Climate activists go on tour

Friday June 28, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A group of college students embarked on a long distance bicycle tour that will take a few weeks to complete. On June 27, they stopped in town to inspire local action on matters related to the climate.

"I've been worried about the environment for awhile," said Climate Summer Team Vermont-New Hampshire Media Coordinator Ben Lilley, who is also a participant in the bicycle tour.

For his summer vacation, Lilley decided to take part in Climate Summer, a bicycle program sponsored by the organization Better Future Project. The other groups involved in the program are going to be touring Maine and Massachusetts.

Lilley's group includes Julie Salvatoriello, Tara Miller, Anna McDevitt, Alli Cropsey and Brendan Rooney.

In the long distance bicycle ride, Lilley's group will stay in different towns over the course of the trip. Each stay will last about a week. The cyclists will stay at local churches mostly but also at campgrounds or even at homes if necessary.

"We're making a big loop," said Lilley, whose group will be riding from Brattleboro to Middlebury. "We're told to expect hills and lots of pretty scenery."

He said it will take about two days to get to each town that is designated for a week stay. Altogether his group's trip will span about 1,200 miles.

The Vermont-New Hampshire group began in Lowell, Mass. On June, 27, they were in Brattleboro "tabling" at the Brattleboro Bicycle Shop. It was their first week of the tour.

"Tabling" is setting up in an area where the cyclists can talk to passersby about climate issues. Lilley said that New Englanders tend to already have a lot of interest in global warming, so it may not be as difficult to convince people about the issues they are presenting as in other areas.

"Everyone's been really receptive," said McDevitt. She had been standing in front of the bike shop with the other women in the group since 10 a.m.

One of the main issues the participants in Climate Summer wish to address is the Portland, Maine, to Montreal oil pipeline. According to a press release, the group is "focused on preventing (the pipeline) from being reversed to export tar sands from Alberta, Canada. This very dirty fuel would put out enough CO2 to ensure strife around the world."

Part of Climate Summer's daily work includes writing letters to the local government and state legislators to increase awareness on climate issues and energy efficiency. The participants are writing letters themselves but also trying to get others to take action.

Lilley told the Reformer that Climate Summer wants to get those that are taking no action on the issue to take small actions and those taking small actions to take bigger actions. The group's efforts are going towards building movement and influencing people to make small actions every day.

Instead of telling people all the negative things going on with the environment today, Climate Summer largely focuses on presenting positive ways to improve the environment.

"A lot of negativity isn't always good," Lilley said. "We write to legislators about clean energy and energy efficiency."

The Vermont-New Hampshire Climate Summer group is made up of students from all around the United States. Most of the cyclists heard about the tour through their college websites. After submitting applications and being accepted, they trained at Camp Wilmot in New Hampshire.

On June 28, the group will be holding a "Climate Cafe" at the Stone Church in Brattleboro from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the group will hold a "Climate Cafe" at Equilibrium in Brattleboro.

Lilley said that "Climate Cafe" is when various people take turns drawing climate-themed illustrations. Afterwards, people can write letters with the Climate Summer group.

On June 29, the group will be tabling at the Farmers' Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then again at the Wheel Good Bike Shop from 10 a.m. to noon.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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