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Jessica Clegg Riding her First Century for Grid Alternatives

CR: What motivated you to ride a century? JC: At the beginning of the year I decided I was going to step out of my comfort zone and sign up for the North Coast Climate Ride. Riding 300 miles on my bike and fundraising thousands of dollars was completely intimidating. These goals were both out of my comfort zone – asking my friends and family for money and never having biked more than 10 consecutive miles made me feel uneasy. But, change doesn’t happen if we stay comfortable, does it?  Unfortunately, about a month into the training and fundraising the ride was canceled due to the global pandemic. Although I was initially disheartened, I was motivated more than ever to continue to raise money for GRID. Instead of trying to independently coordinate a 300-mile weeklong ride, I will complete a day-long Climate Ride, riding 100 miles on my bike from Berkeley, CA to Point Reyes Station, CA, and back with my partner.  CR: What field do you work in? JC: I have been a full-time fellow with GRID for almost a year, and it has been inspiring and motivating working for an organization that has weaved justice into every part of their work. GRID provides marginalized and vulnerable communities with free solar systems to reduce the burden of rising energy costs and helps shift their reliance on harmful fossil fuels to sustainable sources – but they do so much more than that. CR: Is that why you decided to support GRID Alternatives through your Climate Ride challenge? JC: GRID Alternatives is the nation’s largest non-profit solar installer that is dedicated to protecting the health of our environment and the communities at the frontline of climate change. Skimming through their website you can find the abundant amount of ways they are creating community-based change. To name a few: the Policy Team fights for laws that will make environmental programs more accessible and inclusive for low-income communities; the Workforce Development team works to implement equal employment programs; the Tribal team works with tribes to help them achieve their economic and energy sovereignty goals; and our Electric Vehicle team helps breakdown the barriers to accessing clean transportation. I believe that environmentalism isn’t actually environmentalism if the communities that are experiencing more harm from a changing climate are not at the core of decision-making. As I fundraise, I hope to promote this more inclusive approach to environmentalism. CR: Can you expand on that? JC: The communities we work with are disproportionately exposed to environmental pollution, and as current public health studies are indicating, they are therefore more at risk to contract COVID because of their higher rates of respiratory health conditions. Not too long after COVID was labeled a pandemic, our nation’s Black community experienced the heartbreaking deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Climate justice is social justice. I am riding and fundraising for environmental justice, which is inextricably connected to racial justice. I am advocating for the protection and safety of our natural environment just as equally as I am advocating for the protection and safety of our nation’s Black communities and other marginalized communities. I recognize that I have the privilege to own a bike and to have the time to participate in an event like this, and with this privilege, I will be riding in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other lives that have been taken by injustice. I hope to motivate others to find the ways in which they can advocate for the safety, health, and wellbeing of our nation’s marginalized communities. CR: How are you preparing for your first century ride? JC: I have been training for the past few months- riding throughout the East Bay 3-4 times per week. In addition, I have been incorporating core and back strengthening which helps promote cycling endurance. Road biking presents many inherent dangers – multi-ton vehicles coming within inches of you, debris falling in your lane, poor road conditions, etc., and it is guaranteed that I will encounter these situations on my ride, but no matter what obstacles I face I am just grateful I get the opportunity to ride a bike to fundraise for an awesome cause.