, a cross-country bicycle trip by a pair of activists looking to spark much-needed conversation and political action on climate, comes to town for several public events.
Mindy Ahler and Ryan Hall started their journey of more than 4,000 miles on Aug. 27, on the coast of Oregon. Retracing Lewis & Clark’s historic route, they pedaled the highways and backroads of northern-tier states like Montana and North Dakota, crossing mountains and plains.
They have mostly hauled all their own gear, and have tent-camped and stayed with contacts along the way, when possible organizing public events in towns they pass through. They've been meeting both formally and informally with people from rural areas to big cities to talk climate change and what we can do about it. They’ll wrap the trip with a series of events starting Nov. 13 in Washington, D.C.
Reached by phone this morning, they were taking the trip’s final rest day, in an apartment near Gannon University, in Erie, where they arrived yesterday. Tomorrow, on Day 70, they’ll strike out for Meadville, Slippery Rock and Sewickley before reaching Pittsburgh around mid-day Sunday for events including a “solidarity ride” with supporters, an evening presentation and, on Monday morning, a chance for local cyclists to escort them out of town on the Great Allegheny Passage
. All events are free and open to the public.
“It’s been going great,” said Ahler, the Minnesota-based regional coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby
and co-director of the nonprofit Cool Planet
. “We’ve had some really great conversations.”
Ahler and Hall are promoting not only carbon-free travel, but also legislation that would help move society away from fossil fuels by putting a price on carbon. The carbon fee and dividend
backed by Citizens' Climate Lobby would add $10 per ton of carbon emissions to fossil fuels where they are extracted (at the well or mine), then distribute the funds among households. The fee — which Hall emphasized isn't a tax because it wouldn’t fund government activities — would rise by an additional $10 per ton annually.
Hall, a three-time AmeriCorps volunteer most recently stationed in Iowa, says that he and Ahler have talked with people who work in the fossil-fuel industry and even met a few climate-deniers — including some who consider climate change a “government conspiracy.” But Hall says the main point is that — in a country where the biggest threat facing civilization
didn’t warrant a single question in any of the three presidential debates — he and Ahler are actually talking to people about climate.
“We were able to have these conversations, unlike our public officials,” says Hall. “It’s really important that our elected officials be more proactive about it.” He adds that the media ignoring climate change is a big problem, too.
Ahler says that even the pair’s discourse with climate-deniers has been civil. “It’s always been amazingly respectful,” she says. The trick, say she and Hall, is finding common ground: Even people who won’t accept that climate change is real and caused by human activity want to protect the environment and safeguard the planet for future generations.
“There’s conversation to be had about pollution,” says Hall. “There is common ground to be found, but it’s a little tricky to get there if both sides aren’t willing to seek it out,” he adds, citing the partisan divide in Congress. Hall says the fee-and-dividend proposal can garner bipartisan support because it’s a market solution rather than a regulation.
The LowCarbon Crossing Team’s Pittsburgh itinerary this Sunday includes a 1:30 p.m. media interview at thematically apt local gem Bicycle Heaven, on the North Side, after which there’ll be an informal public meet-and-greet. Bicycle Heaven, a museum and bike shop, is located at 1800 Preble Ave., in the R.J. Casey Industrial Park.
But bring your own bikes, too, because at 2:30 p.m. Ahler and Hall will head out for the solidarity ride, which will take the Riverfront Trail from Bicycle Heaven
(just downstream of the West End Bridge) to the 31st Street Bridge and then loop through the Strip District and Downtown on the way back to Bicycle Heaven.
That evening, at 6:30 p.m., Ahler and Hall will give a presentation on climate-change solutions at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
, 5801 Hampton St., in Highland Park.
And at 8:30 a.m. Mon., Nov. 7, the team will depart from REI on the South Side for the GAP Trail. Local cyclists are welcome to accompany them for as long as they wish. REI is located at 412 S. 27th St.
Even if you can’t ride, Ahler and Ryan are asking people to fill out postcards to their U.S. Senators and Congressional reps with their concerns about climate change. (Fill one out here
.) After they get off the GAP Trail and C&O Towpath, Ahler and Ryan will hand-deliver the cards in D.C.