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Bikes to film: Acts focus on saving climate

Earth Resting Atop a Leaf --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Earth Resting Atop a Leaf — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

By: Frances Lamberts

Eight years ago this week, area environmentalists gave welcome to a bicyclist team from Knoxville. At (the then) Cranberry-Thistle and a member’s home, they learned about the team’s journey and motive. University of Tennessee-Knoxville student Sam Evans and conservation fisheries biologist Missy Petty were on route to Washington, D.C., through back-roads areas in West Virginia much affected by coal mining. Despite severe winter weather and icy roads, they reached their destination in time to view the inauguration of President Obama.

Their ultimate destination was the federal Office of Surface Mining, where they would deliver petitions and citizen comments regarding Mountaintop Removal Mining. They urged abandonment of this coal extraction method, then practiced across large areas in the central and southern Appalachian mountain region.

Profitable for mining companies because highly mechanized and employing few workers, MTR mining had razed more than four hundred-and-fifty mountains, lowering some by a thousand feet. Directly and through complete destruction of their habitat in the species-rich Appalachian forest, it had killed untold numbers of wildlife. Protections for clean water and drinking water had been rolled back in the nation’s environmental laws and more than1,500 miles of mountain streams buried.

On Nov. 13 last year, another bicycle team arrived in Washington, this time from the U.S. wet coast. Mindy Ahler and Paul Thompson had left Seaside, Oregon on Aug. 27, crossed 14  states and trekked nearly 4,000 miles to reach the capital. In 30 communities along the way, they had held discussions and learned about local experiences and impacts from climate disruption. They brought hundreds of personal-story messages to Washington: What is being done by many citizens, in many communities, and what more is needed to halt the climate risks and make communities more resilient for the future?

Their ultimate destination was not a federal government bureau but Congress. Not elimination of one, particularly damaging method of coal extraction was their goal but carbon emissions reduction, through action by the people’s representatives, to reverse the climate-change risks more quickly.

They had aptly named as “Low Carbon Crossing” their epic bike-tour endeavor. This could be interpreted as referring to the mode of travel but would also mean a “crossing” and transforming the nation’s energy system away from fossil fuels, thus lowering the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet.

In the conference room of the Jonesborough Public Library, at 2 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, NE Tennessee Citizens’ Climate Lobby members will hold showings and a discussion of a documentary film, “Facing the Surge.” The documentary tells the story of eastern coastal cities, in particular Norfolk, Virginia with an important U.S. Naval base, being plagued by recurrent and severe flooding through sea level rise.

It finds a “silver bullet” approach for dealing with these problems.

Grueling bicycle rides to the nation’s capital are not possible for most citizens. Yet we can share and debate what can and is being done in the cause of halting climate change.

Join CCL members for the free film showing and discussion, on Tuesday next week.