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Earth Matters: Saddling Up For Conservation

By Heather Shockey

Ride the Rockies Allows For Much Reflection 

As summer hits Colorado full swing, so does Ride the Rockies, a June cycling tour that showcases different communities throughout our wonderful state.

This year, the 33rd edition of Ride the Rockies visited Breckenridge, Edwards, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, and Winter Park.  For me, the attraction to participate in this event goes beyond pedaling every mile. It is also about experiencing our beautiful state full of fresh, clean air and spectacular views.

Each rider, sponsor, and community are asked to help offset their carbon emissions by following simple steps, including the ability for riders to compost and recycle during the event. Ride The Rockies has made a commitment to be 100 percent carbon neutral. The impact of this event is unmatched.

The tour started and ended in Breckenridge, in Summit County.  On the Sierra Club’s website, it is noted that Summit County adopted a resolution for 100 percent clean, renewable energy community-wide by 2035. The Sierra Club estimates that the switch to clean energy can result in an average energy costs savings of $433 per person annually, and a whopping combined savings of energy, health and climate of $9,488 per person.

As I saddled up for my fourth Ride the Rockies I wondered if this ride would encounter some of the challenges that we faced from previous tours.

In the past we were rerouted due to fires raging along the route, creating a logistical nightmare for tour organizers. This year as the ride began, Colorado had multiple fires not only threatening the planned route, but burning thousands of acres that put homes and lives in danger.

As we rode through the many towns, I witnessed sparsely decorated snow-capped mountains. I asked myself, is there really enough snow to maintain Colorado’s water supply? These are not the same mountains I experienced 25 years ago when I made the move to Colorado. Our snowpack has suffered greatly as a result of our intensive use of dirty fossil fuels. Am I witnessing climate change from the saddle of my two wheels?

As the miles rolled on and each leg of the ride had been logged, I was struck by what may be lost. It is not just our recreational way of life that will be compromised by inaction, but the ability of future generations to be allowed the access to what we have taken for granted.

We are long overdue for aggressive solutions. Climate Reality (100 percent committed) and Sierra Club (Ready for 100) provide guidance to cities, states and businesses to commit and work towards 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

The Sierra Club recognizes community commitments as “places where a city’s leadership has established a goal to transition the entire community to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

The organization’s guidelines include:

• Full transition of electricity to clean, renewable energy

• A target date of 2035 for electricity and 2050 for all energy sectors

• Prioritize equity, affordability and access for all members of the community

• Prioritizing low income communities, environmental justice communities and communities burdened by the fossil fuel industry; and

• A transparent and inclusive planning and implementation process.

Across the country there are 71 cities that have already committed to 100 percent renewable energy. In Colorado, Aspen already reached that goal in 2015. The mountain town was able to reach this commitment through a combination of a bond-funded hydropower project, power purchase agreements through wind and hydropower, and smaller amounts of energy from solar and landfill gas.

Many cities in our state, as well as Colorado State University, have made the commitment. Denver has yet to sign on.

We ask that Denver citizens step up to not only commit their households and daily actions to make the transition to 100 percent renewables but to demand action from Mayor Michael B. Hancock on this vital issue. You can do this by contacting him at michael.hancock@ci.denver.co.us.

In addition, consider following the actions provided from Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, at sierraclub.org/colorado/ ready-for-100-photo-petitions.

If an event showcasing our state and its towns and communities are already making these efforts a priority, then certainly our largest city can do the same. From a rider who has seen more of this majestic state on bike than in car, these changes are really just one pedal rotation at a time.

Heather Shockey is the District 3 representative for GPHC, Inc.


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