Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Climate Ride: Are You Up for the Challenge?

A Q&A with AGU's president-elect, Eric Davidson, about the upcoming 2015 Northeast Climate Ride and his experience riding last year.


The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is participating in Climate Ride for the second year! Climate Ride is a nonprofit organization that offers 5-day, staff-supported bike rides or hikes through beautiful areas of the United States to increase awareness for sustainability and raise money for organizations working on issues related to climate change, sustainability, and other environmental causes.

By taking part in one of the rides, participants not only challenge themselves physically but also have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers and meet bright minds in policy, advocacy, and innovation.

AGU’s president-elect, Eric Davidson, participated in last year’s Northeast Climate Ride, pedaling more than 500 kilometers from New York City to Washington, D. C. This year, Davidson decided not only to pedal for the planet again but to lead the AGU team on the 2015 Northeast ride from Bar Harbor to Boston. AGU caught up with him to ask how he got involved in Climate Ride, what’s driving him to participate again this year, and what advice he can offer others who want to join his team—or lead an AGU team of their own!

AGU: What about Climate Ride appealed to you?

Davidson: It was suggested to me by a colleague as a schoolkids’ challenge—“you think you can do this?” I had never been a big bicycling enthusiast; I rode my bike to work and back every day, 5 miles [8 kilometers] each way, but never took long trips. Climate Ride sounded like a new and interesting challenge. And the fact that the ride is well supported—somebody’s taking care of you to make sure you have a hot shower and a good meal and a bed to lie down in and making sure the trail is well marked and there are bike mechanics to help you if you break down—makes it an easy way to get started.

It’s also an opportunity to merge together fundraising for your favorite charity or nonprofit and drawing attention to climate change, this important topic of our time.

I also like the idea of getting scientists engaged with the people who are passionate about climate change—it’s an opportunity for scientists to learn what’s motivating people and to learn how we can communicate our information in ways that make sense to them—and it’s a chance for nonscientists to hear from us and talk with us.

AGU: What was it like riding on the Northeast Ride?

Davidson: We met people of all ages—there was a high-school kid and some people who were retired. There were people who sailed ahead and finished in a third or half the time of everyone else and people who took their sweet time and took all day. It really was a wide-ranging group. Some people needed to take a day off and ride in the wagon for a day, and that was accepted…there was no rivalry of any sort.

And the landscape was gorgeous. I’ve mostly driven down the New Jersey turnpike—I hadn’t really gone on back roads through Amish country in Pennsylvania and horse country in Maryland, and it was really gorgeous. It was interesting in Amish country seeing the juxtaposition of a solar panel farm mixed in with all the Amish homes. You could spot the Amish homes because we went through on a Monday and that’s apparently wash day—the clotheslines were full of a week’s clothes hung out to dry in the sun—that’s a different kind of solar power.

AGU: Were you worried about how to meet the $2800 minimum fundraising goal? What were some tactics you used or saw others use?

Davidson: It was easier than I expected. I simply put a tag on the bottom of my emails saying “Please support me” and put on the URL where they [recipients] could get the information. I was surprised by how many people really were pleased to learn about what I was doing and how to support me. I had pledges ranging from $15 to one of $300. But even the $15 pledges add up, so I was able to exceed my goal.

A lot of people are reluctant as adults to ask their friends and family to support them, but actually, a lot of people do want to support and encourage their friends and colleagues in various ways. So I think as much as it seems unnatural for many people, if they can imagine themselves on the giving side, then they shouldn’t feel so bad about being on the asking side.

AGU: How did you train for the ride?

Davidson: Assuming that most potential riders have day gigs like I do, I suggest getting out every weekend that time and weather permit and doing at least 20–30 miles [30–50 kilometers]—40–50 [60–80 kilometers] if you can—and then midweek, if you have opportunities, even if it’s only a 5- or 10-mile [8–16 kilometers] ride to the store or to work. Just be on that bike as often as you can and try to get in a couple of long rides if you can.

AGU: What made you decide to participate again this year/lead a team from AGU?

Davidson: The fact that I had a great experience and a lot of fun and it was a good challenge where I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end—that was a good thing to want to repeat. There’s also novelty in a different route, seeing a different part of the countryside. I’ve gone from Bar Harbor to Boston before, but I’m sure I’ve never gone on these back roads, so it’ll be another fun, rewarding way to spend a few days seeing the countryside. Last year I got involved in this before I had any inkling that I’d be nominated to run for president-elect of AGU, but now that I’m in that position and AGU has embraced this as a vehicle for its members to get engaged, I’m happy to help encourage an AGU team to develop.

AGU: Why donate to AGU?

Davidson: I think AGU is an appropriate beneficiary because it’s the leading scientific organization that is doing the science to understand how humans are changing the climate and what can be done about it. We need good information; society needs good information. AGU’s mission is to promote Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity, and I truly believe that AGU does a good job of promoting that goal and that our scientists are producing the science that’s needed to understand and convey what we do and don’t know about climate change and the challenge it poses to humanity. And AGU provides a service to its members to enable them to do their science and get their information out there to the scientific community and the general public.

AGU: Anything else to add for people thinking of doing this (and those who might still be a little hesitant)?

Davidson: If an old man like me can do it, they can do it. It puts you a little outside your comfort zone; there were times going up those hills in southeastern Pennsylvania when I wondered what the heck I was doing, but once you got to the top of the hill or at the end of the day, there was such a great feeling of accomplishment—it’s worth it to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

For people having doubts: I want to emphasize that this is a great way to ease yourself into a longer ride than you would have done otherwise because it’s so well supported. The staff are so positive and encouraging and take care of your needs—they’re there as fallback if you have mechanical problems or you need to ride in a car for a little while—so if you’re ever thinking about wanting to try something like this, this is a comfy and easy way to do it—about as comfy and easy as you’re going to find.

—Olivia Ambrogio, Sharing Science Program Manager, AGU; email: [email protected]

Join the AGU team on the 2015 Northeast Climate Ride, 17–21 September, from Bar Harbor to Boston. Climate Ride offers several other bike rides and hikes across the United States. Learn more about Climate Ride, the rides and hikes offered, and how you can ride for AGU.

Climate: Ambrogio, O. (2015), Climate Ride: Are you up for the challenge?, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO030923. Published on 3 June 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0