Reason to Dream – and Pedal

Dino Rudniski has already learned some important lessons from his involvement in a bike tour promoting sustainability – despite the fact that he has yet to step onto his pedals.

Next month the 25-year-old Riverdale resident will embark on a two-month bicycle trek that will see him log 1,250 km in British Columbia and Alberta as part of the nationally-based Otesha Project.

As he traverses the coastal rain forest, the interior desert, the passes of the Kootenay Mountains and the flatlands of Alberta, he and his cycling team-mates will be working (and performing) to engage people they meet on issues of lifestyle choices and sustainable consumption.

Which leads back to the lessons Rudniski has already learned.

To participate in the Otesha program, he needed to raise a portion of the team’s program costs. So, on July 27 he took over the Old Fire Hall for a silent auction with live music and appetizers to help meet his fundraising goals.

“I learned a lot from the fundraiser. I realized that I wasn’t really ‘walking the talk’ when it came to the Otesha message of sustainability,” Rudniski admits.

“I had plastic glasses for people to drink out of, and the food choices I made were not that healthy,” he explains.

“As I reflected on these choices while I was reading the Otesha book – which is printed with vegetable inks on post-consumer recycled paper – I started to realize that the first person I need to educate about sustainable choices is myself.”

The Otesha Project was founded in 2002 by two Canadian women, Jocelyn (Joss) Land-Murphy and Jessica (Jess) Lax, who met as 21-year-olds at a sustainable development field school in Kenya.

Concerned about the impacts of North American consumption habits, they decided to design a youth-led charitable organization they hoped would inspire Canadians to assess the global footprint of their food, transportation and clothing choices.

The result was the Otesha Project, named for the Swahili word meaning “reason to dream”.

Over its eight years of existence, Otesha has developed a unique model for delivering sustainability-education programs.

After a training and orientation component, teams of youth 18 years and older set out on tours throughout various parts of Canada. The tours can range from one to four months long.

Along the way, they stage theatrical performances in the communities they bicycle through, to spread their message of conscious consumerism and sustainable choices.

“I’m learning that it’s really important to understand the components of the items you consume,” Rudniski says.

“There are a lot of interactions at work between the environment and people. They are inseparable, really, and we need to understand these interactions as we continue to grow as a human species.”

For a committed cyclist with a keen interest in theatre, the Otesha Project seemed like a natural fit. As the September 3 departure date approaches, Rudniski grows more reflective about what the tour means.

“We really need to start working to see the effects of our actions. Even when a person simply drops a pebble in a pond, as that pebble cuts through the air and penetrates the water’s surface, it creates a wave of causes and effects.”

Over the next few weeks, Rudniski will be dealing with the challenge of final training and packing for his journey. Although he’s excited to get out on the road with other young activists from across Canada, he also has his eye on the longer term.

“I already have plans underway for another fundraiser for next summer,” he says.

“Not for myself, of course, but I’m hoping that my ride this September will inspire another young Yukoner to decide to take part in Otesha’s amazing work, and I would like to help make that a reality for them.”

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Andrew de Freitas is an artist and filmmaker of New Zealand origin, who has been based in Montréal since 2009. He arrived in Dawson City after spending the early months of 2012 shooting a film in Catalonia, Spain.

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