On the Road for Climate Action!

Day 14 - Johnson Farms, SD

Aug 14, 2018

Today was both exciting and somber. The excitement came from our visit to Johnson Farms, where we met with farmer Charlie. The somber part was that it was my mother’s last day on the road with us. We’d be soon dropping her off at a small airport in South Dakota. The day started off nicely, waking up at an AirBNB located on the Missouri River. The building doubled as an “old folks’ home.” Before returning to the road, we flew the drone out back, capturing the gorgeous scenery around the river, while elder spectators circled around, many in wheel chairs, for the exciting launch. It was thrilling for all involved! After an hour on the road, we pulled up to Charlie’s farm, using dirt roads and hand-written directions (e.g. turn right at the church). Located in South Dakota, Charlie operates an organic farm, where he mostly grows corn and soy for cattle. He gave us a fantastic tour, explaining how he manages to ward off pest and maintain high productivity, all while avoiding pesticides. Charlie had a lot to say about fossil fuels, particularly given that his farm has part of the Dakota Access Pipeline running underneath. He has also noticed extreme weather in recent years that is unusual to the area. Without use of irrigation, his crops are especially vulnerable to dry spells. We have a lot of great footage and interviews that we can’t wait to share, so stay tuned! Sadly, our tour had to end sharply after an hour, since we needed to take my mom to the airport and then race over to Iowa for a climate talk in Emmitsburg. After a reluctant goodbye, we made haste. Iowa marked the longest stretch of corn field driving we had yet experienced. Emmitsburg would become our smallest event, with just 6 people in attendance. However, it was no less important. People were engaged, and inquisitive, and even donated to our cause! One guest bought a copy of my book, Beyond Debate, in order to donate to the library (where the event was hosted). After the event, Athina and I had still had to drive 3 hours to our overnight destination. It is truly amazing how incredibly long each day has been. Very little time relax and soak things up. We’re realizing that our pace has been too fast. We plan to slow things down a bit on the return trip. -Shahir

Day 13 - Native American Outreach

Aug 13, 2018

We traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation while in South Dakota. Our first stop was the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, where we had two plans. The first was to invite the youth to contribute to our inter-tribal “Parachute for the Planet.” The second was to tour Thunder Valley’s sustainable living project. In terms of air, the kids created some wonderful designs to represent Oglala Sioux Nation. As for the tour, engagement director Andy Iron Shell gave us a spectacular tour of all they’re doing with sustainability at Thunder Valley. In short, the objective of their project is to improve health, culture and the environment on the reservation. The plans are factoring in climate change by constructing homes and structures that can sustain 120 mph winds. And they’re powered by solar panels! Economically, these homes will be affordable for single families and are helping to create jobs for future generations by employing local apprentices in the construction process. The project, which will house 900 people within a 1-mile perimeter, strives to foster community interaction within the reservation. They’re also building artisan shops, a community center, and a fitness center, along with a community garden. Currently, Pine Ridge Reservation gets much of its food and energy from offsite. This project will set the community up to be self-sufficient, producing its own energy and food. Importantly, we learned that the area has been battered with baseball-sized hail in recent years, which is unusual for the region. The new housing project offers safer living, compared to trailer homes, which are weaker and become destroyed in such storms. Click here to learn how you can help support the project! Our next stop was the Rosebud Sioux reservation, where more youth contributed artwork. The inter-tribal parachute is truly special and is looking more beautiful with each visit to a new community. -Athina

Day 12 - Nebraska & South Dakota 

Aug 12, 2018

We departed from Denver just after 7AM. We had slept at my friend’s house, after reconvening with my mother. Our friend was one of those still hanging out in Breckenridge. He told us to help ourselves from his garden out back. So we hit the road with a giant yellow squash and a bell pepper. Thanks Dave! We arrived to Chadron, Nebraska, 5 hrs after departing, just in time for our 1PM speaking event. The event was organized by a wonderful Citizens’ Climate Lobby member named Cheryl. This was the "new" event that we had just added to our calendar a week prior. I’m so glad we did! Despite last minute organization, Cheryl managed to draw over 55 people to come hear us speak at the local high school, atop an elevated stage with a giant screen to project our PowerPoint slides. Learning from our great event at the Shambhala Center in Boulder, we decided to “present” only about half the time, leaving a substantial amount of time to hear from the audience about their experience with climate change. We learned that people in Chadron have been noticing erratic weather patterns and many more fires in recent years. In fact, most of our drive to the event was accompanied by a powerful smoke in the air, from fire burning in South Dakota. At this event, I was expecting to get some push back about the notion of human-caused climate change. To my surprise, the audience was very receptive and curious. In fact, I sold more copies of Beyond Debate in Chadron than at any event up to that point. After a quick interview with a local reporter, we hit the road to get to our next event in South Dakota. Cheryl kindly sent us away with fresh veggies from her garden, along with other goodies, which would end up keeping us fed for several rushed travel days ahead. Thanks Cheryl!! We were now bound for Rapid City, for a 5PM event. We pulled into the parking lot of Hay Camp Brewery, an exciting venue unlike any we’d previously spoken at. Our event organizers, again CCL volunteers, had put together an extravagant assortment of hors d’oeuvres, and even treated us to a beer, which the brewery owner, Sam, helped us select. As with Chadron, the talk took place up on a big stage; this time with a fancy green background and mood lighting. It felt like a Ted Talk! We again had an engaged and participatory audience. Guests spoke of erratic rain, snow, and wildfires. One woman noted that the warm days are getting warmer while the cold days are getting colder. Temperature extremes! One of our hosts let us pick up some Brew Co swag. Thanks Karla! Despite two amazing events in the same day, one of the highlights on this day was unquestionably the beautiful view, warm breeze, and welcomed glass of wine we shared with our host, Mary, and her friend and husband on the patio of their gorgeous home which sat on a nearby hilltop. A truly terrific day!


