Hilton Kelley

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Since the discovery of oil in 1901 Port Arthur, Texas has been a hub for the world’s largest oil refineries. Hilton Kelley, who grew up in Port Arthur, explained to the team how this dependency has been one of the major factors leading to the city’s current deep recession. He clarified how the temporary employment offered during refinery construction is NOT a sustainable job creation source. After construction the petro-chemical companies mostly hire experienced non-locals for the long term positions.

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Hilton hasn’t always been highlighting the industry’s impact on his hometown. After serving in the U.S. Navy and working in the acting industry Mr. Kelley found a new calling during a visit home.  He noticed how many of his friends from high school and different community members were dying of cancer and how they had contracted other respiratory illness. Residents were also moving away every year in search of better economic opportunity. He asked his friend who was working on ameliorating these problems. More needed to be done. It was then Community In-power and Development Association (CIDA) was founded in 2000 with the belief that chemical polluters should be held accountable for the chronic, systematic poisoning of low-income communities living along the “fence line” of their operations. The organization has had many victories since then. One major accomplishment includes accountability for the companies releasing toxic chemicals into the air and the enforcement of air permits. Another includes a fund by petro-chemical companies for local entrepreneurs to participate in the revival. These have been acknowledged by the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2011. It is granted to one environmental hero from each continent. The work of Goldman Prize recipients often focuses on protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies and striving for environmental justice.

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Mr. Kelley with President Obama

The team was lucky to be able to meet with Mr. Kelley. We learned a lot about Port Arthur and the refineries impacts on the communities that live in that city.

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-Omar Navarro

Red Stick Farmer’s Market

DSC_0033 Buy Fresh Buy Local is the slogan. Sounds cliché, but Baton Rouge delivered the most unique farm to market experience yet.

The Red Stick Farmer’s market in Baton Rouge offered more than I had ever expected from the idea. This ideal market offers a weekend event for the entire family, while connecting community members. Consumers were offered various selections of locally produced vegetables, seafood, meat, honey, wine, books, and baked goods. There was even live music to enjoy while grocery shopping. Many of the vendors offered catering services as well.

DSC_0034The team ventured throughout the market tasting new foods. As I was sitting on a bench soaking in the environment and resting when a Francis Chauvin of Blue Ribbon Pies asked, “Would you like a shoe sole young man?”

“A shoe sole?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re thin slices of dough cover with cinnamon and sugar,” she responded.

They were delicious. She let the team try the treats for free.

The Red Stick definitely set a high bar for farmer’s markets everywhere. It has been my favorite one so far.

DSC_0070-Omar Navarro

Front Yard Bikes

1000528_552330928139678_1360251245_nWhen we where in Baton Rouge we had been invited to check out the Front Yard Bikes workshop but nobody really knew what it was. Hannah, Omar and I headed over to meet with Dustin who had founded it.

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We learned that Front Yard Bikes was a workshop for kids who wanted to learn how to repair and build bikes. This gave them the opportunity to earn and keep the bike they were working on. 1044089_552327451473359_357340157_n

It was a really great community project and we were very impressed.1043899_552327551473349_1160018621_n

-Erik Rundquist

Beaumont: From Garden To Plate

Our arrival in Beaumont means an arrival at Unity Southwest Texas!
First we stopped at the Giving Field, a donation garden which supplies the food bank Some Other Place with fresh produce. It also acts as an education opportunity for the neighboring school.
Doing some serious weeding while watching intently for fire ants and the potential angry bee.
Doing some serious weeding while watching intently for fire ants and the potential angry bee.
Quid Pro Quo: I trade my labor for some quality time with your chickens.
Quid Pro Quo: I trade my labor for some quality time with your chickens.
Next volunteer opportunity: at Some Other Place. We helped serve almost 200 people food in one day. Here we're rockin' the hair nets.
Next volunteer opportunity: at Some Other Place. We helped serve almost 200 people food in one day. Here we’re rockin’ the hair nets.
Really rocking them.
Really rocking them.
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Afterward Sharon brought us to experience the fresh cuisine in Katherine and Company’s.
And at last a relaxing evening in the pool of Rev. Sondra and Susan, our gracious hosts.
And at last a relaxing evening in the pool of Rev. Sondra and Susan, our gracious hosts.

