Ride for Change
By Michelle Valigursky
What does it take to raise awareness for green energy, climate change, sustainability, and corresponding legislative action? For Lesley Pories 03C and 200 other dedicated cyclists, drawing attention to such a worthy cause will mean biking 320 miles in five days from New York City to the District of Columbia. “Everyone does have it within themselves to make small, incremental differences,” Pories says.
At the end of this annual bicycle ride September 21-25, the “Climate Riders” will meet with their Congressional representatives to advocate for strengthened climate change mitigation policies.
As a seasoned Peace Corps volunteer and global traveler, Pories is committed to environmental advocacy as a personal and professional choice. From her early roots at Emory as her freshman dorm’s recycling coordinator, Pories has made conscious decisions to better her world. On her 21st birthday, she received a bicycle as a gift, and the reality changed her life. “Biking is a more sustainable mode of transportation for our environment from any perspective,” she explains. “Wherever and whenever I’m able, I always go by bike.”
On a typical weekday, Pories will run in the mornings or bike 22 miles to her office. During the weekends, she's built up to biking more than 60 miles a day to train for September's ride. She reflects on the noteworthy goals she has established so others may become more aware of the world’s worsening climate challenges. “I’m not amazing. I’m not superwoman. These challenges take a willingness to work toward goals,” she says. “But you get so much out of something like this personally, physically, and socially, the experience can’t be matched.”
Pories was awarded the Emory College of Arts and Sciences Young Alumni Service Award of Distinction in 2009. While a student at Emory, Pories majored in international studies and English and went on to receive a master’s degree in city and regional planning University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts.
Now, Pories is on a short-term assignment with the World Bank where she is working on water and energy issues that affect Central Asia. After the Climate Ride, she will join Matt Damon’s organization Water.Org in Kansas City, Missouri as an international program manager to manage its portfolio of water delivery systems in India or Bangladesh.
Alliance for Biking and Walking
All Climate Riders are responsible for raising funds for a relevant non-profit of their choice.
Pories’ efforts will support the Alliance for Biking and Walking. She describes the organization as “the country's coalition of local and state bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations that creates, strengthens, and unites advocacy leaders who are transforming their communities into great places to bike and walk.”
When asked why raising awareness is important, Pories draws on her global travels to explain. “The United States sort of lags other countries in the world in terms of understanding that our actions are individually important,” she says. “Each small step makes a difference in terms of climate change and sustainability.”
“I want people to know that achieving something big like this is possible,” she encourages. “Yes, 320 miles on a bike seems intimidating, but it is possible. Taking a stand like this is empowering. Even with a single small step, be it switching out plastic water bottles for a reusable container, or consciously recycling office paper and packaging, or using our own shopping bags, we are all capable of making an impact on our environment.”
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Climate Ride, please visit http://www.climateride.org/.