With a dash of fanfare and about a dozen supporters cheering him on, Bill Barron, a carpenter and occasional Alta ski patroller, embarked on a 600-mile bike ride on Sept. 5 to raise awareness for climate change.
Shining a light on the Earth's changing climate is Barron's top priority. Coming in second place is his candidacy for Utah's 2nd District Congressional seat, which he hopes to snag from Republican incumbent Chris Stewart come November.
With a campaign motto of "on behalf of the Earth," Barron couldn't be much more different from Stewart, whose most notable mention of climate change during his first two years in office came as he attacked the Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to place regulations on air pollution and oil drillers, and "undertaking thinly veiled attacks on the safety of hydraulic fracturing or pursuing job-killing climate regulations that will have no impact on the climate."
Barron became entrenched in the climate movement in 2010, when he discovered the group Citizens Climate Lobby, which maintains that the climate debacle—and the skyrocketing carbon emissions causing it—can be reined in by taxing fuels based on the volume of carbon dioxide they emit. The proceeds from this tax, which would start out at $10 per ton of CO2 emitted, would be distributed equally to every living human.
Barron cites studies that show that the tax, rather than stifling job growth, would create millions of jobs and cause CO2 levels to drop to the levels they must in order to save the planet.
"We're running out of time to be effective," Barron says. "I believe that people need to speak up. We need to make change. We need to create it because, clearly, government's not going to do it for us."
Aside from running in 2012 against longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Barron has no political experience and isn't affiliated with a political party (State Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, is also in the race for the 2nd District seat). During his Senate run, Barron undertook a similar effort to familiarize himself with his constituency and spread the word about climate change by biking across the state. He garnered 7,172 votes, less than 1 percent of the total.
For Barron and his supporters, though, winning is not the point. Simply having a prospective politician speaking out about preserving the environment and urging others to be good stewards of the earth is a success.
"It's tough to get people to talk about [climate change]," says John Lair, president and CEO of Momentum Recycling, which has endorsed Barron's campaign. "For us, it's pretty cut and dry. The better we take care of the planet, the better life will be for us, our children and life on Earth."
Lair says Barron's lack of political experience doesn't bother him at all.
"He is forcing this topic to become part of the conversation when a lot of people would prefer it not be," Lair says, noting that Barron's effort is "pretty courageous."
When Barron, a single father, isn't on his bike or ski patrolling, he's hanging out with his daughter and working as a carpenter. He says the contractor he works for is nice enough to let him have time off to campaign.
On Sept. 5, Barron and his supporters gathered at Tracy Aviary in Liberty Park to begin the bike ride, which will take the aspiring politician through the west deserts of Utah, through Milford, down toward St. George, Kanab, over Boulder Mountain and finish in Torrey.
During a brief speech prior to embarking on his ride, Barron told the crowd that addressing climate change is the "moral responsibility" of his generation.
"The more votes I gather, the stronger statement we can send to Washington that citizens in the state of Utah are concerned about climate change and they want significant and bold action on it."