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What’s the deal with Climate Ride Midwest? Find out on May 7

If you love riding your bike, or want to learn to love riding your bike, and you enjoy meeting interesting and energetic people who are working on climate change (and related) issues, this is the ride for you!

‘A2Rides’ team member and veteran rider Jenny Cooper says it’s “epically wonderful!” with “incredible people and presentations, incredible riding, and an incredible cause.” You can check out all the juicy deets here: Click on the “Midwest” button on the left to get further information about the specific ride we’ll be participating in.

Sound enticing? If you’re interested in joining the Ann Arbor team this year, or would like to learn more about it, please join me, Jenny, and other ‘A2Rides’ team members for an informal “info session” meet-and-greet: Wednesday, May 7 5:30pm @ Grizzly Peak (120 W. Washington St. AA)

If you can’t make it to Grizzly Peak on May 7th, don’t worry! Just contact Kate to get more information.


(Also be sure to check out the Climate Ride website FAQs –

What do you mean by a “conference on wheels”?

It’s literally a conference on wheels. Each evening there are 2-5 presentations by people working at the intersection of climate change, transportation, and energy. Speakers are usually fellow riders, and often prominent people in their fields. Examples of past speaker/riders: the Danish ambassador to the US, the CFO of Credo mobile, Bill McKibben, NOAA scientists, members of Congress, VP of EDF, Ben Sollee, Alison Gannett, etc. And in addition to the evening presentations, you get to chat with these folks all day while you ride your bike.

Eeek, I’m not a strong cyclist, but this experience sounds amazing….

Totally fine! You should do it! Climate Ride riders come from all walks of bicycle life: they span the spectrum from 82 year old grandmothers to avid racers, from bicycle commuters to weekend riders, from folks for whom Climate Ride is their first multi-day adventure to seasoned touring cyclists. During Climate Ride, we usually bike 60-80 miles each day. Given that getting from A to B is really the only thing you need to do all day, you can go at a pretty leisurely pace, and you’re always in good company.

Ahh! How will I ever raise $2800?

While raising $2800 can sound daunting, if you break down into smaller bits it sounds more feasible: find ~55 people to give you $50 or 100 people to chip in $28. The Climate Ride website also has lots of great fundraising tools, resources, and suggestions. Contact if you want to learn more.

Where do we sleep at night?

We camp or stay at retreat centers each night. On camping nights, if you’d prefer a hotel, there are usually nearby hotels available (but you have to arrange that on your own.)

Do I have to carry my own gear?

Nope! Climate Ride carries all your gear for you in their vehicles (unless you’d prefer to carry your own on your bike, which a couple people do every year.) When you arrive each evening at the destination, your bags are there waiting for you. As are snacks, dinner, hot showers, stellar people, and an incredible evening of climate and transportation related presentations and discussions.

How many riders usually participate in a Climate Ride?

~150, and about 25 rockin’ staff

Do I need to train for Climate Ride?

While a reasonably in-shape person could likely do Climate Ride without training all too much, it’s definitely advisable to put in some serious hours on your bike. If you’re not a cyclist (say, have never ridden more than 20 miles, or even 5) you should consider taking rides whenever possible and/or spin classes. The Climate Ride website has some good advice on this. In my experience the sitting-on-the-seat-for-a-long-time is the hardest part, and the only way to get used to it is to ride, ride, ride. There will certainly be many an Ann Arbor training ride in the Summer (let Kate know if you want to be on the e-mail list), so worry not. And, it’s never too early to hop on a spin bike.

Wait, you want me to drive/take a train somewhere to raise awareness about climate change? Isn’t that counter-productive?

Climate Ride is by no way a means of reducing our GHG emissions in the here and now. And it doesn’t purport to be. Climate Ride is an unparalleled opportunity to network with people addressing the climate change challenge from different angles (public sector, private sector, architects, lawyers, scientists, elected officials, educators, etc.), think about creative, effective, and pragmatic solutions, and find ways to forge partnerships that will help bring about the changes we need in order to address the greatest challenge of our time. All while riding a bicycle day in and day out. As for the GHG emissions and environmental impact of the ride itself, Climate Ride is one of the only large-scale charitable events that I’ve encountered in which the organizers are deeply committed to minimizing and reducing the event’s emissions and it shows in their practices. You can learn more here:


Review: Years of Living Dangerously – Episode 1

By Emilio Macy

The first episode of Years of Living Dangerously sets the series up as one that confronts climate conflicts by way of celebrity. Will new audiences receive these efforts as genuine? Or will the dramatization fizzle out like so many other efforts?

