Cycling to COP21 with Morgan Curtis
As a twentysomething environmental activist, what do you do to mark the importance of the biggest climate change summit for a generation? For Morgan Curtis, the answer was clear: Embark on a five-month cycle ride through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland and finish in Paris in time for COP21. Sounds crazy? Sounds like a good plan to us.
In the spring of 2015, Morgan was living and working in rural Maine as an environmental educator. With the importance of the upcoming UN climate talks that December, she felt her responsibility to step up and be part of this movement moment with whatever skills, privileges and resources she had. She realised that “between me and France lay the Arctic, home to some of the most visible impacts of climate change.” This, along with the fact that she “was happy to be homeless for six months and wanted to try and talk with as many people as possible”, provided the perfect conditions for an adventure.
Fed up with “environmental studies majors who grappled with the climate change crisis solely from nine to five”, Morgan set out to lead by example. “If we have space to imagine doing more”, she says, “let us step boldly into that space and put our imaginations to work”. And what better way to tell a narrative than to plan a journey of a lifetime?
Determined, she set about organising that journey. In need of a teammate, Morgan decided to post online. Through a British friend, she found Explorers Connect. Our site, she says, “totally gave me the sense that I wasn’t alone in planning huge trips, nor crazy by seeking teammates over the internet”. Although she met her eventual teammate through a different online avenue, Morgan notes that our Find a Teammate page gave her a sense of the different skills needed for running her epic trip.
Looking for a visual artist to compliment her writing skills, Morgan eventually found the ideal teammate in Garett Blad. Morgan, a writer, and Garett, a photographer and collage artist, intended to use their experience to inspire a creative response to their journey documenting climate change. On June 24th, 2015, the duo set off, panniers stuffed with storytelling supplies, intent on reaching Paris by December while building the climate movement by gathering communities and sharing stories enroute.
The pair visited people living sustainably along their travels, bringing the experiences of these communities to the climate talks in Paris. The intention, says Garett, was to “highlight the voices of others who feel their interconnection with others on the planet and have decided to act”. The pieces of writing and art that they produced from these meetings show the creative potential unlocked by adventure.
Morgan looks back fondly on “the glorious moments” of the trip, crediting “each person that told us their faith was renewed in the global climate movement, that they are looking at the world anew, or that they thought they might be able to come to Paris to join us in the streets” as helping to make the journey the positive experience she hoped for. By helping to define her experience on the trip, these people helped the pair to understand the interconnectedness between the global climate movement and individual action.
There were clear psychological benefits to the adventure experience. For Morgan, embarking on a journey of the magnitude was a way to take real action: she claims that “when we take control of our own lives, we find greater meaning and purpose in our days”. The adventure helped her to further understand the relationship between people and planet.
So what are you waiting for? Follow Morgan’s example. Get up and get outside; change your life and change the world.