The 2016 bike trip blogs are written by riders and posted daily as Internet access allows. Follow here, on Facebook (and a bit of Twitter and possibly Instagram) with #paiplonbikes. Learn more about the ride and the riders. Today’s guest blogger: Joyce Evelyth.
The big day had finally arrived: the culmination of our trip to Washington D.C to meet with our Pennsylvania delegation. Riding on the Crescent Trail into the Capital the day before, felt exciting and patriotic. Perhaps it was just after spending time in more rural areas of PA and Maryland, but the buildings and city blocks felt gigantic, with bright stone walls, and wide sidewalks, full of tourists, school groups, and driven individuals. The symbolism and grand architecture of the city compounded feelings of importance and urgency in our purpose to discuss climate change with our leaders.
The 7 riders that finished the trip were split into three different groups, led by our PA-IPL staff Cricket and Rev. Alison, and our fearless trip leader Jon, to meet with 15 different Representative’s offices, including our two Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey. Pennsylvania, of course, is a large state with many different types of populations and a history of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure in coal and natural gas. But the fact that we were able to spend at least 30 minutes in each office (with congress out of session—it felt much more relaxed!) to discuss climate change was incredibly uplifting in a harrowing election year.
I was on a team with Karl and Jon, and Dorothy, who joined us for our visit with our local representative, Congressman Glenn Thompson. During our first meeting, we were able to applaud Representative Patrick Meehan for co-sponsoring HR 424, a Republican-led resolution that recognizes climate change and calls upon the House to be leaders to study and address its effects. His aide whom we met with, Jim Gray, gave encouraging feedback of constituent support for the bill and lamented that climate change was an issue citizens discuss frequently and consistently with their office. The bill is co-sponsored by other Pennsylvania Representatives (Ryan Costello, Patrick Meehan, and Mike Fitzpatrick) and we were able to ask those who hadn’t signed to join as well. Despite Gray’s insistence that each office knew of HR 424, our later meetings with some of our more conservative Representatives seemed to prove otherwise; and in spite of their feigned ignorance, we were able to ask for their support and have a conversation.
While we discussed other specific pieces of legislation, such as funding for the Green Climate Fund, and limits on carbon and methane emissions as outlined in the Clean Power Plan, it was clear that the diversity of voices we brought with us on this trip was vital to our being heard. I was so thankful we were given the space to speak about the issues we care about– and listen as the aides relayed the situation on the ground. Jon and some of the more veteran participants in this trip felt the atmosphere in these rooms changing—with most offices comfortable with the term climate change and willing to listen to our concerns. This change of attitude certainly feels propelled following Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, and PA IPL’s consistent presence in these offices the past 5 years.
Our meeting with our local Rep. Glenn Thompson was the most interesting to me, and while we didn’t agree on all (or most) legislation, we talked about overlap in areas of agriculture, forestry and invasive species, and his concern for forest fires.
Dorothy’s expertise in food and sustainable agriculture, and Karl’s own journey in environmental stewardship and studying Laudato Si were a great asset in this meeting. Although his long-time aide, John Busovsky, emphasized Thompson’s concerns for industry and commitment to “good legislation,” Dorothy poignantly reminded him that we would be back next year, asking him to stand in good faith and with moral conviction, to act in the face of climate change.
—Joyce (and the other cyclists)
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