Cyclists visit Valley raising awareness about climate change

Last modified: Thursday, August 07, 2014
Dressed in bright orange T-shirts and black cycling shorts and carried miles by their bicycles, six members of the Climate Summer team have been riding around Massachusetts over the past seven weeks, including a vigil Wednesday night and again Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., in front of Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield to raise awareness about climate change.

“There’s no space in society for people to come out and deal with this issue,” said Ben Weilerstein, a 20-year-old Tufts University student from outside of Philadelphia who says he decided to join what’s already been a 500-mile ride this summer after considering how climate change is “becoming more of a reality every day. That terrifies me.”

The candlelit Northfield vigil, which follows meetings and canvassing the Climate Summer participants have had in Greenfield, Deerfield, Amherst and other communities they have passed through, is a way to offer people a chance “to come to terms with climate change, to empower people to take action.”

Taking action, against hydrofracking for natural gas and against building infrastructure like the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project planned through western Massachusetts, which they say bolsters dependency on tar-sand-derived fossil fuel that hastens climate change, is what keeps these six college-age cyclists moving. Next week the program concludes in Salem, where Footprint Power wants to build a 630-megawatt gas-fired generating plant. The project has been opposed by the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation, saying it would undo the state meeting its targets under the Global Warming Solutions Act to cut Massachusetts carbon emissions.

After a 2½-week training in Wilmot, N.H., the cyclists headed south and then west, helping at an anti-pipeline rally at Clarkdale Fruit Farm on their way to Cummington and as far west as Canaan, N.Y., before cycling back to Greenfield earlier this week, then on to Northfield, Winchendon and eastward.

Ben Linthicum, a 24-year-old, North Carolina-based Warren Wilson College student from Missouri who plays banjo as another team member strums ukelele to provide music for at group gatherings, said he was moved to action after witnessing fracking and pipeline activity in Wyoming last year.

“If they build up the fossil fuel infrastructure, that’s taking away motivation to build renewables,” he said.