Day 20 - A Morning Climate Tour

August 20th, 2018
Denise and Steve are two retired professionals who are very involved in climate work. They were wonderful hosts. Over a delicious breakfast in their home, we got to talking about local climate-related impacts in their community. At the talk the night before, we heard mentions of increased flooding in the area. Well, this morning Steve and Denise elaborated. In the past 10 years, the area has experienced extreme rainfall which has led to 100-year flooding events. Steve and Denise told us about the homes in their community that have been swept away as the river has flooded. Steve’s medical practice, which he built high above the flood plain, was ruined several times over just 10 years by flooding. As an MD, a lot of important equipment and paperwork was ruined. Over breakfast, Denise offered to take us on a tour of the town to show us the areas that have been hit by flooding. We saw one empty lot where a home was lost to erosion, and another home which has a river increasingly encroaching on the property. In one rain event, the home owners left the doors open as the the river flowed right through the living room! When you look at the river, which you will be able to see in our coming video, it looks like a small creek. But it has become increasingly ferocious during rain events. We got a lot of great footage thanks to a tour by Denise. After this, we had a long drive as we approached our last few days of driving until the east coast. We drove for about 6 hours, and spent the night somewhere off the highway.  Last night in Lakewood, Ohio, marked our last scheduled climate talk before reaching the east coast. It was a celebration to have completed our northern leg of climate talks!

Day 19 - To Ohio!

Aug 19th, 2018
We woke our adorable colonial-style home on a quiet street in Ann Arbor. After packing up the car and checking out, we decided to go door-to-door, administrating our climate survey to local residents. It was a Sunday, so a lot of people were home. It is always a bit out of my comfort zone to knock on a strangers’ doors, but once we explained what we were doing, most people were receptive and agreed to take the survey. It turned out to be nice to meet different people in the community and hear what they thought about climate change. In this particular neighborhood, we received a lot of “thank you for what you are doing” comments. So that was nice! We had a bit of a drive to get to Lakewood, Ohio, where our next climate talk was being held. Excitingly, it was held at another brewery/restaurant, which you all know we love! We met the organizers for a dinner before our 7:30PM talk. It is so great getting to meet different people who are doing important work in their communities across the country to further the climate conversation and work towards solutions! We met Denise and Steve, who were also at the dinner and who we would be staying with that night. This event was held by a collection of Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapters in the area. The talk went great, with a full room. Since this was held at a restaurant, the seating arrangement was around little tables. This setup easily invited discussion among groups, and also was a nice chance to get to know different attendees. In this area people have been noticing more mild winter temperatures. We were told that Lake Erie doesn’t even freeze over any more. In the past, it was common for the lake to freeze in the winter so much that you could drive your car across it. Also, the area is seeing more and more algae blooms, and we heard mentions of increased flooding. We would see more of this first-hand the following day. Following the talk, and before heading to our hosts’ home, we stopped in a little restaurant to get a snack. The restaurant was focused on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, but had an entire vegan menu! We ordered “chicken” nuggets that were actually tofu, which came with a vegan dipping sauce. They were delicious, and a testament that eating less meat can be easy and fun!

Day 18 - Ann Arbor Day 2

Aug 18th, 2018

We started our day off with a morning climate talk held in a community room in the city. There were about 40 people, which was a great turn out for a Saturday morning. We learned about the different changes that the community is experiencing with weather, including extreme precipitation events and temperatures. Following the event, we had lunch with the organizers at a cute spot nearby. Ann Arbor has some nice restaurants! We had a lot to do, so after lunch we found ourselves back at the Airbnb working on email, blogs, and phone calls related to our tour. We have found that free time is not something we have encountered a whole lot of on the road., so it was nice to have a few hours to focus on our to-do items. This didn’t last too long, as we had plans to interview Guy Williams, who we mentioned in the last blog. We met Guy the night before when he noticed the decals on our car. It turns out Guy has a non-profit called “Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.” He also helped write the Detroit Climate Action Plan! He was also one of the friendliest people we had ever met! He happened to be organizing a block party in his community on Saturday, which he invited us to. We were happy to accept! The work he is doing is incredible and necessary. We were fortunate to interview Guy about his work. We learned some history about the city of Detroit, and the issues that Guy is working to address. We learned that due to a combination of factories, including the largest municipal solid waste incinerator in the nation, the air quality in Detroit is some of the worst. We learned that 2-3 people a day die in the Detroit Metro Area alone due to poor air quality. With 80% of Detroiters being people of color, this is a huge environmental justice issue. We talked about climate change and how on top of being a being an environmental issue, it is also an ethical and political issue. Those least responsible for climate change are suffering the most. That concluded our day in Ann Arbor! Take a look at our interview with Guy Williams, featured to the right of this blog! 

