Thursday, December 6, 2018

Shahir Speaks at LA Environmental Conference

Shahir attended the Fifth Annual Health and Environmental Conference in Los Angeles. He was one of the four main speakers at the event and also had a booth where he was selling copies of his book, Beyond Debate. The audience was largely made up of Hispanic women, many of whom did not speak English (a translator was present). His talk was the only talk on climate change at the conference, and was well received! The conference was aimed at equipping undeserved communities with the knowledge to protect themselves and their families from toxic chemicals in their daily environments. 

An example is cleaning solvents and BPA in bottles. Shahir braved one of the strongest downpours this year on his drive to LA. On his way back, he popped into a bookstore to inquire about the prospect of them carrying his book, Beyond Debate. When Shahir left the bookstore, his book was on display at the store! A great way to wrap up the last month of the year. Beyond Debate is making its' way into a number of different hands, and we couldn't be more excited!


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

GO VOTE - Our Climate & Future Depend On It!

The results of this midterm election will be pivotal for many reasons. One reason that isn't brought up nearly enough has to do with the destabilization of our climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just published a new report, which essentially gives us 12 years to get our act together as a society before we cross a dangerous threshold. For years, climate scientists have been warning us that the burning of fossil fuels and release of greenhouse gas emissions will warm our atmosphere and oceans, and that this warming will lead to extreme flooding in certain areas, more droughts and wildfires across the West, more intense hurricanes in the Gulf, etc. These predictions are already playing out across the country. Athina and I just spent 3 months on the road interviewing farmers, business owners, and ordinary citizens who are feeling the impacts of climate change, as well as scientists and other experts studying the issue. There is no question we've got a major crisis on our hands that we must urgently address. Click here to view our growing video archive that showcases some of these interviews.

Fortunately, renewable energy technology is available to reduce atmospheric pollution and get a hold of this problem. If you think shifting to renewables will be costly to the economy, consider the cost of inaction. For example, in 2016, 15 major climate-related natural disasters cost the U.S. economy $46 billion. This is 3 times more disasters than the annual average. In 2017, things took a new leap, when 16 major disasters cost the economy over $300 billion! The time to address climate change is now. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road if we wish to hold onto our regular weather patterns. Similarly, we cannot think that "they" will take care of the problem. This problem requires congressional action to remove fossil fuel subsidies and let renewable energy compete. This problem requires that the big polluters pay a fee to release carbon dioxide, much like they do when sending hazardous waste to the landfill. This problem requires YOU and I. Because if we don't vote today to send people to Washington who care to address climate change, then climate change won't get addressed.

Importantly, we don't have forever to get our act together. Once enough glaciers melt and once the oceans warm enough, we don't get to go back. Thus, the actions we choose to take or not take today will have impacts on our society for generations to come. The children and grandchildren of this world will one day ask us, "what did you do to help prevent climate change?" Let us tell them, "I VOTED to protect the future!"

Vote for Who?

Orange County, CA - If you live in OC and have Dana Rohrabacher as your congressman, you have an opportunity to make an important change. Dana has been in office for decades and has been a MAJOR impediment to climate action. I have personally met with him twice in D.C. He makes fun of even the most basic and well understood aspects of climate science and the greenhouse effect. Dana Rohrabacher must go. His opponent Harley Rouda, on the other hand, places an emphasis on the importance of climate change and the protection of our future. Harley gets my endorsement.

I also support Katie Porter in CA District-45 given that her opponent Mimi Walters takes money from fossil fuel corporations and does not have a good track record on the environment and climate change.

Further Reading

For more on climate change and understanding the misconceptions that often surround the topic, pick up a copy of my new book Beyond Debate: Answers to 50 Misconceptions on Climate Change. If you already know the issue, it'll make a great holiday gift for someone who does not!

Dr. Shahir Masri
Air Pollution Exposure Scientist

Saturday, October 20, 2018

New Mexico - Solar Fiesta 2018!

