So there I was, in a small book store, just before the Seattle to Portland bike ride. As most of us know, these days I prefer to read on Kindle. But I love small independent book stores. So when I stumbled on a book that combined two of my passions, science and cycling, the book just jumped into my hands. Damn I am glad it did…
In 2011, David Goodrich retired from being a Climate Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some people at retirement look for a rocking chair
David decided to ride across country from Maryland to Oregon on a bicycle. Being one who is approaching his mid 50s, I love stories like this.
But there is more…
Being a climate scientist, he tool the trip to document the effects of climate change and, when possible, help educate people about it.
Some may think this is a strange combination. Why would someone use a bike to do this?
Well, first off, there is no better way to see and experience the world than from the back of a bike. Hemmingway once said:
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
Given his past vocation, he had traveled much of the Untied States in the past, on and off the bikes. This trip on a bike allowed him to see the effects of the warming climate as well as talk to people along the way. He spoke to high school science classes as well as mid-west farmers. He wove in science with his battles with headwinds. In short this was a book that was at the same time entertaining, educational and thought provoking.
He fully admits that there are people, mostly of a certain political influence, who will flat deny that humans have any effect on climate. These same people, though, can provide anecdotes of the vast changes that have happened in a very short time. Dryer hotter years, more severe storms, longer droughts, and major crop failures.
He points out time and time again that YES the climate goes through changes. It always have. But these changes take centuries, not decades! The Carbon Dioxide we keep pumping into the air makes it worse, and will continue to do so.
He struck a cord with me when he started discussing the forest fires and smoke. I lived in the Seattle area since the 70s. Ladies and gents, never once in the last 40 years, aside from these last two do I remember dealing with this.
Forest fires that are so bad that the smoke socked in Seattle for weeks on end.
As Goodrich points out, the winters are shorter, the snowpack is less, and the fire season continues to get longer. All due to Climate change. He also goes into great detail about the trees dye offs due to bark beetles. The winters simply are not cold enough to kill them anymore. It is devastating the trees in the rockies, and has worked its way into Idaho. How long till it hits my Cascades?
He is not a doom and gloom. He points out that the world came together in 1987 to sign the Montreal Protocol. This ended the use of the chemicals that were killing the ozone layer. If we can do this once, we can do it again. (AKA Paris Accords…). If we don’t, though, I worry my grandkids will not enjoy the snowcapped Mt Rainier I grew up with.
I myself have seen how far the Nisqually Glacier has receded since I was a kid of the 70s. Goodrich tells that its probably too late to save the glaciers in Glacier National Park, but maybe we can keep the Cascades white in the winter.
David is an excellent story teller. He is able to tell the story of this trip, while comparing it to later rides, as well as historical events. He weaves in Lewis and Clark, the Underground Railroad as well as gold rush and the pioneers. He succeeded in teaching more about the climate than I ever knew, as well as making me want to ride cross country on the bike.
In short, this is an excellent cycling and science book! I invite anyone who has ever considered a cross country ride, or wants to know more about what we are doing to the world to read this.
I give it 5 stars!