On June 1, 2017, the President of the United States chose to leave the Paris Climate Accord, a non-binding agreement, signed in December of 2015 by 175 countries around the globe as a pact to self-regulate carbon emissions levels. Leaving the Accord will either de-incentivize other countries to address climate change or create an unprecedented opportunity for them to step up as moral and economic leaders to build a global clean energy economy. Either way, the US stands to gain nothing through this action. So who will be the real winners and losers by the US leaving the Accord? Most likely the citizens of China and Western Europe will be winners, as their citizens gear up their economies to meet energy needs and gradually draw down on carbon emissions. At the same time, America will lose long term by investing more heavily in carbon-based industries with limited lifespans. Fortunately, most economists think that solar, wind and other applications of clean energy are already well enough established in the US to remain resilient regardless. Among the many facts Trump didn't share: at the end of 2016, the US coal industry employed 50,000 miners and the US solar industry employed 260,000 workers.
Nobody doubts that many citizens of Appalachia are in pain. Jobs are increasingly scarce and extraction industries (particularly coal) have been in decline for years. Investments in renewable energy in coal states are spotty. Communities are deeply divided over the environmental risks of fracking. Countless family farms have been lost to agribusiness over the past decades. Tourism is spotty and fails to provide year-round employment.
Yet, the countryside is beautiful, and Appalachian culture remains rich. I have decided to explore the beauty, politics, and climate of this fascinating and beleaguered region. I will board a train in NYC with my bike and gear on June 10, and arrive in Raleigh, NC in the evening of the same day. The next day I will begin cycling several hundred miles west toward Asheville and beyond to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After exploring the area, I will follow the Blue Ridge Mountains (and possibly the Blue Ridge Parkway) northeast about five hundred miles to Washington, DC, where after visiting family, I will board a train back to NYC.
I expect this trip to take approximately three weeks, and I invite you to follow this trip as I blog about it along the way. Those blogs can be read below after June 10, 2017.
Thank you for following my Blue Ridge Cycling Tour!