We had a much needed good night of sleep at our hotel, thanks to having covered so much driving (11 hours!) the day before. After a quick breakfast, we were off to Solar Fiesta 1018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We reached the venue by 930AM. It was a quaint and cute little parking lot area where many venders had already begun setting up. It was a windy morning, but we still set up our banner and booth, using rocks to hold the flyers down. I sold a book right off the bat, to the guy who owned the neighboring booth. A nice start to the day! I was scheduled to be on a science panel at 11AM. The panel went well. I was one of four presenters. We each spoke for 7 minutes, followed by QnA. I lived-stream the talk through Instagram, which was a first for me! Returning to our booth was a joy. We both enjoyed the opportunity to chat with passers-bys about our climate tour and the work we’re doing. Lots of people were excited by our work and very supportive of us. A dozen or so people even picked up a copy of Beyond Debate! At one point, I slipped away to do some video recording of the event. There was great live music and tasty vegan cookies and pizza prepared by a solar cooker. Who could complain!? There was also a cool rainbow colored Tesla, among other electric cars on display. 

We packed up at 4PM. By that time we were quite tired from the sun and many hours talking. We were very excited for our evening’s destination. We were off to Santa Fe, where we would get a long-awaited day of rest and vacation. Arriving to Santa Fe we were greeted by a beautiful sunset. After a quick stop to the hotel to change and relax, we hit the town for dinner. Fall was definitely in the air. A great change from the past couple months of blistering heat we’d experienced! Our night in Sante Fe was fantastic. Athina and I have been very tired in these recent weeks as we’ve headed across the south. Living out of a suitcase, being on stage all the time, and driving long distances can really wear you out. Santa Fe would be our breath of fresh air, and an opportunity to recharge and just enjoy our surroundings!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

-Shahir Masri, Sc.D.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Day on The Hill - Meetings with Congress!

What an exciting day! We made our way into the nation's capital for two very exciting meetings. The first was a meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren's office, and the second was a meeting with Congressman Dana Rohrabocher, our CA representative. As we were walking to the senate building, we noticed a lot of commotion on the streets and in a building to our left. We quickly figured out that we were walking past the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, as we walked through a protest of pro-Kavanaugh and then through a protest against Kavanaugh's confirmation.

The energy was electric this morning. We met with Courtney, a staffer in Warren's office. We spoke with her about climate policy that Senator Warren is working on. Our most important finding was when Shahir asked how close we are to putting a federal price on carbon. Courtney's answer was a bit disheartening, but at the same time energizing. She said that they are just not feeling sufficient pressure from the public to prioritize the issue of climate change and addressing carbon emissions in Washington. There are not enough phone calls, not enough letters, or people in the street. Therefore, other issues, such as consumer protection, are taking priority. This reinforced our feeling that our "Road for Climate Action" is an important and worthwhile endeavor.

This picture features Shahir, Courtney, and I standing outside of Warren's office.

We had quite a different conversation with our Congressman Dana Rohrabacher at his office. Rohrabacher merely refers to climate change as the "CO2 theory," reluctant to acknowledge the crisis we're facing. He nonetheless listened to our concerns. And although he does not attribute human activity as a cause of the changing climate, he did accept the gift of Beyond Debate that Shahir brought for him. Our two meetings on this day could not have been any more different!

Following this, we traveled to Annapolis where we had a climate talk at the Friends of Annapolis Quaker House hosted by the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis, and Citizens' Climate Lobby. It was a great evening filled with insightful questions and conversation. By the end of the day, we were completely exhausted and were happy to hit the hay!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

-Athina Simolaris

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

First Day in D.C.!

