By Sally Holmes
Picture this: Six young adults riding over 1,000 miles on bicycles in matching t-shirts, full of energy despite pulling all of their belongings for the summer in addition to two large trailers behind their bikes.
These riders are part of Climate Summer, a ten-week internship program designed to build on the movement against deadly energy and climate change. This summer, the team of college students and recent graduates, dubbed “Team RICONN”, is biking from community to community in Rhode Island and Connecticut hopes of learning from, supporting, highlighting and connecting community members to search for local solutions to climate change.
In each town, the riders work with organizations ranging from city task forces to non-profits to community garden groups. The team is also collecting signatures for a petition to end government subsidies to large corporations that produce fossil fuels. They will end up in Bridgeport and host a day of action against the deadly and unjust Bridgeport Harbor Station coal plant on August 4th. The Bridgeport plant is the fifth most environmentally unjust coal plant in the country – in terms of both race and social class. There are six schools within a mile of the plant, which has led annually to one death, two heart attacks and fifteen asthma attacks.
The six young adults on this team have chosen to spend their summers with Climate Summer for a wide array of reasons. Together, they feel that climate change is a pressing and complex issue of our time, and our dependence on deadly energy must be stopped as soon as possible. According to team member Xhoana Ahmeti, “deadly energy is energy, typically created from fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas, that causes deaths by fundamentally changing our climate.”
These students come to New England from all across the country. Xhoana Ahmeti (Woodstock, IL), Alivia Ashenfarb (Staten Island,NY), Dan Blaustein-Rejto (Woodstock, NY), Jayson Castillo (Long Island, NY), Kristy Choi (Washington, D.C.) and Sally Holmes (Prairie Village, KS) hope to assist in building a better future for Rhode Island and Connecticut this summer, by joining in community efforts that are progressive and sustainable. “Emissions from deadly energy power plants alone directly kill 24,000 people each year in the United States when they breathe in polluted air. That’s not even counting vehicle emissions or indirect causes of death,” says Blaustein-Rejto.
The six riders have committed to traveling exclusively by bicycle this summer: as team member Alivia Ashenfarb puts it, “We are living our values.” In each of the five communities that this team visits, the riders typically sleep on the floors in houses of worship. The team subsists on $5 per person each day for food. “We are all here because we believe that people should not have to die so that we can use energy to eat, get to work and stay warm. The effects of climate change are vast and widespread, and need to be mitigated,” says Castillo.
The team began their journey in Wilmot, NH, and has since then traveled through Lowell, MA, Providence, RI, Hartford, CT, Middletown, CT and New Haven, CT. Their summer will culminate in Bridgeport, CT before they head back up to Arlington, MA for a debriefing. Climate Summer is part of Better Future Project, a non-profit focused on building a future that is free from the ties of deadly energy and able to live to its full potential. For more information, visit www.climatesummer.net.