For their Independent Challenge through Climate Ride, Ethan Avey and Bobby Nyotta recently visited New Orleans as part of “Down by the River “with Louisiana Bucket Brigade. This is a group bike ride along River Road in St. Charles Parish that brings you face to face with two powerful forces in Louisiana: the environmental justice movement and local African American history.

Down by the River is an evolution of what has traditionally been called a “toxic tour” — a drive-by of polluting sites like dumps, refineries and chemical plants. The ride transforms a litany of depressing sites into powerful beacons of resistance, a lens through which the past and present are applied to today’s environmental movement. It’s a true antidote to the plantation tours of the Mississippi.

Ethan and Bobby dedicated their fundraising to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LBB). LBB is a nonprofit with a mission to end the petrochemical industry’s destruction of Louisiana.

Since 2000, LBB has worked with towns and neighborhoods next to the state’s oil refineries, chemical plants and other petrochemical infrastructure — the places most impacted by pollution. They partner with and support communities whose health and homes are devastated by the petrochemical industry. They aim to help residents amplify their voices and challenge the petrochemical industry’s relentless expansion.

The Brigade’s pedal-powered ride was inspired by Margie Richard, the former president of Concerned Citizens of Norco. Margie led her community in a successful campaign for a fair buyout of homes contaminated by Shell Oil, and she invoked the past for power and motivation. “If my ancestors were willing to be killed for standing up to slavery,” she often said, “I can surely stand up to Shell.”

We had the chance to chat with Ethan about what supporting LBB means to him.

“I’m supporting the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which I had the privilege of nominating as a candidate for Climate Ride’s Environmental Justice Action Grant program.  I originally had discovered the Bucket Brigade on Twitter (from a tweet that was “liked” by Bill McKibben). Turns out Twitter is good for some things! The tweet linked to an article about how UN human rights experts called the further industrialization of “Cancer Alley” in the southern United States a form of “environmental racism”.

Louisiana had been on my mind recently as I had driven on highway 10 from Austin to Jacksonville twice in the past two years – and it’s impossible to ignore the massive impact industry has on the horizon. The concept of “environmental justice” was not new to me – I’ve been aware of this term for over 10 years since taking classes in undergrad. I was also aware of Cancer Alley, but driving through it made it more real and serious. I wanted to find a way to get involved – to transform awareness into action.

Thanks to Twitter and the opportunity Caeli of Climate Ride provided me to nominate the Bucket Brigade as an Environmental Justice grantee, LBB was selected for Climate Ride grants and has received nearly $16,000 since late 2021, and this amount continues to grow. I wanted to get some face time with the group who is putting in the hard work day in and day out. I saw the opportunity to join their “Down By The River” bike ride and jumped on it.

The ride, which is dubbed a “toxic tour” runs along the levee on River Road in St Charles Parish, but mostly highlights the place as a beacon of resistance – from the slave revolt of 1811 to the recent hard-fought victory over Formosa Plastics. As LBB puts it, these events, past and present, represent the constant courage and questioning of an all-powerful status quo. We participated in the last ride of the summer season, it was pretty dang hot out there!” – Ethan Avey

If you would like to participate in a Down by the River bike ride, follow the link below to register! Thank you to Ethan, Bobby and the entire LBB community for working towards a positive change for the health of the community and the planet!

Learn more and register for Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Down By the River bike tour here.

Learn more about Ethan and Bobby’s Independent Challenge and donate here.

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