Today was the day that we delivered our two Parachutes for the Planet to Barton Rubinstein, co-Founder of the Mother Earth Project. To remind you, we had been carrying a parachute to different Native American communities along our route to add to the intertribal parachute that we delivered to Barton. We also took with us a parachute that Santiago High School had painted. Meeting Barton in person was great! We learned that he is actually a talented sculptor and is doing a lot to bring awareness to environmental causes. Barton has been receiving parachutes from youth from all over the world. Actually, he has received over 200 chutes from as far as Africa! After we met with Barton, we took some time to work on our computers and catch up on as many emails as we could. We also prepared for our meeting with our congressman, Dana Rohrabacher the following day. We made it into the city for dinner and over all had a productive and enjoyable day!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

-Athina Simolaris

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

From Philly to the Nations Capital!

Today we traveled from Philly to the nations capital, Washington D.C.! We had a busy few days working and doing climate talks in Philly, so we figured on the way to D.C. we would take a quick detour to see a bit of the city. We found the Liberty Bell and took a nice stroll through the national park where it lives. Whenever possible we try to see what we can of the sights and history of each city. We had lunch in the historic district in a restaurant which originally opened in 1773! We had to get on the road to D.C. for our afternoon event. The skies opened into a torrential downpour for most
of our drive, and we arrived at our destination, Solid States Bookstore, for our event. The book store was a great space, and our event was hosted by the local CCL chapters in D.C.. Solid State Books even had a happy hour during our event so that attendees could enjoy a glass of wine or local brew. We enjoyed speaking to the community about concerns and questions related to climate change, like electric cars, and melting permafrost. After the event, we stayed with some family friends who made us feel very welcome and even made us dinner. There is nothing like a home cooked meal after almost two months on the road!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                           -Athina Simolaris

Monday, September 24, 2018

West-Chester University, Pennsylvania

We woke up in Philly and had some free time, which we totally took advantage of! We went for a run around the neighborhood which was lined with beautiful row homes. Then we headed into West Chester, PA, where we had an event later that evening. We found a coffee shop and settled in for a few hours of computer work. This type of time is hard to come by, and when we find a few hours like this, we try our hardest to be super productive! We have had the fortune to work in some really unique coffee shops across the country, and this cute cafe was no exception. We then met some wonderful CCL volunteers who helped organize our event for dinner. It is always great meeting motivated volunteers from all over the country. Our event at West Chester University was great! We had a mixture of students, university staff, CCL volunteers, and individuals from PennEnvironment (an local environmental organization). Interestingly, the campus had a small coal-fired power plant on site. In the last 5 yrs, however, the University made a very responsible and healthy decision. They replaced the coal plant with a zero-emissions geothermal plant. The coal plant was previously the highest source of air pollution for the area, and you can still see the smoke stack in the middle of the campus. The great news is it exists no more. Well done WCU! Shahir also had a chance to video interview the campus director of sustainability. Video interview coming soon!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

NY to Philly!

We woke up tired from all that walking the night before, and packed to head to Philly where we had an evening event. Along the way we stopped for lunch and we stumbled upon a Lebanese cafe. We ate some delicious food that reminded Shahir of home, and had me happily satisfied!

Foul- fava beans, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil
Baba Ghanoush with Fresh Pita


Continuing on, we made it to Philadelphia. Here we stayed with Karen, a CCL volunteer who was very kind and opened her home to us. She organized a pot lock dinner at her home prior to the event. About 10 local CCL volunteers attended, and everyone contributed something delicious, from guacamole, to homemade pumpkin bread, and we felt very fortunate to be welcomed with such delicious eats. The event was held at Summit Presbyterian Church, and although it was a rainy evening, over 20 attendees came out to the event.     

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Big Apple!