Kaela Bamberger

Thank you WHYR, for having us!

IMG_1478During our stay in Baton Rouge, 3 Riders for the Future were lucky enough to be invited by WHYR Community Radio Station for an hour long interview with David Brown.

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Being Interviewed

WHYR is a local radio station, which operates wholly by the volunteering of local residents. It claims to be progressive, which may be a true statement to make due to their warm welcome of us riders on the show, considering our politically sensitive message. We were given a list of 10 questions before the interview to prepare. David Brown informed us that it would be set up like we were having a conversationand that it wasn’t live, this contributed significantly to the reduction of my nerves and possible anxiety. The questions David provided for us were simultaneously challenging but exciting for us to engage in. Examples include “What does it mean to be an activist and what compelled each of you to become activists when it would be so much more comfortable to just get a job and pursue your passion or other recreation?” and “How do you envision what you’re doing making any kind of a difference to the fossil fuel industry or the “oil addicted”/”drill baby drill” status quo?”. Before we worked together to answers these questions, we decided upon Ernesto Botello, Kaela Bamberger and me, Daphne Chang to be interviewed. We spent an hour brainstorming separately and then converging to share our individual responses. It was a really eye opening experiencing because we got to see, as a group, the variations in perspectives and motivations between individual participants of this program, and what we believe our approach us. It brings us to the characteristic of Ride for the Future as a program that makes it so unique, which its flexibility and the capacity for our influence to shape the program and the experience for ourselves, the participants and leaders of this journey.

Another quesiton which prompted me to learn something new was on the “precautionary principle”, something I had never heard of before Ernesto Botello, the Public Health and Health Science major educated meon the different approaches of policy of prevention versus treatment. News of the Geismar plant explosion that morning was spread all over media outlets and it was also a relevant in the context of the precautionary principle. Ernesto craftily used it as an example of how efforts of prevention could avoid the necessity of repercussions and treatment.

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David Brown and the Riders

After we went through adequate preparation for our interview, Ernesto, Kaela and I set off for the radio station. My first impression upon arrival was the appeal of the space the radio was held in. It was small but had a hip and casual feel to it. There were records on the walls and inspirational quotes along with the faces of influential individuals, which the quotes were taken from. So the wisdom of Bob Marley and John Lennon helped calmed my nerves as well. David Brown, our interviewer was especially great to interact with. He was friendly, hilarious, soothed our nerves, but at the same time he really engaged with us in exploring our mission as Riders for the Future. He made us value the powerful influence we our connection with our listeners have as interviewees. After all, we are here because of a strong message that we wish to spread, and how we can do that effectively, inclusively and in a manner that does not alienate or cause divisions was interesting and important to explore.

One of the themes of many that was touched upon, which was important to me and something I ponder regularly, is what activism means to the general public. I’ve been referred to as an “environmental activist” by my friends and I dislike it because they seem to say it with the intention of separating what I pursue as an interest and what they pursue. In our complex world there are varying levels and meanings of activism. You do not need to give up your job our make great sacrifices in order to be active in a cause that you truly believe is worth fighting for. As someone who is trying to fight for something and constantly interacting with people who may think the cause I’m fighting for is ridiculous or unworthy, I struggle to recognize that different people have different passions. I pursue activism and organizing because I enjoy it, but as a collective of talented individuals, we can contribute to social movements for justice in all sorts of different ways. There’s no reason why anybody can’t be an activist, or should I say, active on an issue that is asking for change not just for an individual, but for society and the common people.

