Before Ride for the Future began, participants were assigned readings in preparation to provide context for what we’ll be doing this summer, which is visiting Gulf Coast communities to collect individuals’ stories told of their struggles imposed by oil extraction, refining, production and climate change. Two articles that had been taken from Bridge the Gulf Project had an immediate distinction amongst the scientific studies we had to read. I noticed an authentic and unique voice from people from the Gulf Coast community speaking about everyday ground struggles in an area vulnerable to sea-level rise and still suffering from the repercussions of the BP Oil Spill in 2005. This gave me a vague idea of what the Bridge the Gulf Project was about. Ada Mcmahon, an editor at Bridge the Gulf, visited the team and enlightened us on the commendable intentions of the project, which aims to create a platform for individuals in the Gulf Coast community to able to express and tell their stories. They create citizen journalists and train them to utilize media in order to amplify their voice, allowing their stories to reach a wider audience across the internet. The power of it lies in the many sparks across the communities carried in the passion and indignation of those suffering in the community, and as they become aware of their own influence and others’, they began to build a movement.
Because we are still only beginning our journey our objective is not fully fleshed out, however Ada’s explanation of Bridge the Gulf’s mission resonated with us deeply. I shared the perspective that the many authentic voices weaving stories of struggle creates a larger and impactful picture of the prioritization of fulfilling our energy demand through fossil fuels over human lives. This, I believe could be instrumental in the environmental justice movement, although as someone who has only scratched the surface of what makes a successful movement capable of drastic change (which the current climate crisis demands), I’m still full of uncertainties when considering the complex intricacies of the dynamics between localized grassroots organizers, who are capable of voicing a diverse group of people and NGOS working on a national scale, who may removed from the many concerns of people “on the ground”. Where is the compromise? Ada’s response seems to suggest that every movement is different and there is no clear cut formula or established rule to follow. Collaboration seems to be the most difficult when coordinating successful actions that strive to impact as many as possible, due to the plethora of voices, which all come from unique perspectives. However, one thing that Ada said struck me as something I could hold onto amidst all these potentially conflicting factors we must consider as young activists with the intentions of creating change entering the larger movement, full of passionate organizers with years more of experience, against fossil fuels. “You are who you are, show up as yourself,” which was a response to Kaela Bamberger’s question on how to deal with skeptics or those who may shoot us down.
I know that we, the Riders for the Future, have the passion and drive to fight for our futures. However, our awareness for the injustices against humanity also makes us self conscious of our naivete and our positions as outsiders when approaching Gulf Coast communities. Ada’s words gives me hope, that if we express ourselves and our desire to collaborate to these communities by actively listening to their stories and what they think would help themselves, they will accept us. In the end, I believe our power lies in the fact that we are people that care about other people, and despite our many differences, we will come together to fight for the future of humanity.
Find out more about this amazing project at http://bridgethegulfproject.org