Cyclists take message to Mexico

Jamie Trowbridge, left, and James Ploeser traveled by bike, starting in October, to the international summit on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, this month, discussing the topic with people en route.
Jamie Trowbridge, left, and James Ploeser traveled by bike, starting in October, to the international summit on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, this month, discussing the topic with people en route.

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By Christy Goodman
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two guys, two steel-framed bicycles, 2,000 miles, zero emissions and one common goal: environmental justice.

Jamie Trowbridge, 26, and James Ploeser, 29, set off on their Climate Reality Tour in October with 60 pounds of gear in a trailer attached to one bike and 40 pounds more stuffed in saddle bags on the other, with a goal of educating people about climate change along their route to the U.N. energy summit in Cancun, Mexico, this month.

"People don't change based on data," said Trowbridge, a native Alexandrian who lives in the District. "They change their behavior based on stories."

Trowbridge has worked on climate issues for three years, including working for Greenpeace. He also biked across the country to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.

"When we started the journey, we wanted to connect the dots between some of the root causes of global warming and the economic policies that create it. What better way to connect the dots . . . then to bike between them to fill those lines," Ploeser said.

Ploeser, a Wisconsin native who lives in the District, works for the Global Trade Watch Team for Public Citizen and has been active in social and environ-mental issues for 10 years.

The duo wanted to relate the full life of fossil fuels to paint a picture for anyone who would listen. It is not just the burning of the resources that is bad for the planet, but the extraction, the labor, the displacement of communities, Ploeser said. There are social and human costs, he added.

The cyclists spoke to farmers, labor leaders, people who don't believe in global warming and people who had found ways to go beyond carbon neutral to carbon negative. They shared ideas with others who are organizing on a local level and some they dubbed "climate refugees."

For example, in Veracruz, a family's coffee plantation had been wiped out by a hurricane. With no government aid on the way, the family's teenage sons could be wooed to join "the armed illicit sector of the economy" in Mexico, Trowbridge said.

Most of Mexico City's water comes from glaciers on top of two volcanoes. Without snow, the glaciers would not be replenished, and the city of millions would have no water.

"Everyone can tell us that story," Ploeser said.

In Louisville, the cyclists heard another story as they spoke to agricultural experts about sustainable farming, as well as national and international campaigns against corporate-controlled agriculture. They met with members of the Community Farm Alliance, based in Frankfort, Ky., and ate a locally grown meal at the Stone Soup Community Kitchen.


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