Day 17 - Ann Arbor, MI

Aug 17th, 2018

Today, we got a late start as usual. Packing the car is the X factor that always slows us down. We have so many things stuffed in the tiny car, such that everything must be placed in the “right” spot to fit. Thus, things easily become disorganized each time we unpack overnight. Not long after hitting the road, we were greeted by an unfortunate situation. The car suddenly began clanking loud. I pulled over thinking the engine must have fallen out! As it turned out, the rear tire had a big bolt head protruding. Shoot, a flat tire! I thought it odd that a bolt head should be making such a large clanking sound, but what do I know? Fortunately, we broke down about 5 mins from a mechanic, who was able to patch the tire and get us on the road within minutes. What luck! The mechanic, Jose, retrieved the bolt from the tire and gave it to us. This was no ordinary bolt. It was a thick, 5-inch beast! No wonder the car was making such a loud noise. The clanking sound was from the tip of the bolt hitting the inside of the tire frame with every tire rotation. Crazy! We didn’t pull into Ann Arbor until late at night. We hit the grocery store, since our AirBNB had a full kitchen where we could actually do a little cooking. As luck would have it, we ran into a man by the name of Guy Williams in the parking lot. Guy noticed the “On the Road for Climate Action” magnet on the side of our car and struck up conversation. As it turns out, he owns a non-profit called “Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.” He and his team played a key role in drafting Detroit’s Climate Action Plan. What serendipity. After chatting for a bit, Guy invited us over to a community picnic in his neighborhood the next day, and agreed to be interviewed about the work he and his charity have been doing. Video coming shortly! Upon picking up groceries and checking into our AirBNB, Athina took a stroll into town. It was late at night, but we’d had a long day and wanted to get out and explore a bit. We’re so glad we did. Ann Arbor is a cute town! -Shahir

Day 16 – Chicago 

Aug 16th, 2018

Today was scheduled to be a day meeting with a local Native American community to discuss climate change and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, this event was canceled, which we discovered the day prior. Thus, today would be a rest day. Perhaps this was for the better, given the extremely rushed schedule we’ve been subjecting ourselves to over the last 2 weeks. The morning started out with usual work and emails. We got a particularly exiting email this morning. Senator Barbara Boxer’s team reached out to us, and wants us as guests on her podcast “Fight Back.” How exciting! This will take place in early September. We’ll keep you all posted! Our AirBNB was located a few blocks from Lake Michigan, and about an hour walk from downtown. Instead of taking the car to downtown, we decided to take advantage of the lake view and enjoy a nice stroll by foot. This was also the carbon-free option! What a gorgeous day it was. Athina had never been to Chicago, so it was exciting to show her around. We had planned to have a nice dinner in town, but unfortunately time sped by, and by the time we were done exploring, many restaurants had closed. We were starving and quickly grew tired of searching for restaurants. Thus, we ultimately found ourselves at Panda Express. Quite an anticlimactic dinner, but so it goes. We capped the night by taking an elevator 90+ flights up to the top of the Hancock building to catch the panoramic view. -Shahir

Day 15 - Blue Fruits Farm, MN

August 15th, 2018

The morning offered a little relaxation, particularly since we stayed at a hotel, which came with the luxury of a free breakfast! This hasn’t been the norm for us, so we took full advantage. This morning’s destination was Blue Fruits Farm, Minnesota, where we’d meet organic farmer Jim Riddle. Jim operates a truly remarkable farm. He plants native wild flowers all around his farm to nourish native pollinator insects. And boy did they work! The native plant patches were teaming with butterflies, wasps, bees, and other bugs. These wild flowers also turn out to be a cash crop. He sells the seeds to other farms. What a great farming business model! Jim introduced us to a variety of berries, including the aronia berry, elder berry, and honey berry, all of which Jim graciously let us sample as we walked the farmland. When we asked, “why organic?” Jim responded, “…because farming is about nurturing life. Pesticides do the opposite.” Jim’s farm made Athina and I want to become farmers. The beautiful hilltop where his farm was located, complete with a solar powered home built halfway into the earth, did not hurt. We have some great interview footage with Jim, which will be coming soon to this website. After our meeting with Jim, we sped off for a 5+ hour drive to Chicago, where I needed to give a live online lecture (I’m currently teaching an online environmental health course). We made it just in time to our AirBNB! Our night ended with a relaxed beer and pizza in downtown Chicago. It was another busy day, but a very exciting and fulfilling one. -Shahir


On the Road for Climate Action!