Riding the Distance: Nick Avis bikes across the country to raise funds for RAVEN
In a world where environmental issues and climate change continue to dominate headlines, one cyclist has embarked on an epic journey across Canada, using his passion for cycling to raise funds for Indigenous access to justice. Nick Avis is taking a break from being a lawyer to pedal south from the Arctic coast to the southern tip of Vancouver Island, then across to the Atlantic — an eye opening trip that aims to fundraise $15,000 for RAVEN. The ride is also giving Nick some much needed time to reflect on who he is and how he wants to move forwards through the disastrous transition period to the anthropocene.
We met up with Nick as he rolled through Victoria and had a chance to hear some of his experiences so far.
Catalyst for Change:
Feeling a push and a pull to make a change in his own life, Nick chose to leave his legal career behind and start pedaling. The pull, fueled by his desire to undertake a grand adventure, was inspired by a book he read about a lawyer who cycled from Oregon to Patagonia. The push came when he decided to step back from his career and actively consider the balance between his career aspirations and personal passions. Assessing his current moment in life – approaching 30 with no external commitments like a mortgage, spouse, or children – he knew he needed to do this bike packing trip before it was too late.
“If I’m ever going to do this, now is probably the best time to do it,” says Nick at the perfect juncture to explore what could be beyond the path he’d been following.
Unlike his previous bike trips, which were personal pursuits, Nick decided to turn this journey into a fundraiser for Indigenous land defense. Nick’s brother, who works in Indigenous land planning, had planted a seed in Nick’s brain about RAVEN — drawing the connection from Nick’s desire to connect to the land and also his experience as a lawyer.
“Given that all of my bike ride is on Indigenous lands, I’m going to be going through a lot of Indigenous communities, meeting people, staying in their houses, staying on their campsites. Fundraising for Indigenous land defense feels like a good connection.”
Nick is recognizing whose lands his bike trip is taking place on, adding a deep level of connection to raising awareness and funds for a cause that resonates deeply with him and the lands he is traversing.
Encountering Climate Change Up Close:
As Nick pedals through vast landscapes, he has encountered the impacts of climate change firsthand. From the unexpectedly hot Arctic temperatures to the alarming and frightening wildfires throughout B.C., Nick has already witnessed the ecological dangers posed by a changing climate.
“I’ve been told that the Arctic does get hotter than we might think in the summer pretty regularly. But there’s been a lot more of these 30-35°C days and the frequency of hitting that temperature is definitely out of the ordinary,” says Nick. “These consistent temperatures are creating a hotter, dryer climate and melting the permafrost. Foundations for homes lie directly in the permafrost. The road itself is built on permafrost. What happens on the land beneath it when it starts to melt? Climate change is wreaking havoc on this part of the world.”
Further south in B.C., Nick experienced more of the dangers of the changing climate. While biking through remote areas where there were no real towns to gather supplies, Nick would look to his map to find a lake, stream, or river.
“Oftentimes when I look at my map and see okay, there’s a river up ahead, I’ll get there and it will be dry.”
While wildfires are a natural part of a healthy ecosystem, it’s clear that what we are seeing are massive, out of control wildfires due to the affects of anthropogenic climate change. Some of the fires Nick came across popped up quickly and he would suddenly be surrounded by smoke.
“I’ve ridden 4-5 days in a row wearing an N-95 mask due to the smoke,” says Nick.
Seeing rivers drying up, melting permafrost, and the haunting presence of wildfires only emphasizes the urgency to address climate change by returning the care of the land to Indigenous peoples, whose ways of being steward reciprocal relationships for all life.
On the Road to Change
Combining his love for cycling with a commitment to making change, Nick’s travels can remind each of us that we can find our own ways to contribute to the movement for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice. As he continues his ride heading east across the Prairies towards the Atlantic Ocean, Nick invites us to reflect on our roles in preserving the environment and advocating for justice. Follow along Nick’s travels as he posts his story on social media.