by Martha Pskowski
The recent New England Biking Beyond Bigotry tour was an exciting chance for me to combine three of my passions – politics, biking and the New England countryside. As a current college student, it was an important opportunity to reach my peers with the links between the anti-immigrant movement and environmentalism that are often overlooked. Growing up after the first wave of anti-immigrant in-roads to the environmental movement in the 1990s, I’m passionate to help other young environmental activists to be aware of new arguments and organizations that threaten the integrity of our movements.
Middlebury, VT, was the perfect starting point, and we met many students ready to make the connections between race, migration and the environment. Middlebury College was the birthplace of 350.org, one of the largest global climate organizations. Bill McKibben, 350 leader, is a scholar in residence at the College. As such, it’s often viewed as an important hub of the student climate movement.
Our event at Middlebury, co-hosted by the student groups Juntos and the Sunday Night Group, was a chance to talk about the Tanton Network and its efforts to “green” the anti-immigrant movement. As a fellow student, I spoke to experiences at Powershift 2011 and other student spaces which made me feel we still have more work to do to dispel these messages. We shared dinner with students afterward to continue the conversation.
We set off biking in the morning, en route to Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., a total of 160 miles of biking south.
The final day of biking was my favorite. We did more than 30 miles from Brattleboro, VT and. The day started off passing by Vermont Yankee, the beleaguered Vermont nuclear plant which is the target of increased protests, as its safety credentials are questioned. It was interesting to see this plant up close for the first time, even though I have been living within fifty miles of it for several years.
Then we entered into Franklin County, where I live and help organize Summer of Solutions Pioneer Valley. We were able to stop for lunch at a beautiful permaculture farm where I have helped out in the past. Riding through the local towns made me think of all the sustainability work going on which really represents environmentalism, and gave me hope that grassroots movements are stronger than the anti-immigrant opposition we face.
Of course, the day ended at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference at Hampshire College. After a few days of biking through farmland and forests, all of a sudden there were hundreds of activists all around. It was a great finish to the tour, and we were all excited to share with conference attendees our experiences. Throughout our tour we were able to meet people who are passionate about justice and the environment and have meaningful conversations about how to build an environmental movement that stands up for justice.