We woke up this morning feeling refreshed, and headed to a small coffee shop in Brooklyn that was walking distance of our stay. We worked on catching up with emails, scheduling events, and starting the next newsletter. The coffee shop had pierogies, which we HAD to try. Neither of us had ever had one. Basically, they are central European dumplings. This is not doing them justice, but they are like little calzones. Ours had spiced cabbage inside. It was truly delicious! I want another one right now! We then headed into Times Square, where we would be speaking to a meetup group. We decided to take an Uber only halfway, and then walk the remaining half. We always enjoy walking! The city was bustling. We walked for about an hour before reaching our destination. On the way we popped into a pizza place that was selling slices with no cheese. How exciting! We got a slice, which was delicious. Cheers to low carbon transportation and food! The meetup went well. We shared our project and presentation with the group. By the time we finished it was 4PM. We then had to make some decisions - what to do with the rest of the day? Stay in Times Square? See a show on Broadway? Head back to Brooklyn? We decided on an urban adventure. We would walk from Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, and across. This was nearly the entire distance home! It was no small walk. On the way there, we stopped to get some appetizers from different restaurants, and had dinner at a small Italian place with a view of the Empire State Building. By the time we got to the bridge, I didn't want to walk anymore… but we had to cross it! It was beautiful at night. The bridge is truly an amazing structure. There were so many people there, even at 10PM! Once we crossed the bridge, we took an Uber home. At this point we logged 30,000 steps, according to our iPhones. This meant that our walk totaled 12.5 miles! You could say we got our steps in for the day! Needles to say, we slept way that night!

        Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"


Friday, September 21, 2018

Return to the Road - 2 Schools in a Day!

Today was the day - the big departure from Boston! We woke up at 4:45AM and left the house an hour later. We said goodbye to my mom and Kathy, and also gave Winkie (my dog) a kiss. It was sad to say goodbye, but the journey continues. Our first stop was in New Haven, CT. The traffic on a Friday can be terrible. Hence our early departure! In New Haven, we spoke to sixty 6th graders at The Foote School about climate change. It was our first grade school event! The students were so adorable, interested, enthusiastic and smart! 

Our first opening question was "Do you think the earth is healthy?" One boy responded, "No! Because of the CO2 in the atmosphere!" This set the tone for the entire talk! The kids had so much to say, and were so knowledgeable about climate change. It was truly inspiring to hear their concern and care for the planet. Shahir and I couldn't help but think that if this class was an accurate sample of the up-and-coming youth, then our world is in good hands! After the event we had a quick tour of the school. It turned out to be a rather sustainable school in it's architecture. Our next stop on Friday was at Purchase College in New York. Shahir guest lectured for Professor Allyson's class on Conservation Biology. 

We had a great time with the students and appreciated the questions and concerns they shared with us! Shahir packed us some lunches the day before, so we ate on the way into the Big Apple! As we approached the city, we definitely felt it. Jeesh, the traffic was bad! Eventually we arrived to Brooklyn, where we were to stay with generous Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteers. They were so kind, and even treated us to an Ethiopian dinner, which was delicious. All in all, it was a long day, but a great one!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"


Monday, August 20, 2018

Day 20 - A Climate Impacts Tour

Denise and Steve are two retired professionals who are very involved in climate work. They were wonderful hosts. Over a delicious breakfast in their home, we got to talking about local climate-related impacts in their community. At the talk the night before, we heard mentions of increased flooding in the area. Well, this morning Steve and Denise elaborated. In the past 10 years, the area has experienced extreme rainfall which has led to 100-year flooding events.

Steve and Denise told us about the homes in their community that have been swept away as the river has flooded. Steve’s medical practice, which he built high above the flood plain, was ruined several times over just 10 years by flooding. As an MD, a lot of important equipment and paperwork was ruined. Over breakfast, Denise offered to take us on a tour of the town to show us the areas that have been hit by flooding. We saw one empty lot where a home was lost to erosion, and another home which has a river increasingly encroaching on the property. In one rain event, the home owners left the doors open as the the river flowed right through the living room! When you look at the river, it looks like a small creek. But it has become increasingly ferocious during rain events. Check out one of our film clips from the morning tour below!

