I’m a professor in the Department of Statistics at Penn State University, and this year will be my second time participating in PAIPL’s ride to DC. However, I haven’t made the trip since 2013, and I was hoping to make the trip this year with my daughter Molly —who made the trip in 2014 and 2015—but unfortunately she has to miss this year’s ride because of school commitments and so this will be the fourth straight year that only one member of our family has gone.
That’s Molly with me in the first picture, wearing our summer league ultimate (frisbee) uniforms from 2014. We’re both fairly active, but beyond my one-mile bicycle commute to work every day, I don’t ride all that much. Certainly multi-day, 200-mile bike trips are not routine for either of us! But we both agree that the physical exertion of the trip is well worth it, for multiple reasons.
When I first rode three years ago, I had thought that the reason for participating in the ride was pretty straightforward: Get some exercise while enjoying the company of friends, then show up in the halls of Congress to discuss issues related to climate change after having made a statement by biking 200 miles to be there. I found that this simplistic description was accurate but incomplete.
In reality, the
complicated logistical arrangements that go into planning the ride (thanks to Jon Brockopp, my wife Cricket, and many others) bring us into contact with a lot of terrific people along the way. Many share our deep concern about the moral and ethical implications of the havoc that a changing climate will wreak on so many people around the world who have so little margin for coping with these changes. This is the sentiment I am expressing in the screen shot here, from a 2013 segment on the public television show Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly that was partly filmed after we had reached Washington that year. Not everyone we meet shares these concerns, but without exception they are gracious and genuinely warm toward these strange folks on their bikes, which gives some parts of the trip a kind of “bicycle diplomacy” flavor.
I’m looking forward to arriving in DC this year, which was a real highlight from 2013 (except for the flat tires Ray Najjar and I got in the last three miles of the trip). All of us who spoke with the congressional aides from Pennsylvania came away from the experience encouraged about our government, which was not at all what we had expected given today’s political environment! Even members of Congress who do not (yet) share our sentiments about the importance of climate change can agree with certain ideas, such as the financial benefits of energy conservation. So while our visits to Capitol Hill may have a limited effect in terms of specific short-term legislative breakthroughs, efforts like the ones PAIPL is undertaking —not only its “bicycle diplomacy” but its general program of engaging people on the moral dimensions of what our changing climate means for people everywhere—make this trip important to me.
or send a check, memo: bike 2016 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801
MANY THANKS to our 2016 silver sponsors Sun Directed, and Beth Richards, KBB Realtor, to our 2016 bronze sponsors the Bicycle Shop and West Arête, and the Rock Ethics Institute for their support! for their support! (Become a sponsor)