Every once in awhile at NextGen America, we leave our wonk desks and hit the road for climate action. At the start of March, a few of us participated in the Death Valley Climate Ride where we bicycled nearly 250 miles over four days (and climbed 18,000 feet!) to raise money for some of our favorite partner organizations and awareness about climate change.
Climate Ride is a feisty, small organization that runs biking and hiking trips to raise money for climate action. Our trip brought together twenty-five activists from across America — from Normal, Illinois to Syracuse, New York to the Californian coast — to ride, fund raise, and raise our voice in support of the resistance to Trump’s disastrous policies.
The ride itself was glorious and hard. Death Valley National Park was beautiful in the soft winter light, with the cacti just starting to flower. With all the rains we’ve had in California this winter, there was even standing water in Panamint Valley that we watched evaporate into a salt pan over three days. A special sight and something most visitors don’t get to see.
Time in the park reminded me just how special our National Parks and public lands are to our country. These are landscapes that are there for us and shout out for protection. Talking to park rangers also reminded me how much climate change is impacting these special places already — the Joshua Trees in the Mojave are disappearing, and thanks to two unusual back-to-back years with 1000-year floods, there has been $29 million in damages to park infrastructure in Death Valley alone, including many road closures. Many more subtle changes are also afoot.
As there was little cell service in the desert, it was much to my dismay to learn upon my return that the Trump administration continued to dismantle basic environmental protections with great fury while we were away. Has the administration never been to these special landscapes? Don’t Trump, Pruitt and the rest know that the decisions they are making influence our health and economic fortune? Sadly, I don’t think they care.
Driving out of Death Valley, you zig south through the large solar arrays of the Mojave (shout out to the Desert Renewable Plan!) and can see the clean energy economy humming. From there, crossing Tehachapi Pass, you fall into the Central Valley’s smoggy bowl and see the old energy economy’s oil derricks and it’s very obvious impacts. The difference is striking and the path forward is certainly clear to me!
So now it’s back to it! We can see the work cut out for us, so #StayWoke, #StaySpoke, and keep at it.
Thank you all for all you do to fight against the polluters and for our parks, people, and climate.