Riders for a Green Climate:
In late July, a group of 5 cyclists pedaled into Cumberland Center to spend a week in town and stay at our Church. Here to build a grassroots movement of folks concerned about climate change, these college-aged students were participating in the New England Climate Summer internship program. Team Maine biked exclusively through different Maine towns, supporting local projects and connecting with “community leaders actively addressing society’s addiction to fossil fuels by crafting local solutions” (from climatesummer.net).
At a church potluck supper, they shared some projects happening in different Maine communities. Biddeford’s Community Biking Center offers underserved youth a chance to learn bicycle maintenance and repair, and share these skills with others in the community. The Lots to Gardens project in Lewiston turns vacant lots into community gardens. Transition Towns (in Belfast, Brunswick, and other communities worldwide) seek “to help communities overcome the current issues of climate change and the decreasing supply of cheap energy such as peak oil. ‘Transition Towns’ build on what they have, so community members can work together to find solutions” (from Greenenergymaine.com).
Here in Cumberland, the riders volunteered with Jeff, Sara, and Kelsey Sloan in the Community Garden at Twin Brook. Karyn Marden, Community Garden Coordinator, was thrilled with their contributions: “These young people made a huge difference in our garden, spreading hay and pulling weeds on a hot, humid day.” Afterward, they biked over to the Sawchucks’ for a swim and to Annabelle’s for ice cream before heading to the Sloans’ to learn about their eco-friendly home.
The next day, we biked to the Town Hall, where town officials described some of the sustainable offerings in Cumberland:
• an ordinance to simplify the permitting process for small windmills on residential property;
• The Lands and Conservation Commission working to preserve open space and a trail system;
• The Shellfish Commission’s education and outreach programs to clean Casco Bay
• The Energy Advisory Committee’s PowerPoint presentation on the town website about energy audits and weatherization to help citizens save energy and money.
In the end, we brainstormed ideas for collaborative projects among Church, Town, and other citizens groups before we pedaled over to Toots Ice Cream for another local treat.
Before they left, the cyclists shared some impressions of their summer experience. Laura Lea Rubino, an Eckerd College student, said she used to drive all around campus, but after her summer of cycling, “What seems easiest is not driving.” We could all learn that lesson. Next time you’re heading to the library, farmer’s market, or school, could you walk, bike, or carpool?
By the time they reached the end of their trip on August 14th, Team Maine cycled 800-1000 miles around our state, visiting 7 different communities, building collaboration, and inspiring countless numbers of people. Through their hard work and optimism, these dedicated young people offer us a brighter future. www.climatesummer.net