Maybe this series triggered some Day After Tomorrow PTSD, but many of the performances struck our viewing party as over-dramatized. Harrison Ford narrates with his Raiders of the Lost Ark monotone. While the “cheesmo” struck a cynical cord, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t entertained watching Harrison Ford riding in a longtail boat and helicoptering over Indonesia.  And hopefully, it will hook the majority of Americans — fast — because we really need to take action to solve the climate crisis, we need to start the mentality of today being our last.

Content-wise, one thing that this episode really hit home was that right now, thousands of acres of old, peat-rich rainforest is being burned down in Borneo, you can read more about the deforestation crisis there here. Watching the constant smoke rise from this otherwise-perfect ecosystem just for palm oil was heart-breaking. Palm oil is a hot commodity right now and Indonesia, its major supplier, has had to up its production, following orders from its own forest ministry to burn down forests for palm tree plantations. Warning: We’re a big part of the problem. Just check the ingredients of almost any snack food and you’ll likely see palm oil as an additive.

Photo from –

In addition to Ford exploring the Indonesian rainforest problem, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman interviews NASA and reports on food shortages in Syria and Don Cheadle explores climate denial in the Texas heartland. Our group learned a lot from a climate scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In her seminars, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe merges the two polar ideologies of church and climate science to illustrate that they need not be separate. When you think about it, you cannot have science without also appreciating the creation or creator of it.  This is nothing new, I remember hearing a piece on NPR about it when I was in high school.  Still, it is a thought-provoking message and needs to be understood by many more people if we’re going to pass much-needed policy solutions to fight climate change.

The whole point of the watch party was so we could discuss the episode afterwards. One person found it depressing, but liked the “connect-the-dots” style of the series, which linked droughts to food shortage to economic and health problems, and appreciated the in-depth perspective on each. I share the concern of another viewer who thought the “dark messaging” in the series will turn people off. Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth created a similar problem and, since it came out, we’ve proven year after year that scare tactics don’t have lasting impact. And, like me, another viewer wondered if celebrities really are good messengers for reaching the general public.

Our group was interested enough to agree to try out the second episode. We’ll get together on Earth Day — Sunday, April 27 at 7:00pm.  I, for one, cannot wait to see what Harrison Ford has to say to the Minister of Forestry!  We hope to see you there.

A2 Citizens Climate Lobby’s first meeting is April 5th

If you are worried about climate change and would like to take meaningful action, please come to the first ever meeting of the new Ann Arbor chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby! We will listen to a guest speaker via teleconference and then discuss actions we can take.

Citizens Climate Lobby is a national nonpartisan organization working to build support for carbon fee and dividend legislation in order to create the incentive to transition away from fossil fuels.

When: Saturday April 5, 12:45-2:15pm
Where: Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, 1420 Hill Street
RSVP to if you are planning to attend or if you have questions

2 important resolutions before Ann Arbor City Council next Monday

On Monday, March 17th, the Ann Arbor City Council will consider two important resolutions:

  1. Resolution for Commercial Energy Disclosure (read more and see supporting attachments)
  2. Resolution Recommending Staff Resourcing for Community Energy Efficiency (see text and supporting attachments here)

Already convinced that these are important? Yay! Click here to find out what you can do to make them a success.

The Commercial Energy Disclosure resolution would mean that commercial buildings annually report energy consumption in a format consistent with the free online energy benchmarking system, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager©, provided by the U.S. EPA.

Why would we do this? Much like “miles per gallon (MPG)” for cars or “Nutritional Facts” labeling for food products, energy disclosure ordinances allow for the comparison of commercial buildings by their energy performance — often one of a building’s biggest expenses. Not only does energy disclosure drive awareness among users of the building in question, but it also drives awareness — and implementation! — of energy efficiency improvements. Knowledge of energy consumption has been shown to encourage building-owners to pursue energy audits, which lead to efficiency upgrades (read: cost savings!) and stimulating local job activity (local auditors, local contractors to do the repairs, etc.).

The next sentence is what my high school English teacher would call a “box and highlight” sentence so get ready …

Estimates for the potential energy cost savings of a benchmarking ordinance in Ann Arbor, prepared by the non-profit organization the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), are between over $2 million to nearly $2.5 million, annually, or $12.5 million cumulatively by 2030.

What exactly is the resolution asking for? City Council to convene a stakeholder group (as a subcommittee of the Energy Commission) to develop and present a draft ordinance by the start of 2015. Ordinances in place elsewhere typically employed a phased approach, often with municipal buildings as well as the largest private buildings (by square footage) complying in the initial year(s), and medium-sized and/or smaller buildings participating in later years, with an option to either include or exclude multi-family buildings. Initial examination of the commercial building inventory in Ann Arbor suggest that 60% (~300 buildings) of buildings in this sector are 50,000 square feet or more, and over 80% (~500 buildings) of commercial buildings are 15,000 square feet or more in size.