We got a lot of great footage thanks to a tour by Denise. After this, we had a long drive as we approached our last few days of driving until the east coast. We drove for about 6 hours, and spent the night somewhere off the highway.  Last night in Lakewood, Ohio, marked our last scheduled climate talk before reaching the east coast. It was a celebration to have completed our northern leg of climate talks!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                            Athina Simolaris, M.A.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Day 19 - To Ohio!

In this particular neighborhood, we received a lot of “thank you for what you are doing” comments. So that was nice! We had a bit of a drive to get to Lakewood, Ohio, where our next climate talk was being held. Excitingly, it was held at another brewery/restaurant, which you all know we love!

We met the organizers for a dinner before our 7:30PM talk. It is so great getting to meet different people who are doing important work in their communities across the country to further the climate conversation and work towards solutions! We met Denise and Steve, who were also at the dinner and who we would be staying with that night. This event was held by a collection of Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapters in the area. The talk went great, with a full room. Since this was held at a restaurant, the seating arrangement was around little tables. This setup easily invited discussion among groups, and also was a nice chance to get to know different attendees.

In this area people have been noticing more mild winter temperatures. We were told that Lake Erie doesn’t even freeze over any more. In the past, it was common for the lake to freeze in the winter so much that you could drive your car across it. Also, the area is seeing more and more algae blooms, and we heard mentions of increased flooding. We would see more of this first-hand the following day. Following the talk, and before heading to our hosts’ home, we stopped in a little restaurant to get a snack. The restaurant was focused on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, but had an entire vegan menu! We ordered “chicken” nuggets that were actually tofu, which came with a vegan dipping sauce. They were delicious, and a testament that eating less meat can be easy and fun!
Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                      Athina Simolaris, M.A.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Day 18 - Ann Arbor Day 2

We started our day off with a morning climate talk held in a community room in the city. There were about 40 people, which was a great turn out for a Saturday morning. We learned about the different changes that the community is experiencing with weather, including extreme precipitation events and temperatures. Following the event, we had lunch with the organizers at a cute spot nearby. Ann Arbor has some nice restaurants! We had a lot to do, so after lunch we found ourselves back at the AirBNB working on email, blogs, and phone calls related to our tour. We have found that free time is not something we have encountered a whole lot of on the road, so it was nice to have a few hours to focus on our to-do items. This didn’t last too long, as we had plans to interview Guy Williams, who we mentioned in the last blog. 

We met Guy the night before when he noticed the decals on our car. It turns out Guy has a non-profit called “Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.” He also helped write the Detroit Climate Action Plan! He was also one of the friendliest people we had ever met! He happened to be organizing a block party in his community on Saturday, which he invited us to. We were happy to accept! The work he is doing is incredible and necessary. We were fortunate to interview Guy about his work. We learned some history about the city of Detroit, and the issues that Guy is working to address. We learned that due to a combination of factories, including the largest municipal solid waste incinerator in the nation, the air quality in Detroit is some of the worst. We learned that 2-3 people a day die in the Detroit Metro Area alone due to poor air quality. With 80% of Detroiters being people of color, this is a huge environmental justice issue. We talked about climate change and how on top of being a being an environmental issue, it is also an ethical and political issue. Those least responsible for climate change are suffering the most. That concluded our day in Ann Arbor! Take a look at our interview with Guy Williams, featured below!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                                              Dr. Shahir Masri

Friday, August 17, 2018

Day 17 - Ann Arbor, MI

Today, we got a late start as usual. Packing the car is the X factor that always slows us down. We have so many things stuffed in the tiny car, such that everything must be placed in the “right” spot to fit. Thus, things easily become disorganized each time we unpack overnight. Not long after hitting the road, we were greeted by an unfortunate situation. The car suddenly began clanking loud. I pulled over thinking the engine must have fallen out! As it turned out, the rear tire had a big bolt head protruding. Shoot, a flat tire! I thought it odd that a bolt head should be making such a large clanking sound, but what do I know? Fortunately, we broke down about 5 mins from a mechanic, who was able to patch the tire and get us on the road within minutes. What luck! The mechanic, Jose, retrieved the bolt from the tire and gave it to us. This was no ordinary bolt. It was a thick, 5-inch beast! No wonder the car was making such a loud noise. The clanking sound was from the tip of the bolt hitting the inside of the tire frame with every tire rotation. Crazy!

