Atmospheric CO2

Welcome to carbonstories.org. On this site you can learn about Michael Johnson-Chase and follow my blogs. With some exceptions, this site follows "theme based" cycling tours focusing on social and climate related issues. Slowed down observations of the world over days, weeks and months at 10 to 15 miles an hour can reveal a depth and quality of understanding about our environment often missed by faster modes of travel.

Phoenix to El Paso, Post 1

The Border Fence in Doulgas, AZ  

The Border Fence in Doulgas, AZ  

My last post was January 19.

I've heard it said that "time flies like an arrow, and fruit flies like bananas." I do not doubt the veracity of either concept. 

I did get to Phoenix (after my last post), where I put my bike in storage and returned to NYC to take care of personal business, attend some Citizen Climate Lobby meetings, and reconnect with friends. Then in late February, I returned to Arizona for another cycling adventure.

I'm trying out a new structure for cycling this year: a month or so on my bike, and a month or so with friends in NYC, or visiting my kids and grandkids in Wisconsin (my daughter Saren just gave birth to a boy), or in Illinois (where my Mom lives) or California (where my Dad lives). The upside of this way of life is that I can remain engaged in both love and work. The downside is that although cycling generates no carbon, I must still find ways to travel on something other than a bicycle to get long distances (especially in the winter months). There are few good options, and although I would prefer to use trains on a regular basis, I fly more than I feel good about. Recently, I started purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate the carbon load that flying generates. But it's important to recognize that there's a difference between neutralizing a carbon load and actually reducing one.

We all live in an imperfect world, so almost every way we travel generates carbon (bicycles may be the only exception). Think of how most of us get food or go to work. Think of solar installers or wind technicians who must drive trucks loaded with equipment to create renewable energy projects. Think of the several thousand Climate Citizen Lobbyists who gather in DC twice annually. Think of world leaders who travel internationally to annual COP meetings. Think of annual meetings for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), probably the largest annual conference of climate scientists in the world. The carbon load for every event - productive or unproductive, useful or useless - is part of the extraordinary two and one half million tons of carbon we dump into our atmosphere every second. 

Our detractors aren't worried. I deeply wish they were right. Life would be so much easier if physics didn't cause air temperature to rise as CO2 levels rise. But that basic principle of physics has been understood for over 100 years, and it's not going to change. It's we who must change. And one outcome is certain - if we don't change, physics will change us. 

I am writing this (12 days after arriving back in Phoenix) from a motor coach in an RV Park in Douglas, AZ, owned by my friend Dave Henderson (a fellow cyclist, I met Dave several years ago near Asheville, NC, when I cycled the Blue Ridge Parkway). 

Dave in his RV offering me a beer after a very windy ride.  

Dave in his RV offering me a beer after a very windy ride.  

I have been pretty busy breaking in, outfitting and test riding a new bike. It's a Trek CrossFit, part of a class of athletic electric bikes that uses a Bosch electric motor powered by a 500 watt lithium ion battty to increase speed, climbing and wind endurance capacities in graduated intervals. It is only pedal assist and has no throttle. The mileage capacity is about 60 miles on a charge, but with tweaking and careful use, it's range can be extended to 80-100 miles.

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The bike is marketed for long commutes, so I'm pushing its boundaries a bit. So far, so good. And if you're wondering, my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker is being shipped back to NYC. And yes, that's another way I am adding carbon to the atmosphere. How do we make good decisions in this life?

Bisbee, AZ, is an old copper mining town just west of Douglas. At one time it was the largest community in Arizona. No longer a minIng town, it is now a wonderfully funky tourist town, with early twentieth century architecture and featuring lots of festivals to attract tourists. 

Bisbee, AZ, is an old copper mining town just west of Douglas. At one time it was the largest community in Arizona. No longer a minIng town, it is now a wonderfully funky tourist town, with early twentieth century architecture and featuring lots of festivals to attract tourists. 

I happened upon a parade celebrating "The Return of the Turkey Vultures." I didn't know turkey vultures migrated, but apparently they do. 

I happened upon a parade celebrating "The Return of the Turkey Vultures." I didn't know turkey vultures migrated, but apparently they do. 

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And who says everyone in Arizona is a Republican? Someone still drives this car around. 

And who says everyone in Arizona is a Republican? Someone still drives this car around. 

Just outside of Douglas. 

Just outside of Douglas. 

Douglas is on the US/Mexico border and is the sister city to Agua Prieta in Sonora. After arriving at Dave's RV home, we headed down to the border, where I took photos of the imposing steel slat fence that cuts through the town.

On the US side of the border.  

On the US side of the border.  

We were able to speak with a border patrol agent. He told us the barbed wire is only several months old. Illegal crossings have never been very common in Douglas and since the wire was put up, things are even quieter. The steel slat fence was built 7 years ago, and replaced a solid wall about six feet high. I asked if the steel fence (it's about 20 feet high) was built under Bush. The agent said no, it was built under Obama. I asked him if there was a border crisis. He said it wasn't his job to say. 

The window guards are intended to protect agents from flying rocks. 

The window guards are intended to protect agents from flying rocks. 

More to come.  

 All photos, unless credited or otherwise noted, are copyrighted property of the blog post author.

Phoenix to El Paso, Post 2

Palo Alto to Tucson, ...no, Phoenix, Post 3