Day 10 & 11 - A Break in Breckenridge

Aug 10-11, 2018

Although our last morning in Boulder was a busy one, we managed to squeeze in a jog. A mile high jog makes for some tired lungs! After departing from our AirBNB, Athina and I were excited to break away from our busy schedules to head up to Breckenridge. On the way, we had an interview with a reporter from Emmitsburg, Iowa, where we’d be heading in a few days. The conversation went well (if you ignore the several instances where we lost service due to tunnels and mountains, requiring us to embarrassingly keep calling back!). En route to our destination, Athina and I spotted heavy bark beetle damage among the trees. We decided to pull off the side of the highway and fly our drone, which was donated to us a month prior. This would be our first official reconnaissance mission using this amazing piece of video equipment (literally a flying camera!). We got some terrific, albeit sad, footage of the tree damage, which we’ll share with you soon. Arriving to Brekenridge was a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. We timed this part of our journey to rejoice with my brother and several friends, who were vacationing in a lovely timeshare. There’s nothing like friends and family when you’re away from home! The night was filled with fun and catching up. The following day would be more of the same. We took a dip in the pool, strolled through town, and took a walk in the woods. Excitingly, we encountered “Music in the Trees!” Literally, people playing music IN THE TREES! A 3 piece string quartet, tied to make-shift ledges and a stool strapped 12 feet up the trunks of 3 trees. What an exciting thing! Athina and I were sad to depart on the second day. We had initially planned to stay 2 nights with our friends. But we recently got a request to squeeze in a second climate talk on Sunday, which meant we would need to do a very early departure in the morning. Leaving Breckenridge at night was the wise choice. It would allow us to wake up at 6AM the next morning, rather than 4:30AM, as we hit the road for 2 events in Nebraska and South Dakota. It was a fun break a Breckenridge, but a short one. Duty called! -Shahir

Day 9 - Shambhala Center, Boulder

​August 9th, 2018

Today was our first relaxed day of the journey thus far. Nowhere to drive or hike to. The morning kicked off nicely with the airing of my radio interview with Nevada NPR as well as the featuring of our project in a article written up by the Huffington Post. How exciting! After a couple hours of work and email catchup, we took to the street. We decided to spend some time canvasing the public, asking them about climate change, and distributing our climate change survey. Given the progressive nature of Boulder, I was expecting to be met with quite some interest, brandishing our 3 by 4 foot banner “On the Road for Climate Action.” To my surprise, virtually nobody paid a visit to hear about our tour or efforts. We passed out a number of flyers to passerbys, but were overall feeling a bit discouraged by the end of the hour. It was nonetheless an interesting experiment, if nothing else came of it. After a quick falefal sandwich lunch, we made our way home to prepare for our evening event at the Shamala center. It could not have asked for a better pick-me-up after our disouraing canvasing efforts than the enthusiasm we were met with at the event. This marked our first truly interactive event, in which a large part of the 2+ hours was focused on Q/A and team discussions. People had a lot to say about climate change. One activity asked people to trade ideas about how to reduce their carbon footprints. I was excited to hear that a couple people made commitments such as only eating meat twice per week, etc. The event was filled with positive energy! The event concluded around 9:30PM, and by 10 we were on our way to meet a Native American community leader, to whom we passed our “parachute for the planet.” His community would leave their articstic mark. Fortunately, we found a sub sandwich restaurant that was still open at 11PM, which offered a variety of tasty veggie subs. I had the tofu bbq sub! It was a great conclusion to one of our longest days of climate action! -Shahir

Day 8 - Rocky Mountain National Park

August 8th, 2018

This was a long awaited day! Today we were met with two rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park, Chelsea and Christie, who generously set aside their afternoon to take us on a private tour of the bark beetle afflicted regions of the forest. This tour was truly spectacular. We witnessed firsthand the destruction that the bark beetle has caused. Lodgepole pines and spruce were particularly affected. In many areas, entire hillsides were brown with dead trees, scattered with lucky green survivors in between. The bark beetle is native to the area. However, the rangers explained that winters have been getting warmer in the Rockies, which has meant that more bark beetles have been surviving to emerge in spring. When bark beetles emerge, they target new trees, boring into the bark, eating the underlying “cambium” layer, and introducing a harmful “blue fungus” that ultimately suffocates and kills the tree. Increased bark beetle epidemics and increased tree death have been a signature of global warming. Following our tour, we had a speaking event in which rangers and park volunteers attended. We had lively discussion and learned a great deal from one another. I gifted a couple copies of Beyond Debate to our ranger hosts as a thank you! What a magical day! Thanks to our ranger friends at Rocky Mountain! We captured interesting video footage and interviews, which we look forward to sharing with everyone soon on this blob!​  -Shahir