Highlights from the Archives – Volume 1

Here at Climate Summer, we are gearing up to start recruiting the next group of Climate Summer riders.  We’re updating the website and recruiting materials, but we haven’t gotten back into the habit of blogging regularly after our post-summer break.

I found a broken link on the website tonight, and in my search for the correct link, I ended up on our 2009 blog (our inaugural year, when the program was known as Massachusetts Climate Summer).

I couldn’t resist sharing the following post from the archive.  I’m thinking of suggesting that we re-post an entry from our past once a month– something that speaks to us and makes us proud of where we’ve been, while motivating or inspiring us to keep building this movement. What’s your favorite post from the archive (2009 or 2010)?

note: In it’s first year, Climate Summer focused on building a base of support for 100% Clean Electricity in 10 years in Massachusetts.  A major focus of riders that summer was canvassing for signatures in support of this goal.  While we no longer do much canvassing at Climate Summer, we can all connect with the following lessons shared by the 2009 Western Massachusetts Team Leader.

A Team Leader’s Reflections (originally posted August 2, 2009)

A beautifully written piece by Stephanie Black-Schaffer, leader of the Western/Central Mass Team, shared at the Climate Summer Finale in Boston yesterday.

Do you know who the hardest person to canvass was? Right now you’re thinking maybe it was the misanthrope who took vindictive pleasure cussing you out, or maybe the apathetic aristocrat who said ‘no’ before you opened your mouth, or maybe the talkative old lady who kept you on her porch for forty minutes.

–Incidentally, we had all three–

But the hardest person to canvass wasn’t any of these. It was the person who was totally informed. Informed but jaded. It was that individual who laughed when he heard your petition, told you he’d sign it because he thought it was a great idea, but that he’d been trying to change the world for decades and no one listened. That would get you wondering. If this active, experienced, informed person couldn’t get anything done, who were you—one college student—to try?

Now imagine living with such a person. My father had the highest National Merit score in the state of Ohio. He’s extremely smart, extremely well-read. Though he’s certain climate change is occurring, he doesn’t believe we can do much about it. He gets me wondering. If my intelligent, informed father doesn’t think anything can be done, who am I—one little student—to presume?

But then it occurred to me: movements start with one or two little people. The Civil Rights movement started in the single digits. There were only nine Little Rock students, one Ruby Bridges, four sit-in demonstrators, one Rosa Parks, two black major league baseball players, one Martin Luther King Jr. If they could change the course of history, why couldn’t I?

–And by the way there are twenty of us, so this is practically in our pocket—

But boycotting climate change somehow doesn’t have the same umph as sitting on the wrong side of the bus. ‘I’m turning off my lights now—how do you like that?’ ‘Check out these solar panels. Pal.’

I don’t honestly think your neighbors would care.

Which is why we weren’t just boycotting, we were also petitioning, holding events, hosting workshops. We are a group of hopeful college students cycling across the state. And for every response that made us stop in our tracks and question our resolve, there was one that made us tuck our clipboard under our arm and skip to the next house.

Who was the best person to canvass? Right now you’re thinking maybe it was the woman who invited us in to use her toilet or the old man who gave us three chocolate chip cookies. (Which was very nice.) But it got better. The best person to canvass was the one who blinked like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing and thanked us for being real, for working to save his planet.

Because that’s kind of what it’s come down to: saving the planet. And we haven’t got much time. After cycling for two months, you start thinking of everything in terms of bikes—you don’t feel sad, you feel “flat;” you don’t feel happy, you feel “pumped.” So I will explain our situation, right now, in terms of biking.

For every steep hill, there comes a point at which you can no longer shift gears; you must either stand on your bike pedals—painstakingly throw your whole weight behind each push—or teeter to a stop and topple over. I sure as heck hope we haven’t passed this point yet, because I hate climbing a hill in third gear.

This is a call to shift gears.

This is a call to change the course of history. This is a call for 100% clean electricity in ten years. We are so past the single digits at this point.

2009 Team Leader Steph Black-Shaffer pedals through beautiful Western Massachusetts, photo by Steph's teammate, Leila Quinn.

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