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

Advertisements

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.

1017101_552326668140104_1782992288_n

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

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.

IMG_1483

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.

IMG_1498

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

Bridge The Gulf: Ada Mcmahon

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

-Daphne Chang

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade

IMG_2574My encounter with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade led to my rude awakening to how regulators and institutions, which the public is supposed to trust, can blatantly lie to cover the horrible truth in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the repercussions of their actions. The specific incident Kellen, who paid us Riders for the Future a visit to inform us about the Bucket Brigade, enlightened us on occurred last summer of 2012. A report of a 10 pound release of benzene (a known human carcinogen) from the Baton Rouge ExxonMobil facility was filed. Further investigations by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade uncovered the actual amount released: 28,000 pounds. I was in shock. Not only because 10 pounds of benzene was already a dangerous amount for humans to be exposed to but because if the Louisiana Bucket Brigade hadn’t pushed the EPA to investigate further, the truth may never have been uncovered. The impacts of the release would’ve only been felt and haunted daily by the individuals inhabiting fenceline communities (communities within 2 miles of a refinery).

Kellan also told us about The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s iWitness Pollution Map, which provides a channel for anybody in Louisiania to report pollution from chemical accidents, oil spills etc. A report generally consists of health effects, description of smell, location and wind direction. Individuals can access all previous reports submitted and the scale of pollution in a region can be measured. Another service by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is the Rapid Response Team, which have partnered with the coast guard. If a huge impact occurs from a refinery accident, the team conducts informal health surveys throughout the community. Then they can provide a claim number for individuals affected to call and request reimbursement for medical expenses. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade appears to me, to service the communities by providing a forum for individuals to make accurate reports of pollution impacts, which are kept on record. Then the Brigade endeavors to figure out the source of these impacts, bringing attention to them and hold them accountable.

Eventually Kellan had to leave us. I am feel more comforted knowing of the Bucket Brigade’s existence, and I felt sharply, the importance of the duty I must fulfill this summer. Thank you Kellan, for pulling back the curtain and revealing the uncomfortable truth: the fenceline communities that suffer greatly rarely have the power or opportunity to change their situation. This truth motivates me to venture out and collect the individual accounts of the actual impacts of oil, gas and coal extraction on surrounding communities, and with these stories of truth that we carry from then on, to contribute to the movement against fossil fuel industries that fight for the environmental injustices. Hopefully our actions may lead to the alleviation of these individuals struggles and pain.

Find out more at http://www.labucketbrigade.org

-Daphne Chang