One bike ride at a time

Wiscasset an early stop on trek to UN climate change talks
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 8:00am
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Garrett Blad, Morgan Curtis
Garrett Blad and Morgan Curtis stop by the Wiscasset Newspaper on June 29 before heading for New Brunswick, the next leg of an international bike trip that will take them to a United Nations conference on climate change in the fall. SUSAN JOHNS/Wiscasset Newspaper

Growing up in London, Morgan Curtis picked up an early love of the natural world. She would go around the house unscrewing light bulbs and hiding them.

“And I was maniacal about recycling. I was just this really strange, 11-year-old environmental activist,” Curtis said at the Wiscasset Newspaper office June 29.

She and her travel companion Garrett Blad hit town Saturday,  June 27 on touring bikes. The climate-conscious 23-year-olds are riding an average of 40 miles a day; along the way, the two are spreading word about the need to address climate change for economic and other reasons that go beyond nature’s sake.

Curtis said her understanding of climate change evolved when she was a student at Dartmouth College, to a point where she could see its connections to human rights. “I now see it as this kind of keystone issue where if we solve climate change, we’ve also gone a long way toward solving racism and economic inequality.

“If you look at fossil fuel extraction in this country, it’s often happening in rural areas, and if you’re talking about fossil fuel refining, it’s happening in inner-city neighborhoods and low-income areas where people don’t have the political voice to stop it. And so a lot of our health impacts are concentrated on those that don’t traditionally have power in our society.”

Like Curtis, Blad said he was fortunate to have the natural world as his playhouse. He grew up on an Indiana farm, next to a pair of large forests. Later, Thomas Friedman’s book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded,’ had an impact on him.

“That was the first time I had seen the depth and really the level of the crisis we were entering as a species. And I felt responsible for my part in that. I saw how I was connected, from the small things, like the palm oil in the food that I ate from the grocery store, to deforestation in Indonesia; and from the gas I put in my car to the rising of petro dictators.”

The cycling that Blad and Curtis are doing through New England, into Canada and, later, Europe is a 10,000-kilometer trek they are calling “Climate Journey.” Every pedal push gets them closer to a major event they plan to attend, the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December.

Curtis and Blad are youth delegates for SustainUS. The group has had delegations at UN conferences dating back to 2003, according to a press release Curtis sent ahead of her and Blad’s arrival in Wiscasset.

The two didn’t know each other until Curtis got the idea for the trip and put out word on the internet. She first thought up the bike expedition to the conference while serving as the 2014-15 sustainability fellow at Chewonki Foundation’s Semester School.

The bike trip began in Vermont; Curtis and Blad planned to leave Wiscasset later Monday, headed for New Brunswick. Curtis wanted to include Wiscasset on the itinerary due to her experience at Chewonki Foundation; and the foundation has made a contribution toward the trip’s costs, she said. Other groups in Wiscasset have also shown an interest in the environment and related issues, Curtis said. Among them, the citizens group Wiscasset Sun Cats is working on a possible proposal to get Wiscasset’s municipal building on solar power.

For updates on Curtis’ and Blad’s trip, information on the cause and how to donate, find Climate Journey on Facebook or visit www.climatejourney.org.