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Graham Jordison of Lincoln, Nebraska, works as an organizer with Sierra Club’s ‘Beyond Coal’ campaign, helping communities push for the closure of local coal power plants.

But last summer, he set out to explore some of those communities from a different vantage point: the seat of his kayak.

Over 74 days, he paddled the length of the Missouri River. That’s more than 2,000 miles, through seven states, and past 10 coal plants with tall looming smokestacks.

“It’s eye-opening when you do see them, and they’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Jordison says.

Along the way, he met with other activists to share his experiences and learn about their work.

And the trip also gave him a chance to connect with local residents at restaurants, bars, and along the riverbank.

“People come up to you and they ask you what you’re doing there and why you’re doing it,” Jordison says.

He says some people are fossil fuel workers and worry about how plant closures will affect their communities. So he valued the chance to talk with them — not as an activist, but as a fellow human being with shared concerns about people’s lives.

“It’s just a reminder of how similar we all are,” he says. “And I just have to take that to heart and continue to organize through that lens.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media