For me, the promise of being a Climate Summer rider was the light at the end of the tunnel of frustration that was this past spring semester of my junior year at Gustavus Adolphus College. After a fall semester abroad in India studying social justice, peace and development, I returned to Minnesota with new motivation to live according to my values defined by justice, equality, and a commitment to progressive change. Throughout the semester though, I really struggled to locate these avenues for change, and worse, I felt as if I didn’t have the time.
You see, my experience abroad had advanced my understanding of climate change as an urgent human rights crisis and, as a result, my priorities in life were drastically different than they had previously been. Upon returning to campus, I had commitments to things like the Center for Servant Leadership, the Student Athlete Advisory Board, and a very big commitment to the Gustavus Track and Field team. But what is the distance I can jump into a sand pit compared to the undeniable injustices of climate change?! The roles and achievements previously featured in my college career—including academics—suddenly seemed unimportant in the scheme of things.
I knew I loved school and track, but I felt burdened by a nagging obligation to do something more, and the dabbling I did in my school’s divestment campaign just wasn’t enough. I felt hopelessly suffocated by my institution and the roles I had previously established for myself within it. It was as if I were being forced to wear really old sneakers that no longer fit; but for fear of losing the stability and identity they had once provided me, I couldn’t make myself take them off. So, I limped around in them for the past 4 months.
What kept me going, though, was the fact that I was going to be Climate Summer rider. There was an intimidating amount of uncertainty around what I would be doing and how I would be doing it, but the thought of working at the grassroots level to mobilize American citizens against climate change and fossil fuels was irresistibly exciting. As someone struggling to determine what was right and wrong in my life, I was relieved to know that Climate Summer felt right.
Now, one week into training at Camp Wilmot, I am happier, more confident, and more empowered than I have felt in a long time. Doing workshops with other activists, exploring non-violent communication, and brainstorming campaign strategies with 22 other young adults who share and understand my urgency to fight climate change has been incredibly stirring. Our training has helped me channel my frustration with the current state of society and my fear for the future into a source of empowerment going into this summer and continuing onto my senior year of college.
Originally, I had expected Climate Summer to provide me with the avenues for change that I had so desperately sought this past winter and spring. An important thing I’ve learned this past week, though, is that no one provides avenues for us to combat the powerful social, political, and economic forces behind issues like climate change. We have to create them ourselves; and on Team Vermont/New Hampshire, I get to spend an entire summer biking around New England with 5 other young adults doing exactly that.
Climate change is the biggest crisis that has ever faced humankind. Our addiction to fossil fuels needs to end if we want life to continue as we know it. That said, I can’t think of a better movement for which to dedicate myself, and for the past week I have woken up every morning knowing that I am doing the most important thing I can possibly be doing with my life. I’ve found new shoes that not only fit perfectly, but look great on my bike pedals too. 🙂