We didn’t pull into Ann Arbor until late at night. We hit the grocery store, since our AirBNB had a full kitchen where we could actually do a little cooking. As luck would have it, we ran into a man by the name of Guy Williams in the parking lot. Guy noticed the “On the Road for Climate Action” magnet on the side of our car and struck up conversation. As it turns out, he owns a non-profit called “Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.” He and his team played a key role in drafting Detroit’s Climate Action Plan. What serendipity!

After chatting for a bit, Guy invited us over to a community picnic in his neighborhood the next day, and agreed to be interviewed about the work he and his charity have been doing. Video coming shortly! Upon picking up groceries and checking into our AirBNB, Athina took a stroll into town. It was late at night, but we’d had a long day and wanted to get out and explore a bit. We’re so glad we did. Ann Arbor is a cute town!

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                        Dr. Shahir Masri

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Day 16 – Chicago

Today was scheduled to be a day meeting with a local Native American community to discuss climate change and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, this event was canceled, which we discovered the day prior. Thus, today would be a rest day. Perhaps this was for the better, given the extremely rushed schedule we’ve been subjecting ourselves to over the last 2 weeks. The morning started out with usual work and emails. We got a particularly exiting email this morning. Senator Barbara Boxer’s team reached out to us, and wants us as guests on her podcast “Fight Back.” How exciting! This will take place in early September. We’ll keep you all posted! Our AirBNB was located a few blocks from Lake Michigan, and about an hour walk from downtown. Instead of taking the car to downtown, we decided to take advantage of the lake view and enjoy a nice stroll by foot. This was also the carbon-free option! What a gorgeous day it was. Athina had never been to Chicago, so it was exciting to show her around.

We had planned to have a nice dinner in town, but unfortunately time sped by, and by the time we were done exploring, many restaurants had closed. We were starving and quickly grew tired of searching for restaurants. Thus, we ultimately found ourselves at Panda Express. Quite an anticlimactic dinner, but so it goes. We capped the night by taking an elevator 90+ flights up to the top of the Hancock building to catch the panoramic view.

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                  Dr. Shahir Masri

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Day 15 - Blue Fruits Farm, MN

The morning offered a little relaxation, particularly since we stayed at a hotel, which came with the luxury of a free breakfast! This hasn’t been the norm for us, so we took full advantage. This morning’s destination was Blue Fruits Farm, Minnesota, where we’d meet organic farmer Jim Riddle. Jim operates a truly remarkable farm. He plants native wild flowers all around his farm to nourish native pollinator insects. And boy did they work! The native plant patches were teaming with butterflies, wasps, bees, and other bugs. These wild flowers also turn out to be a cash crop. 

He sells the seeds to other farms. What a great farming business model! Jim introduced us to a variety of berries, including the aronia berry, elder berry, and honey berry, all of which Jim graciously let us sample as we walked the farmland. When we asked, “why organic?” Jim responded, “…because farming is about nurturing life. Pesticides do the opposite.” Jim’s farm made Athina and I want to become farmers.

The beautiful hilltop where his farm was located, complete with a solar powered home built halfway into the earth, did not hurt. We have some great interview footage with Jim, which will be coming soon to this website. After our meeting with Jim, we sped off for a 5+ hour drive to Chicago, where I needed to give a live online lecture (I’m currently teaching an online environmental health course). We made it just in time to our AirBNB! Our night ended with a relaxed beer and pizza in downtown Chicago. It was another busy day, but a very exciting and fulfilling one.

