could be doing right now.” Although they don’t claim to have all the solutions, they are hopeful about the developments in Portland, and hope the city continues to pursue efforts towards sustainability.
The program is adamant about the consequences of a continued dependence on fossil fuels, “climate change has already started to cause serious effects like increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and there are going to be serious numbers of climate refugees and homes underwater if we keep emitting greenhouse gases the way we have been.” One of the groups’ efforts is a petition directed at the fossil fuel industry, asking for a return of fossil fuel subsidy money. “We have tried working through the federal government to get rid of these subsidies, and time and time again we’ve been overwhelmed by corporate lobbyists and donations. We need to highlight the root cause of climate change, and show that we aren’t willing to give taxpayer money to the industries that are creating this disaster.”