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Cyclists take cross-country trek for climate change

By Staff | Nov 18, 2016

Two cyclists set out from the West Coast in August to begin a 4,000 mile journey, and the pair made a stop during the last leg of their excursion at O’Hurley’s General Store in Shepherdstown on Friday night to talk about what inspired them to hop on their bikes in the first place.

Mindy Ahler and Ryan Hall started their adventure in Oregon, and it has since taken them all across the country, traversing 14 states and being faced with all types of different weather and experiences. The trip will end Sunday in Washington, D.C., where they will meet up with other concerned individuals to lobby Congress and attempt to invoke solutions to help curtail the environmental issues about which they are so passionate.

“Climate change is just that urgent issue of our time, and it’s one of those things that we just need more conversations about,” Ahler said. “It needs to become more normal for people to talk about it so that we can get away from debating whether it’s happening or not and get to the important debates of, ‘What are we going to do about it? And throw out this idea or that idea and (thinking about) how we have conversations about it.”

Accompanying Ahler and Hall during the talk in Shepherdstown were David Holmquist and Paul Thompson, who both joined the cycling mission in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Several individuals showed up to partake in the discussion, which focused on heightening the understanding of climate issues and inspiring action toward climate solutions.

The pair discussed several issues intertwined with climate change, including agriculture and industrial jobs.

“We can accomplish a whole lot through agriculture because agriculture is roughly a quarter of our Greenhouse Gas emissions, so if we transform it, we can really tackle the existing carbon we have in our atmosphere to pull it in and make lives healthier, eat better food (and) grow local jobs,” Hall said. “Rural America is hurting, and we’ve experienced it all across the country.”

Hall particularly emphasized bringing individuals from all points of the climate change spectrum to have productive discussions.

“From the local to federal level, people are promising these job infrastructures remain in place, but they have no say over the market, they have no say over what energy is going to look like in the future, and if are really going to have a collective action on climate change and a collective action on renewable energy, we need to bring those former coal miners into our mix,” Hall said. “We need to bring these farmers that have been displaced by how big (industry) has become and how hard it is to access the land. We need to bring those people into our camp because our camp is one of needing jobs for more people, we need healthier food, we need to take care of our land and we need to consider, ‘What are we leaving for future generations?'”

Both Ahler and Hall described the trek as “serendipitous,” saying cycling has put them in places at the right times. One of their stops even landed them at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the midst of ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which helped to reinforce the importance of their goal.

When Ahler, Hall, Holmquist and Thompson are joined by others in D.C. to help the Citizens’ Climate Lobby address Congress, they will be advocating for carbon fee and dividend.

Carbon fee and dividend starts with placing a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels, giving 100 percent of the fees minus administrative costs back to households each month and using a border adjustment to stop business relocation.

All participants in the undertaking agree that their mission is not over, but they hope these stops and community discussions will incite excitement in others.

“In the midst of it all, we’re doing so much work to communicate and to get people motivated, so without you being here tonight, our job would not be complete,” Thompson said. “We hope that you will leave tonight inspired to go and take the next step.”

For more information on the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, visit www.citizensclimatelobby.org. To follow the progress of Ahler and Hall’s journey, visit www.lowcarboncrossings.org.