UI STUDENT RIDES BAMBOO BIKE ACROSS IOWA FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES
Last November, “Super Typhoon” Haiyan hit the Philippines, with a reported death toll of 4,460 and leaving 1.9 million Filipinos homeless. Climate change is a major contributing factor to increased typhoon strength and sea level rise. Vanessa Fixmer-Oraiz, a graduate student in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa, is riding her bamboo bike (“bambike”) across Iowa in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) to raise money for climate justice in the Philippines.
Fixmer-Oraiz studies climate change impacts on farming communities. For this work, she earned a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to the Philippines, the birthplace of her mother. While there, she worked with local NGO InHand Abra, an organization empowering bamboo farmers to compete in national markets. Bamboo is not only a sustainable crop, but is especially fast-growing and provides a critical safety net for farmers facing increasingly common natural disasters.
Fixmer-Oraiz purchased the bamboo frame for her bike in the Philippines and built it locally with help from the Iowa City Bike Library. She is calling her ride B.O.N.G.G.A. (Bamboo on New Green Ground Ang) Ride for Climate Justice. This is an acronym, but it is also a play on the Filipino word for “fabulous.” All money raised by Fixmer-Oraiz’s ride will go directly to InHand Abra for the purchase a bamboo processing tank ($40,000 USD). This tank will increase efficiency and yield greater profits for the farmers.
Not all efforts to create environmental economies endeavor to lift people from poverty, but InHand Abra works with bamboo-based communities to make sure the green revolution leaves no one behind. Carmelita Bersalona, Executive Director of InHand Abra, is deeply moved by all those willing to contribute to B.O.N.G.G.A.: “Your help brings trust in our products, joy in our family, peace in our community, and harmony with mother earth through bamboo. Dios iti agngina (thank you).” You can follow Vanessa’s ride and contribute by visiting her blog: kawayancrew.wordpress.com.