You may have seen them — a curious sight in downtown Middletown: six fairly grimy but good-natured and enthusiastic young people carrying two large trailers and everything needed for the summer — on their bikes.
These are summer interns with Climate Summer program for college students, graduate students, and recent graduates spreading the word on climate change. They bicycled 27 miles into town on Sunday — adding to more than 500 miles since the beginning of their journey on July 13.
The first night, they stayed in Portland.
Here in Middletown, they'll work with the community to address the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. In each town, they stop for a week: Providence, Hartford, Middletown, New Haven and Bridgeport.
Meet Team RICONN — Xhoana Ahmeti, 20, DePaul University, Chicago, from Woodstock, Ill.; Dan Blaustein-Rejto, 22, Brown University (just graduated), from Woodstock, N.Y.; Jayson Castillo, 23, SUNY Fredonia, from Long Island, N.Y.; Alivia Ashenfarb, 20, Boston University, from Staten Island, N.Y.; Kristy Choi, 19, Brown University, from Washington, D.C.; and Sally Holmes, 20, Colby College, from Prairie Village, Kansas.
They are one team of five bicycling around New England to address society’s dependence on what they term “deadly energy” and its influence on climate change.
Blaustein-Rejto is an undergraduate in environmental studies. Ashenfarb, new media coordinator, is studying political science and journalism.
Choi, outreach coordinator, is studying history and literary arts. Castillo, video coordinator, is studying music. Holmes, media coordinator, has spent the past three years studying environmental policy and philosophy.
Through July 23, this Climate Summer team be taking part in local events to unite the community in dialogue, raise awareness and promote action against fossil fuel subsidies and climate change.
“We feel that no one should have to die for us to turn on our lights, heat our homes, and have clean water,” Holmes says. “In terms of climate change, we are specifically focused on eliminating federal subsidies for deadly energy (coal, oil and natural gas) — that is, energy that kills people.”
Earlier this week, RICONN went to the city’s meeting after the group heard Middletown has earned 6 KW of free clean energy systems from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Each young activist comes to the program for different reasons.
“Over 20,000 people die annually nationwide from direct emissions from deadly energy power plants, so not even including vehicle emissions. Globally, it's 1 million people each year,” Holmes says, citing a National Academy of Sciences study published in the Oct. 19, 2009, issue of the New York Times.
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This team is the Rhode Island/Connecticut team and will travel over 1,000 miles exclusively by bicycle over the summer, with no support vehicles as part of Climate Summer, a program of Better Future Project.
In each community, they learn from, support, highlight and connect to address dependence on fossil fuels and climate change. The team is also working to build on the movement addressing climate change and use a petition directed at large energy corporations promote an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
On Aug. 4 in Bridgeport, the group will organize a rally against the Bridgeport Harbor Coal Plant, “which is one of the biggest environmental injustices in the country, and contributes to extreme amounts of asthma, cancer, and heart disease,” Holmes says.
On Saturday, Team RICONN will attend the at 1 p.m. on the South Green.
Read the RICONN blog here.