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                              Dr. Shahir Masri

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Day 14 - Johnson Farms, SD

Today was both exciting and somber. The excitement came from our visit to Johnson Farms, where we met with farmer Charlie. The somber part was that it was my mother’s last day on the road with us. We’d be soon dropping her off at a small airport in South Dakota. The day started off nicely, waking up at an AirBNB located on the Missouri River. The building doubled as an “old folks’ home.” Before returning to the road, we flew the drone out back, capturing the gorgeous scenery around the river, while elder spectators circled around, many in wheel chairs, for the exciting launch. It was thrilling for all involved! After an hour on the road, we pulled up to Charlie’s farm, using dirt roads and hand-written directions (e.g. turn right at the church). 

Located in South Dakota, Charlie operates an organic farm, where he mostly grows corn and soy for cattle. He gave us a fantastic tour, explaining how he manages to ward off pest and maintain high productivity, all while avoiding pesticides. Charlie had a lot to say about fossil fuels, particularly given that his farm has part of the Dakota Access Pipeline running underneath. He has also noticed extreme weather in recent years that is unusual to the area. Without use of irrigation, his crops are especially vulnerable to dry spells. We have a lot of great footage and interviews that we can’t wait to share, so stay tuned! Sadly, our tour had to end sharply after an hour, since we needed to take my mom to the airport and then race over to Iowa for a climate talk in Emmitsburg. After a reluctant goodbye, we made haste. Iowa marked the longest stretch of corn field driving we had yet experienced. 

Emmitsburg would become our smallest event, with just 6 people in attendance. However, it was no less important. People were engaged, and inquisitive, and even donated to our cause! One guest bought a copy of my book, Beyond Debate, in order to donate to the library (where the event was hosted). 

After the event, Athina and I had still had to drive 3 hours to our overnight destination. It is truly amazing how incredibly long each day has been. Very little time relax and soak things up. We’re realizing that our pace has been too fast. We plan to slow things down a bit on the return trip.

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                              Dr. Shahir Masri

Monday, August 13, 2018

Day 13 - Native American Outreach

We traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation while in South Dakota. Our first stop was the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, where we had two plans. The first was to invite the youth to contribute to our inter-tribal “Parachute for the Planet.” The second was to tour Thunder Valley’s sustainable living project. In terms of art, the kids created some wonderful designs to represent Oglala Sioux Nation. 

As for the tour, engagement director Andy Iron Shell gave us a spectacular tour of all they’re doing with sustainability at Thunder Valley. In short, the objective of their project is to improve health, culture and the environment on the reservation. The plans are factoring in climate change by constructing homes and structures that can sustain 120 mph winds. And they’re powered by solar panels! Economically, these homes will be affordable for single families and are helping to create jobs for future generations by employing local apprentices in the construction process. The project, which will house 900 people within a 1-mile perimeter, strives to foster community interaction within the reservation. They’re also building artisan shops, a community center, and a fitness center, along with a community garden. Currently, Pine Ridge Reservation gets much of its food and energy from offsite. 

This project will set the community up to be self-sufficient, producing its own energy and food. Importantly, we learned that the area has been battered with baseball-sized hail in recent years, which is unusual for the region. The new housing project offers safer living, compared to trailer homes, which are weaker and become destroyed in such storms. Click here to learn how you can help support the project! Our next stop was the Rosebud Sioux reservation, where more youth contributed artwork. The inter-tribal parachute is truly special and is looking more beautiful with each visit to a new community. 

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                              Athina Simolaris, M.A.                                                                                                                 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Day 12 - Nebraska & South Dakota

We departed from Denver just after 7AM. We had slept at my friend’s house, after reconvening with my mother. Our friend was one of those still hanging out in Breckenridge. He told us to help ourselves from his garden out back. So we hit the road with a giant yellow squash and a bell pepper. Thanks Dave! We arrived to Chadron, Nebraska, 5 hrs after departing, just in time for our 1PM speaking event. The event was organized by a wonderful Citizens’ Climate Lobby member named Cheryl. This was the "new" event that we had just added to our calendar a week prior. I’m so glad we did! Despite last minute organization, Cheryl managed to draw over 55 people to come hear us speak at the local high school, atop an elevated stage with a giant screen to project our PowerPoint slides. 

