Signaling Pathways

by A. Grace Steig, Video Coordinator for the Western MA team

Ben W. lifts his arm from his handlebars and gestures down with wiggling fingers, calling as he does so, “Pothole.” I have already spotted it and follow his glide around the broken asphalt, reaching my left arm behind my back to replicate his downward “sparkle fingers” and call. I do so for the benefit of Georgette, at my tail, but also as the code of safety we established at camp and honor at the fast pace of the road. Our team has chosen this hand motion accompanied or replaced by explanatory shout (“Grate,” say, or “car back!”). Other teams have their own method— the Eastern Mass. team, for instance, have a language of bird squawks (Nicholas, their social media coordinator, wrote more about that), the number of which represent whether a team member needs a rest at the top of the hill or is ready to fly on down. The sparkle fingers and animal noises are a silly diversion on the road but also represent this larger purpose, a deep regard for our teammates’ safety and wellbeing. It is our shared communication of our needs that we will continually draw on this summer as we encounter potholes in our path.

Stopping on a hot day to fill up on water and make silly faces. That's me on the left.

Stopping on a hot day to fill up on water and make silly faces. That’s me on the left.

Climate change seems to hold a terrifying series of obstacles. We are in them already. Coastal and island communities have flooded; desertification has spread, threatening agrarian livelihoods. People, particularly the marginalized and poor, have suffered, and any future suffering is an intolerable prospect. It is a key time in which I find myself trying to get involved. Though my participation in climate change resistance so far has been fulfilling, there have also been many times that I have felt alone. I have felt a responsibility to single-handedly face systems that I am unprepared to handle. Obviously, these feelings are ridiculous, and that is a great comfort—I am just one participant in a movement, drawing from the history of and the momentum of many, many organizers and leaders.

Teammates are important. Even on the same route, we have different vantages. I have been extremely lucky: those on the road ahead are signaling the obstacles that will soon be in my path. The organizers of the climate change movement as well as my teammates on the Western Massachusetts team—my fellow leaders—bring techniques and perspectives that each does not have individually. And as I rely on these new friends, I feel a deep safety and comfort in being able to trust in them. We can communicate our struggles on the road and off it. Climbing the hill will try our legs and lungs, but it need not be isolating if, inspired by our friends, we squawk like birds. This summer and onward, I am committed to this code of communication, heeding downward sparkles and passing them on until each of us slides safely past the pothole.

It's always nice to see bike-friendly road signs!

It’s always nice to see bike-friendly road signs!

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