Wait a minute — has this worked anywhere else?  Yes, the resolution cites several cities across the U.S. that have adopted benchmarking ordinances similar to what would be considered for Ann Arbor. Those cities were motivated to pass these ordinances because of their Climate Action Plan greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. Ann Arbor has these too!

But what about that other ordinance recommending staffing?

To do Energy Disclosures right — and to implement the 85 other actions in Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan — the City Energy Office needs staffing! For example, staff would help building owners comply with the Commercial Energy Disclosure ordinance. This position isn’t new for Ann Arbor’s Energy Office, but the person who staffed it left (to help run a farm in northern Michigan!) and it hasn’t been adequately resourced for a few years now.

Again, this investment has shown value in other places. Many cities (Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Chicago) that are exhibiting success on their climate action plans have City staffing to help residents and local businesses reduce their energy use and  lessen their carbon footprint.

Okay, okay, so what can I do?

Disclosure of energy use is an important first step in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings — and we need staffing at the City’s Energy Office to do that work (and other pieces of the Climate Action Plan) successfully. So, now what?

We need City Council members to know that residents in their wards support these resolutions so that they will pass them! Can you take a minute to contact your Council rep and ask him/her to vote “yes” on both of them? Here’s the contact info for everyone who can vote (to email everyone at once, click here):

John Hieftje (D)
301 E. Huron Street 48104

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014

Photo: John Hieftje
Sabra Briere (D)
1418 Broadway 48105

Term: Nov. 2013 – Nov. 2015

Photo: Sabra Briere
Sumi Kailasapathy (D)
2530 Mallard Ct., 48105

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014

Sumi Kailasapathy
Jane Lumm (Independent)
3075 Overridge Drive 48104

Term: Nov. 2013 – Nov. 2015

jane lumm
Sally Hart Petersen (D)
2976 Hickory Lane 48104

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014

Sally Hart Peterson image
Stephen Kunselman (D)
2885 Butternut
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Term: Nov. 2013 – Nov. 2015

Stephen Kunselman

Christopher Taylor (D)
1505 Brooklyn Ave. 48104

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014

Photo: Christopher Taylor
Jack Eaton (D)
1606 Dicken Drive 48103

Term: Nov. 2013 – Nov. 2015

jack eaton
Margie Teall (D)
1208 Brooklyn Ave.  48104

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014

Photo: Margie Teall
Mike Anglin (D)
549 S. First St. 48103

Term: Nov. 2013 – Nov. 2015

Photo: Mike Anglin
Chuck Warpehoski (D)
2020 Winewood, 48103

Term: Nov. 2012 – Nov. 2014



Time to leave coal in the past with voting inequality

Guest blogger: Zack Deutsch-Gross,  Field Organizer-Oakland County Sierra Club Beyond Coal 

What do we hang onto from the year 1900? That’s about when the nation’s first coal-fired power plant opened. Think of the number of changes we’ve made since then. Think of the products that are newer than that and yet are still old enough that they’re dated, they’re has-beens.

Who uses a rotary-dial phone? It’s a more modern invention than a coal plant. The first LP (this dates me: Long-Playing record, what we used to call a 33, what is now called “vinyl”) dates from 1948. The transistor radio was developed in 1954.

In the century-plus since the first coal plant opened, we’ve developed and abandoned large amounts of technology; many, many products have come and gone, but we still see these behemoth anachronisms, providing 60% of our electricity.

There are many reasons to move beyond coal. How many lakes and rivers in our beautiful, watery state have mercury warnings and fish advisories? All of them. How does coal affect our health? The American Lung Association says coal-plant particle pollution alone kills 13,000 a year nationwide (see their Time to Clean Up Coal-Fired Power Plants here).

We can do better. We don’t have to settle for the soot, the illnesses, the millions of fish killed each year by the older plants. Didn’t know that? It’s not widely known, not compared to the oft-repeated myth that wind turbines are great killers of birds.

Older power plants on the Great Lakes each kill millions of fish per year, sucking them and other creatures in with the massive amounts of Great Lakes water needed for cooling. About the birds, check out this post on the subject.

We hear that wind turbines only work when the wind is blowing; solar only when the sun is shining. Well, coal only works when coal is burning, and to power our lives, as I’m doing right now on this computer, coal has to burn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it has to be burned right in someone’s neighborhood, right on a lakeshore or riverside.

