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Sara Lawson – Climbing 5,000 Steps For The Planet

Climate Rise participant, Sara Lawson, a hospice nurse from New York, plans to climb the 25 bluestone stairs on her upstate New York property 200 times – yep, 5,000 stairs – to celebrate the clean Hudson Valley air we are lucky enough to breathe and to raise awareness for climate action. We wanted to learn more about what led her to embark on this journey and her experience with climate change. Climate Ride (CR): What led you to participate in Climate Rise? Sara Lawson (SL): Two years ago I took part in Climate Rise at the very start of the pandemic. I vividly remember the feelings of helplessness regarding our changing world: would I ever ride a Climate Ride again? How could I continue to support climate action? How could I find time around the edges of my all-consuming work as a nurse in Covid to stay fit, support CR, and work for the health of the planet? Then along came Climate Rise with a solution perfectly tailored to the times. I created my own challenge, climbing a public staircase in Mill Valley California a ridiculous number of times, and it helped me to feel I could still be part of a solution to our climate crisis, even in the midst of other global crises. Two years on, I still can’t do Climate Rides because of the challenges of my work. But I can climb stairs! CR: Well said. Your dedication to participating in any way that you can is inspiring, to say the least. What’s motivating you as you take on this challenge? SL: In the summer of 2020, I moved from the Bay Area to upstate New York. It was a sudden Covid-driven move and a dramatic change for me and my partner. We retooled our lives in the midst of crisis. Now we are settling into the beautiful Hudson Valley, where we were lucky enough to land. I’ve been biking the rollers here in Dutchess County, but have not been able to meet other riders, or take part in any Climate Rides, though I read about them and hope (Bar Harbor one day?!). When I saw Climate Rise was happening again, I thought, “I can do that!” Reprising my stair-climbing craze is helping me stay fit, giving me something to train for – a feeling I love – and connecting me again with the CR community and climate action. Every stair I climb makes me feel less helpless in the face of rising oceans, the drought in my home state, and species extinction. CR: That’s really what we hope for when people participate in this, the feeling that comes with making a difference and helping others to do the same. How has climate change impacted you and the area you live in? SL: Well California, my home for thirty years, is burning. Burning and dying of thirst. I lived through three catastrophic fire seasons before I left, and now I watch every summer and fall as the fires burn earlier and hotter, consuming more people’s homes and lives. The Hudson Valley, in contrast, is lush and healthy. But the weather patterns are changing here too, just more subtly. Last September I visited the Florida Keys with my daughter, somewhere I had always wanted to see. It didn’t disappoint: I felt like I’d stepped back into the 1950s, into a very exotic corner of the United States. And our hearts broke to think the Keys will probably be underwater in 30 years. CR: The work you are putting in now, along with everyone participating, gives all of us at Climate Ride hope that the world will only get better. Thank you for your hard work. Speaking of work, what has your experience as a hospice nurse been like over the past couple of years? SL: Busy! I work long hours with few breaks. Our healthcare system is overstretched. I’m thankful I am a community hospice nurse and not working in the hospitals, but all areas of my industry are understaffed and oversubscribed. Nursing in Covid was frightening at first: we didn’t understand the virus very well and I would enter nursing homes ravaged by it, where the staff did not wear their PPE or get enough training in precautions. I wonder now how many of those I knew died. Hospice work in Covid has been as busy and chaotic as you might imagine. Work is constantly threatening to consume my whole life if I don’t push back and try to keep some kind of life-work balance. I’m thankful for job security, the PPE I’m supplied with, and to have work I really love and find meaningful. I’d just like a little less of it! CR: The world is forever indebted to the nurses that went through so much during COVID-19. Thank you for your service. As for your selected beneficiaries, what does fundraising for the Environmental Justice Actions Grant Program through Climate Rise mean to you? SL: I’ll be honest, I hate fundraising and I hate asking people for money in these times. But fundraising for climate action feels meaningful. I can get behind asking people for donations to help keep our planet habitable. If not that, what? CR: You are so right, fighting for our planet is something we feel everyone can get behind. Are there any personal challenges you’ve confronted or foresee in preparing for your campaign? How did you overcome them? SL: I’ve had a couple of back injuries in the past few years, each time from failing to notice my body is no longer thirty years old. If my stair climbing causes a flare-up, I may have to reconsider my challenge. But I plan to stretch, something I’ve never been good at, and listen to my body as I run up and down the stairs. I think I started to train early and have kept my goal reasonable, unlike my 2019 personal Climate Ride, where I rode 300 miles in 5 days and had back pain when I started. Live and learn! CR: Wow! Yes, it’s definitely always important to listen to your body but it sounds like this is something you are ready for. Has preparing for this campaign spurred you to take any action on climate? SL: We are on a household mission to eradicate plastic as much as possible. It’s been interesting. CR: Every little bit helps! You’re doing some incredible work, Sara! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. If you’d like to find out more and support Sara in her Climate Rise streaming event, check out her fundraising page below. Thanks to the Algorand Foundation, any donation you make will be doubled!