By Barbara Gombach
A competitive spirit and the desire to win help fuel riders in the Tour de France, but it’s winning the race to adopt sustainable solutions to climate change that will be driving SIPA alumna and Earth Institute champion Audra Stark during her 300-mile bike trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., with Climate Ride on Sept. 20-24.
“I took up bike riding in 2013 after a 15-year hiatus,” Stark said. “Within days it became my primary means of transportation around D.C.
“Too often I’ve found myself and others complaining about and debating an issue without taking action in our daily lives,” she added. “Working as a project manager in international development, I see first-hand how we Americans promote important climate change action in developing countries, yet hesitate to adopt those actions ourselves.” Stark works at Mendez England & Associates, an international development firm specializing in water and natural resource management, and economic development for USAID and other donor agencies.
“Joining Climate Ride is one more way I can act on my lifelong concern about climate change, and take a further step on my personal road to a low carbon footprint. Now my bike has taken over!”
Focusing on human rights during her time in Columbia’s Masters in International Affairs program in its School of International and Public Affairs, Stark studied the intersection of human rights and climate change issues. These days her work managing project evaluations spans the globe, from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and Africa to Central America.
“Because of climate change, new human rights issues are piling up faster than our laws and support systems can address them,” she said. “Tragically, it’s now official: In 2014 the Carteret Islanders of Papua, New Guinea, became the world’s first community to be entirely displaced by climate forces. The island nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu are probably not far behind. The phenomenon of climate change refugees is upon us.”
Stark’s Climate Ride in September will benefit four organizations in addition to the Earth Institute: the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Along the way she and other riders will attend speaking events each evening after a day spent pedaling 60 to 70 miles. While in D.C., they will lobby elected officials to support positive legislative action on climate change.
You can support Stark by visiting her fundraising page on the Climate Ride website, by following her on Facebook, and by helping her reach the finish line of her $2,800 fundraising goal for Climate Ride by Sept. 12.
Climate Ride is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to inspire and empower citizens to work toward a new energy future. Climate Ride events raise donations for a designated group of more than 100 organizations selected as beneficiaries for their work on environment, conservation, clean energy, sustainability, climate education or active transportation advocacy. Beneficiaries include the Earth Institute, 350.org, National Parks Conservation Association, NRDC, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Sierra Club, Transportation Alternatives and the Nature Conservancy.
Barbara Gombach is a senior grant writer for funding initiatives at The Earth Institute.