“Look at this one,” said seven-year-old Malkolm. “A purple… I can’t pronounce it. A purple something.”Malkolm sat strapped in the back seat, thumbing through the bird book that we’d just bought him. We were in the middle of a six-month slide show tour about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We tried to ignore the contradictions as we drove from the Yukon to Florida, up to New Jersey and west to California… burning gas while trying to prevent oil development in the Arctic Refuge. Back in 1999, global warming was a tiny, barely noticeable cloud on our horizons.We taught Malkolm his schoolwork while we drove from show to show. He liked the bird book more than Math or English. By the time we found the “purple something” (a Gallinule) in the Everglades, he was hooked. We’ve always read books out loud in the evenings. During a trip to the Arctic we read Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. Kaufman, like Roger Tory Peterson and other notable birders, was writing about his “Big Year,” a year-long quest to see as many North American bird species as possible. I figured that Malkolm would eventually do his own “Big Year”, but I didn’t realize that he’d drag Wendy and me along with him.
Malkolm is cycling on! He is now cycling from Alaska to Washington DC, and then continuing on to the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun in December.
It all started with Bird Year, Malkolm and his parents' year-long, fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds. Cycling a total of 13,133 miles (21,144 km), they identified 548 different bird species and raised more than $25,000 for bird conservation. Bird Year turned them into confirmed cyclists and taught them that climate change was more serious than they had thought.
In 2009, Malkolm biked from Whitehorse to Ottawa as a part of Pedal for the Planet: the project called for the Canadian Government to become a leader in the struggle to come to grips with climate change. The Harper Government did not even meet with the young cyclists.
Malkolm is now 18 and just finished high school. On August 24, he dipped his foot in the Pacific Ocean in Skagway, Alaska. Then headed up and over the White Pass to the Alaska Highway on his journey to Washington and on to Cancun.