Climate Courage into 2022
My bike travels around the West already seem long ago - yet somehow quite recent - in this turbulent pandemic time-machine we inhabit. I have rejoined the home life I sorely missed on the road, back with Amy and Moki and many friends here in Missoula. But the connections and experiences I found on the are quite present for me. I want to share some reflections on what I hope Climate Courage means going forward.
First, I have been surprised at how many people in Missoula and beyond heard about my tour. Many friends and strangers who never commented or connected during the ride have told me they were following along. That’s both encouraging and a little frightening: People are watching! That teaches me that even with a very amateur publicity effort, in our hyper-connected world, word of climate action gets out. That makes me glad that I took the chance to put myself out there on the tour.
I am also happy that I chose to stay in the West, and that I didn’t travel to Glasgow for the COP26 climate meetings. My home region has plenty going on relating to climate change, and I have more useful things to say about them. There were loads of activists and journalists at COP26 in Glasgow representing every imaginable constituency and interest. My presence would have added little aside from a ton more carbon in the atmosphere. By not going I was able to donate the funds for airfare and carbon offsetting to climate action groups.
The Climate Courage Tour itself raised pretty modest sums for climate action - about $2,500. But a more significant outcome was opening non-confrontational conversations about climate change in a way that attempts to build connections and opens minds. I had meetings numbering only only in the tens, but those talks may lead to a rippling of connections among many sorts of people.
I’m hoping to share some of the lessons I learned about climate conversations in forums initiated by Families for a Livable Climate and other groups. In that line I’m also working with Climate Ride to write a guide to help other bike tourers initiate talks about climate issues with people they meet. I’m huddling with Journalism professor Nadia White on the next iteration of the Cycle the Rockies college credit bike touring course with the Wild Rockies Field Institute. This year we will focus our students on finding ways to have conversations across boundaries.
I found other inspirations on the tour: I was impressed by the practical climate-oriented work I saw throughout the West. So I’m investigating how to extend the Climate Smart Missoula local carbon offsetting Footprint Fund to support regenerative grazing through the Western Sustainability Exchange.
I also want to explore how we can get more climate-friendly electrification going in Missoula - more heat pumps, solar panels, super-insulation, electric transportation, geothermal heating, etc. These electrifying ideas are guided by Saul Griffith’s Rewiring America project, which is well worth a look or a listen. I also wonder if Missoula can make a real dent in food waste, which is rated as the largest carbon reduction available, according to the excellent Drawdown Project analysis…
Clearly, there’s a lot to do and no one person could do it all. But we don't have to. I just hope to inspire and aid others in these efforts - because the time for action is most definitely NOW. Climate Smart Missoula gave me their “Catalyst for Change” award this year. I take that not as a laurel for resting, but rather as a challenge that needs to be met every day I can.
We face interlocking crises of climate change, a global pandemic, and serious threats to our democratic governance. That’s a daunting trio to be sure, but it also offers nearly endless opportunities for productive engagement. There are crucial elections coming in 2022, and all sorts of climate policy to be made at all levels of governance. There are businesses to start and support, climate conversations to initiate, personal actions to imagine and make real. There's climate art to be made and appreciated, and passionate climate letters to write to friends and newspapers...
It’s not that any one person needs to find a last, best solution. Rather, it is that we all must find the courage, individually and collectively, to take beneficial actions that in some small way move us toward a future we can love.
Best to you and yours. Stay in touch!