To provide that much coal, coal has to be mined and transported, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What might have seemed a miracle to a smaller population is now dated, dirty, dangerous.

And destroying Appalachia and parts of the west starts to seem a bit unfair to those residents. We Michiganians do not like the idea of bottling up our water or putting it in tanker trucks or freighters. It’s not just a commodity to us. We might imagine that people elsewhere feel the same about the unique aspects of their own landscapes.

When the first coal plant opened, women couldn’t vote. Women could still be arrested for smoking in public. Coal plants might have made sense in that America, with less than 80 million people in the US. Providing electricity to 310,000 takes clean, modern thinking.

Let’s leave the coal plants behind with voting inequality. A better future is ahead for the Great Lakes State. For more information or to get involved, go to the Sierra Club’s website or email me (

Students descend on DC to show dissent for KXL

Keystone XL DissentThe Obama administration is expected to announce a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline in the next couple of months. Next weekend, students from all over the United States will march for Georgetown University to the White House to denounce the Keystone XL pipeline and show their opposition to an “all of the above” energy approach.

One component of this action — which students are hoping will be the biggest of its kind — is peaceful civil disobedience. The protest and rally takes place on March 2nd, with a mandatory training for those who choose to participate in civil disobedience.

A number of vehicles are currently being coordinated from Ann Arbor for those interested in attending. There’s a ride board to coordinate rides or you can email  For more information, visit

Citizens Climate Lobby Workshop – March 8th

Lynate Pettengill, Director of Field Development with Citizens Climate Lobby

With the need for political will to address climate change growing ever more urgent, citizens are invited to gather in Lansing on Saturday, March 8 for a workshop that will launch new chapters of Citizens Climate Lobby. The event is sponsored by the Red Cedar Friends Peace and Social Justice Committee.

Lynate Pettengill, Director of Field Development with Citizens Climate Lobby, will lead the three-hour workshop. “Politicians do not create political will, they respond to it,” says Pettengill. “If we want Congress to address climate change, then they have to hear from us. The workshop is designed to give volunteers the tools they need to be effective advocates.”

Citizens Climate Lobby is a grassroots advocacy organization, with 140 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, dedicated to generating the political will for effective national policies to address climate change. The group is working to build support for a carbon tax that returns revenue to households, creating a market-based incentive to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

WHAT: Workshop to launch new chapters of Citizens Climate Lobby.

WHY: To break the gridlock in Congress that prevents our government from enacting policies that will stabilize our climate and preserve a livable world for future generations.

WHO: Anyone with an interest in supporting this work.

WHEN: Saturday, March 8, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

WHERE: Red Cedar Friends Meetinghouse, 1400 Turner St., Lansing, MI

RSVP: Elizabeth Dell, Michigan State Coordinator, Citizens Climate Lobby,

Elemental (the film) is coming to the Michigan Theater — one day only!


Come see Elemental: The Film with us at the Michigan Theater next Tuesday! The film tells the story of three individuals as they work to confront the most pressing ecological challenges of our time.

We’re excited to be partnering with A2Share and the Graham Sustainability Institute to bring the film to Ann Arbor and have a panel discussion with local activists and experts after the film.|

Questions? Let us know!

Let’s get started on an Ann Arbor chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby!


Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose goal is to speed the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy by pushing for a consumer-friendly tax on carbon.  It is a relatively young, fast-growing organization, and there isn’t a chapter in Ann Arbor — yet!

If you are interested in helping to get a chapter of CCL started in Ann Arbor, email Ginny at

For more information about Citizens Climate Lobby, visit  They also hold a  weekly introductory telephone conference call which gives a great introduction to the organization — you can sign up for this on the website.

Can local action change the climate? Sure, but only if we get started

Satellite image showing entry of the Polar Vortex into the northern US. Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Whew! How about this crazy weather?

The scientists tell us that extreme weather is one of the consequences of climate change, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that around here the last several months.

That’s one reason we’ve been pushing for local action address climate change. Local action is critical to global progress on climate pollution — because cities like Ann Arbor are at the forefront of the causes and effects of climate risks that will become more frequent and severe over time.

In particular, we’ve spent the last several months organizing a plan to implement Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP is an ambitious plan with 87 different steps we can take to address climate change at the community level.

Given the lack of momentum at the state and federal levels, cities can’t wait to take action. That’s why we’re launching a Community Climate Partnership to get started fixing the world, right here at home.

We look forward to keeping you posted on the progress — and on ways you can engage to help us get to our goal.

Happy 2014!