Learning from our great event at the Shambhala Center in Boulder, we decided to “present” only about half the time, leaving a substantial amount of time to hear from the audience about their experience with climate change. We learned that people in Chadron have been noticing erratic weather patterns and many more fires in recent years. In fact, most of our drive to the event was accompanied by a powerful smoke in the air, from fire burning in South Dakota. At this event, I was expecting to get some push back about the notion of human-caused climate change. To my surprise, the audience was very receptive and curious. In fact, I sold more copies of Beyond Debate in Chadron than at any event up to that point. After a quick interview with a local reporter, we hit the road to get to our next event in South Dakota. 

Cheryl kindly sent us away with fresh veggies from her garden, along with other goodies, which would end up keeping us fed for several rushed travel days ahead. Thanks Cheryl!! We were now bound for Rapid City, for a 5PM event. We pulled into the parking lot of Hay Camp Brewery, an exciting venue unlike any we’d previously spoken at. Our event organizers, again CCL volunteers, had put together an extravagant assortment of hors d’oeuvres, and even treated us to a beer, which the brewery owner, Sam, helped us select. As with Chadron, the talk took place up on a big stage; this time with a fancy green background and mood lighting. It felt like a Ted Talk! 

We again had an engaged and participatory audience. Guests spoke of erratic rain, snow, and wildfires. One woman noted that the warm days are getting warmer while the cold days are getting colder. Temperature extremes! One of our hosts let us pick up some Brew Co swag. Thanks Karla! Despite two amazing events in the same day, one of the highlights on this day was unquestionably the beautiful view, warm breeze, and welcomed glass of wine we shared with our host, Mary, and her friend and husband on the patio of their gorgeous home which sat on a nearby hilltop. A truly terrific day! 

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                              Dr. Shahir Masri

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Day 10 & 11 - A Break in Breckenridge

Although our last morning in Boulder was a busy one, we managed to squeeze in a jog. A mile high jog makes for some tired lungs! After departing from our AirBNB, Athina and I were excited to break away from our busy schedules to head up to Breckenridge. On the way, we had an interview with a reporter from Emmitsburg, Iowa, where we’d be heading in a few days. The conversation went well (if you ignore the several instances where we lost service due to tunnels and mountains, requiring us to embarrassingly keep calling back!). En route to our destination, Athina and I spotted heavy bark beetle damage among the trees. We decided to pull off the side of the highway and fly our drone, which was donated to us a month prior. This would be our first official reconnaissance mission using this amazing piece of video equipment (literally a flying camera!). We got some terrific, albeit sad, footage of the tree damage, which we’ll share with you soon. 

Arriving to Breckenridge was a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. We timed this part of our journey to rejoice with my brother and several friends, who were vacationing in a lovely timeshare. There’s nothing like friends and family when you’re away from home! The night was filled with fun and catching up. The following day would be more of the same. We took a dip in the pool, strolled through town, and took a walk in the woods. Excitingly, we encountered “Music in the Trees!” Literally, people playing music IN THE TREES! A 3 piece string quartet, tied to make-shift ledges and a stool strapped 12 feet up the trunks of 3 trees. What an exciting thing! 

Athina and I were sad to depart on the second day. We had initially planned to stay 2 nights with our friends. But we recently got a request to squeeze in a second climate talk on Sunday, which meant we would need to do a very early departure in the morning. Leaving Breckenridge at night was the wise choice. It would allow us to wake up at 6AM the next morning, rather than 4:30AM, as we hit the road for 2 events in Nebraska and South Dakota. It was a fun break a Breckenridge, but a short one. Duty called! 

Click here to learn more about "On the Road for Climate Action!"

                                                                              Dr. Shahir Masri