On Saturday, hundreds of Columbus residents attended a bicycle ride and festival, with the express goal of transitioning Ohio, and the United States, away from fossil fuels. The event - Bike to the Future - was part of a larger group of events called "Moving Planet," with nearly 700 US cities and 180 countries participating in a day of action, calling for a transition away from fossil fuels towards clean energy."It's critical that Ohio, and the Country, begins making significant policy changes that foster clean energy and hasten our transition away from fossil fuels," stated Ohio Sierra Club staff member, Ben Wickizer. "Our health, environment, and economy are suffering under the weight of our fossil fuel addiction, and the only groups that wants to see this continue are oil and coal companies."
The festival provided participants a chance to learn what local groups and organizations are doing to move Ohio toward a clean energy future. More importantly, festival participants learned how they can get involved.
Opportunities for personal action range from commuting by bus or bike to weatherizing your home or communicating with political leaders on policy issues.
One of the largest symptoms of Ohio's coal and oil dependence is its poor air quality, which is primarily the result of coal-fired power plants and tail-pipe emissions."In Franklin County, ten-percent of the population suffers from asthma, which is just one of the chronic respiratory illnesses linked to poor air quality. And it's no secret that Ohio has some of the worst air quality in the country, which is directly related to the use of coal and oil," said Sierra Club staff member, Rashay Layman. "If we don't transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, Ohio families will continue to pay the true price of coal and oil in the form of health costs and complications."
Ohio has the potential to be at the forefront of the clean energy economy. The manufacturing infrastructure and skilled labor force already exist in the state to produce clean energy materials, such as wind turbines and solar panels. One of the event's speakers, Lee Geisse, of the United Steel Workers Local 1046 and representative of the Blue Green Alliance, is intimately familiar with Ohio's clean energy potential. "We know that retaining and creating jobs and putting middle class Americans to work building a 21st century economy in the United States will fix the American economy, protect the environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and position America to lead in the global economy."
Through Bike to the Future, Columbus residents have issued a call to lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level to end our nation's reliance on polluting, obsolete energy sources. "Politicians, including President Obama, have promised us action on climate change, and we plan to hold them to it. No one is going to lead the way from Washington, so we need to lead the way from Columbus - one person at a time," said Andrew Sidesinger, a local volunteer for 350.org. Bike to the Future, and the strong participation from Columbus residents, illustrates that they are not satisfied with the energy status quo; and judging from the success of Moving Planet worldwide, it is clear they are not alone.