Written by Anna Larson, New Media Coordinator (New Hampshire Team)
On Monday, as we biked the 42 miles from Peterborough to Manchester, mainly on back roads through quiet forests with lush undergrowth, I experienced a new kind of peacefulness. I felt strangely free as we pedaled past mini shopping malls and restaurants. We already have everything we need on our bikes— clothing, sleeping bags, toiletries, food, some technology. We are independent. We are explorers. We blaze past trees and towns. Our breaks are not dictated by the location of a restaurant, or a place to park, or our gas tank levels. We stop if we are tired or hungry or just need a moment to feel the soft earth beneath our feet. We ate a lunch from our food trailer while sitting on spindly blades of grass, food we sweated for as we hauled the trailer over endless miles of tar and dirt and gravel. We are nomads, our lives briefly intersecting with those of the people we pass, observing a tiny portion of their existence as we bike by.
At the same time, we are dependent. We depend on the kindness of others in order to do our work. We have places to sleep in the towns we visit because strangers embraced our cause and took a risk. We have been able to shower because of kind people we met who graciously invited us into their homes. In Peterborough, Susy, who gave us a tour of the Crotched Mountain School’s recycling facility opened her home to us for showers and then surprised us the next day by bringing food to the new community garden we volunteered. Vanessa, who coordinated our stay in Peterborough, welcomed us into her home for a beautiful dinner with her wonderfully self-assured and intelligent daughters who left us brimming with hope and joy as we walked home. All of the goodwill people have exhibited towards us is uplifting. Being able to see that we have impacted these peoples’ lives in some small way reinvigorates me and renews my sense of purpose.
While we are self-sufficient to an extent when we bike, the heart of our work is making connections and speaking with people. Our mission is to highlight, support, learn from and connect local community leaders and groups who are transitioning away from fossil fuels. The science showing that climate change is a pressing issue, the most pressing issue, is all there—now it is imperative that we mobilize and create our own local solutions while pushing for policy to enact change worldwide.
And, as we bicycle, I am learning the satisfaction of doing things myself. I used to believe that my time was better spent doing more “productive” things than canning vegetables or knitting a scarf. I felt that if I could easily buy something, it would be a waste of time to make it myself. Now I am realizing that being able to meet my own basic needs is one of the most worthwhile ways I can spend my time. Inspired by my fellow interns, I want to learn how to knit, grow and can my own food, make preserves, create my own shampoo. Previously, this type of self-sufficiency seemed reserved for the family from Little House on the Prairie.
Yet, as I think of these small ways I can become more involved in my life and “live deliberately” as Dan discusses in his blog post about Walden, I am realizing that we are all dependent on each other and we cannot escape that, for better or for worse. I believe that our interconnectedness is for the better. We may not have all created this problem, but we have to work together to solve it. Everything we do that harms the planet ultimately harms us all. While for a time it seemed like we were isolated from the effects of using deadly energy (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), our pollution has caught up with us. I believe the silver lining in this time of crisis is a new opportunity to work together to connect and innovate to address these issues. Now is our time to collaborate.