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Michael Bagdes-Canning rode 200 miles on a bike to make a point.
“We have horrible climate policy in Pennsylvania,” the activist from Butler County said. “I have grandkids. I want them to have a livable future.”
Bagdes-Canning is one of five riders and two support people who rolled into Philadelphia Wednesday as part of a “Tour de PAC,” a 300-mile bike ride across Pennsylvania organized by the activist coalition Pennsylvania Action On Climate (PAC).
Over the past week, the tour has passed through places including Grove City, Washington County, and Clairton. The group considers these “front-line communities,” or communities among those most exposed to environmental hazards.
“We’re just seeing the harm happening in all these different ways,” said Shannon Frishkorn, an activist with a direct action group called Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance in Pittsburgh. Frishkorn referenced a recent study that found kids living near shale gas activities in southwestern Pennsylvania were at higher risk of lymphoma.
While traveling, the cyclists have stayed in community members’ homes, slept in churches, and even camped outside in the rain. They’ve talked with local activists fighting fracking, plastics plants, and landfills.
“We’re never going to get anything done if we don’t work together,” said Marci Henzi, an activist with Pennsylvania Action On Climate.
The tour culminates this weekend in Harrisburg, where the group will join the Pennsylvania Climate Convergence and try to get their message to lawmakers and the governor.
“We need Pennsylvania legislators to … actually protect people in these places,” Frishkorn said.
In Philadelphia, the bikers planned to meet with advocacy groups including Neighbors Against the Gas Plant and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. Their focus for the stop was the SEPTA gas plant in Nicetown.
“We’re also listening,” Bagdes-Canning said Wednesday afternoon. “We may hear some things tonight we didn’t even know about.”
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