WATERVILLE — Six college students from around the country will bicycle into Waterville Monday and spend the week spreading awareness about climate change and the dangers of tar sands and fossil fuel use.

The students are from the nonprofit organization Climate Summer, and their trek is sponsored by the Better Future Project, based in Cambridge, Mass.

They bicycled from Lowell, Mass., to Portland and then to the Lewiston-Auburn area, where they spent the past week giving presentations, doing community service work and attending events to spread awareness, according to group member Garrett Blad, 21, of Indiana and a student at the University of Notre Dame.

They live simply, doing work at churches in return for a place to sleep, prepare their own food and bake their own bread, he said.

“We get the summer to live our own values,” he said.

As part of their mission, they said, they educate people about the importance of transitioning from fossil fuel use to renewables, according to Blad.

“The message is that to really examine your life and see how you can make changes for a better future and use less fossil fuels,” he said.

Blad’s group consists of four women and two men, one of whom is Shaun Carland, of Shapleigh.

The group will meet the public at 6 p.m. Tuesday in The Concourse behind Barrels Community Market downtown, according to Linda Woods, a member of the Waterville-based group Central Maine 350, which seeks solutions to climate issues. The Climate Riders will join the Greater Waterville Bike and Pedestrian Action Committee for a casual eight-to-10-mile ride, called No Rider Left Behind, Woods said.

After the ride, Central Maine 350 will host a potluck supper at First Congregational Church on Eustis Parkway. The Climate Riders then will talk about their experiences and explain why they have chosen to be fossil-free this summer.

The group also will be at the Waterville Farmers Market on The Concourse from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and will host a series of Climate Cafes downtown on Saturday.

Woods said Central Maine 350 will host a climate vigil on the bridge on Kennedy Memorial Drive from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. July 28.

Woods, who also is coordinator for the local group, Sustain Mid-Maine, said 350.org is an international volunteer campaign dedicated to solving the climate crisis. Founded by writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben and a group of friends, the organization has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide.

Blad said his group will try to educate people in Waterville about a proposal to reverse the flow of the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline.

Reversing the flow would mean tar-sands oil would be shipped from Canada to Casco Bay for export, a proposal Climate Summer opposes, according to Blad.

Tar sands oil is different from conventional crude oil in that it is thick and toxic and the 63-year-old pipe would not be able to withstand the pressure, Blad said.

“If there was a spill, it would be devastating,” he said. “Tar sands sinks, and there’s no technology to clean up tar sands spills. It’s a very scary and risky project — a very reckless project, in my opinion.”

After leaving Waterville, the group plans to bicycle to Belfast, stay a week and then ride to York for another weeklong stay. The group then plans to bicycle to Cape Cod to support a project to put 150 offshore wind turbines off the coast, Blad said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

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