Today I’m going to take a break from ranting about plastic to instead write about a totally awesome event I participated in this past weekend: Moving Planet Vermont.
What was Moving Planet? Well…first, you need to know that it wasn’t just a Vermont thing. No, this event spanned 175 countries…all on one day. Around the world. 24 hours of people coming together. To do what, exactly? Well, basically to send a message to the talking heads in charge that we won’t stand for “business as usual” and that we’re ready to move beyond fossil fuels, commit to fighting climate change and come up with solutions. We have to think about future generations and that requires change now. It requires an effort from everybody today, tomorrow and 5 years from now. It requires coming together to invent really awesome stuff. Like art, music and peaceful demonstrations. In other words…collaboration on all levels.
Specifically in Vermont, this meant descending on Montpelier for a state-wide rally. We were to come by any means possible: carpools, on foot, biking, etc. Initially, we were going to carpool, but it turns out 2 people in a 5-person car isn’t really carpooling. On Friday, the day before the event, Craig and I discovered that a contingent of Vermonters were biking down…and decided to join in! After determining that we were indeed going to bike 40 miles the next day, it became apparent that I needed a bike. Now, I have a bike, but it is old. When I say old, I mean 46-years old with one gear and the original seat attached. I love it, but I would not have loved it after the trek. So, I rented a bike from an awesome non-profit, Local Motion, that helps provide access to safe areas for biking, walking and tons of other recreational activities. 🙂
This bike ride was amazing, for so many reasons. There were almost 200 bikers in our caravan and the energy surging through the crowd was palpable. Everybody was jazzed about it, despite the fact that it rained, drizzled and misted almost the whole way there. We were a unit of people, of bodies, large and small, old and young pedaling and dodging cars. We biked on a state highway and nobody got hit. People in cars were honking at us in good spirits, pausing to let us pass and wave.
Bike riders are happy people. Everybody was just plain excited to be outside and surrounded by other people feeling the same thing. There was nothing surrounding us but ourselves. No sterile cube where we could seal ourselves off and be mad at traffic and frustrated at bad drivers. Just bikes, people, the clicks of gears changing…and breathing. Biking is such a personal activity and it’s something that we need more of, everywhere. If people could bike more, there would be less stress and we wouldn’t need to worry about things like car payments and gas prices.
The only thing better than being a part of that great energy was the things we saw and felt on our bike ride. When you’re in a car, even if you take the back roads to reach your destination, you miss things. Sure, you’re on a winding country road passing under trees and next to gorgeous rivers…but you’re also hurtling at speeds upwards of 40-60 miles an hour. Our brains can’t process all those details that quickly, which makes biking that much more spectacular. There’s something about speeding down a hill leading out-of-town getting up to 35mph…on a bike. In a car that’s not a big deal, but on a bike, it’s like flying.
Other things: turning corners and seeing gigantic glacial deposits that make you gasp, they’re so big. So big they make you just stare in wonderment at mountains. Spotting a bright teal Volkswagen Kombi from the 7os for sale on the side of the road. Stopping for a water break, looking down to discover you’re covered in grime and realizing how dirty paved roads and cars and exhaust are. Biking through areas greatly affected by Hurricane Irene and being incredibly saddened by all the loss and destruction. Noticing sounds and smells, like the smell of compost and after that, the smell of a landfill. Side by side they sit, both carrying different messages. I had never seen an industrial-sized compost heap and on this day, I got that chance, in a sense. It was glorious!
And then it was over. Four hours of biking and 40 miles later, we had arrived in Montpelier and the crowd that had gathered there was so overjoyed to see us! There were booths set up displaying alternative power sources, all sorts of grassroots organizations dedicating their time and energy to promoting things that would sustain us and our planet for not only ourselves but for our kids and our kid’s kids. There was an amazing interpretive dance done to a speech Bill McKibben gave at Power Shift 2011 and it was awe-inspiring.
For me, the experience was the journey. The dance, the music and the speeches, all combined with the incredible happy biking high was the cherry on top. Knowing that I was a part of the solution, that by my biking I saved that much CO2 from entering our atmosphere and that combined with the other 150+ riders, we actually accomplished something on that day was such a powerful thing to take ownership of. I left Montpelier feeling overjoyed, with a fresh sense of purpose and determination to conquer anything. Determined enough to start making a chicken pot pie at 9pm, scarf it down a little after midnight and follow that with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. The perfect way to end a perfect day.