-Daphne Chang

Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Democracy Project

1001447_546530882053016_556959833_n 1002091_546530888719682_202879575_n943721_10152880080220247_1298885727_nOn the first day of arriving in Baton Rouge the Ride For the Future Team was invited to attend a meeting called Pray for our Air. So we got on our bikes and headed over there. We pass the second largest oil refinery in the country to the north and sporadic patches of an Exxon-sponsored flower garden to the south. We were overwhelmed by the horrible stench of the plant.
Stephanie Anthony began the meeting with, “The first thing we should all do is pray for our air. God we pray that the politicians, lawmakers, and businessman allow our children to breathe clean air.” Stephanie Anthony of the Louisiana Democracy Project was hosting a meeting at Allen Chapel Baptist Church in the Scenic Blvd. neighborhood, a fence line community. The 2,400 acre ExxonMobil petrochemical complex had an underpublicized incident last week. Only one resident at the meeting had received a phone call from ExxonMobil following the accident. The company representative only stated that an incident had occurred and that it had already been resolved. No quantitative measures of exposure were mentioned to the resident. Last week’s incident is one of several that occurred in the past year. Ms. Anthony and several community members are outraged by the audacity of Exxon’s request for a new permit to increase the annual limit of chemicals released into the atmosphere. Exxon already releases 24 tons of sulfur dioxide a day, a dangerously high amount.
In response, the community has formed a petition to be presented at the Environmental Protection Agency conference on environmental justice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hopefully the petition would place Exxon on probation for new permits so that Scenic Blvd. residents have healthier air. The Ride for the Future team collaborated with the Louisiana Democracy Project and canvassed around the neighborhood surrounding Exxon to gain signatures and support for the petition.
A few days later we met with Stephanie Anthony again and helped to clean up a community garden at the Little Rising Sun Baptist church. We met with local children and showed them our crane project.
-Erik Rundquist
-Omar Navarro

Arriving in Baton Rouge: A list of Positives

936387_4754798842712_1893710202_nI am writing this the evening of June 4th, 2013. The following are the contributions to what I now reflect on as a great morning.

1. The sun was hidden by the big fluffy clouds. 50% chance of rain but it never did, instead our team was greeted continuously by the cool breeze, which flew past us and created the illusion that we were light and purposefully speeding across the roads towards our destination. I could feel myself getting stronger as my feet relentlessly peddle. I felt the same ache in the muscles of my legs but it didn’t stop me or slow me down this time, I only wanted to go faster.

2. I managed to take wonderful pictures of my team on the road. Although what hung above us most frequently were thick blankets of cloud, occasionally they would separate and let the sun rays fall onto Baton Rouge, which enhanced all the colors that we could see: our shirts a juicy bright orange, the sky blue with a radiating calmness and the trees a lush green.

3. A happy accident. We stopped at Home Depot on our way to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, halting our bikes in the parking lot. A few people asked us questions, their curiosities about what a group of sweaty young adults were doing in a Home Depot parking lead to their momentary stop beside us. I never tire of the shocked reaction, the unrestrained gasp of “What?” when we tell people that we are biking to Houston. There are others that give us advice on biking on the freeways, telling us to be careful. The most memorable being “There are three kinds of drivers: Those that don’t know how to drive, those that don’t care how they drive, and those that don’t care that they don’t know how to drive.” The brief connection with these people as we tell them our purpose and the formation of a rapport as they give us their sincere opinion make up the special moments of this trip. One individual who stopped by made me feel truly lucky. As the team’s media coordinator, I’ve found the prospect of outreach quite daunting. When Othello Carter, an independent photographer of New Orleans walked up to us, with a camera slung over his shoulder, he shooed away those doubts I had, that perhaps our story wasn’t that great or significant, by asking about what we were doing and wanting to capture us with his camera.
Othello Carter is a talented photographer, you can check out his amazing work at http://www.othellocarter.com

All these things culminated into a great arrival in Baton Rouge.  I am looking forward to our stay in the capital.

-Daphne Chang