For most of the world Houston is a hot and humid oil town–it’s a place whose current form was only made possible because of air conditioning and black gold. However, just like in New York, Seattle and San Francisco there are people in Houston who are dedicated to moving beyond fossil fuels and Maria Pesantez is one of them. Pesantez is one of the organizers of the 350 Moving Planet Houston bike rides that will be held on Friday September 23 and Saturday September 24. She explains that the the Houston event is just one of the over 5,000 that will be held internationally on Saturday. “When [the first demonstrations] were held in 2009 CNN called Moving Planet ‘the largest political action movement in history,'”says Pesantez. Pesantez was one of the people who helped organize the first Houston rally in 2009 and she has remained active over the last few years.
She states that this year’s Houston event is expected to be larger than either 2009 or 2010’s. “Since we have two events we’re trying to appeal to a broader group of people–the Friday night ride from City Hall to the American Legion should attract more of the [lifestyle] cycling community and the Saturday morning event at Discovery Green should appeal more to families,” says Pesantez. She goes on to say that the Friday night ride will begin with a 7 p.m. meet up at City Hall before participants ride to the American Legion Hall at 1216 W. Clay for a night of bands, beer and skill sharing. “We’ll have free food, local bands, beer for sale and workshops on T-shirt and poster making,” says Pesantez.
The Saturday event is geared for families and is being done to support the Habitat for Humanity bike to build program which encourages people to bike to Habitat’s construction site. She states that Moving Planet Houston will have a street team passing out flyers to raise awareness of the reality of climate change. For Pesantez even flyering is an important activity in the battle over climate change. “There’s not a lot of coverage about what’s happening with climate change in the media, the only think we are getting is the denial,” says Pesatez.
She explains how a “tiny bit of change” in the climate “leads to dramatic effects,” before going on to outline her amazement at how anyone, let alone elected officials, would willfully state that they don’t believe in climate change. “I heard Rick Perry say he doesn’t believe climate change is real. How can an educated person say climate change isn’t real? He’s already seeing the evidence in his home state.” Pesantez cites this summer’s wildfires, drought and soaring temperatures as evidence of climate change. For her climate change isn’t just a talking point bounced around like a paper football between pundits, it’s a real and immediate issue. “I’m interested in climate change because it’s relevant. People develop health problems because of air pollution,” says Pesantez.
Despite their passion Pesantez and her group know their limitations. “The legislative level is where change has to occur and we support organizations that do that,” she says. She explains how 350.org, one of the main organizers behind Saturday’s activities, uses e-mail addresses collected to coordinate pressure campaigns–letter and e-mail writing, turn outs at town halls, etc.–to try and lobby elected officials across the globe. Pesantez says that one of the things that she and the rest of Moving Planet Houston hope to do is change people’s minds about a city not known for it’s climate change activism.
“The photo we took in 2009 was featured on Moving Planet’s front page with the headline ‘And you thought Houston was an oil town,'” says Pesantez. “It’s places like Houston where support isn’t expected that really matter.”
350 Moving Houston Ride and Party: Friday, September 23 from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. Meet up at City Hall, 901 Bagby, and ride to American Legion Hall, 1216 W. Clay. Bike to Build Ride: Saturday, September 24 8:30 a.m. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For more information http://www.moving-planet.org/events/us/houston/234