JP-based Bikes Not Bombs (BNB) rallied over 40 volunteers, youth apprentices, and staff to load 615 recycled bicycles into a 40 foot shipping container in Dorchester on July 27 and 28 to be shipped to El Salvador. According to a press release from BNB, the bikes were sent to the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA), an “environmental organization lead-ing the struggle for environmental conservation, sustainable transportation and community-led resource management in El Salvador.”
BNB, “whose mission is to use the bicycle as a vehicle for social change,” is in its 35th year, and has sent more than 77,000 bicycles to Africa, Central America and the Caribbean since 1984, according to the release.
Carl Kurz, Director of international Partnerships for BNB, told the Gazette that at around 1:30pm on July 28, volunteers stopped loading bikes to hear from two immigration lawyers from Greater Boston Legal Services speak about immigration issues. “We thought this was especially pertinent,” Kurz said, as there are “many issues around Central American refugees being mistreated and held in cages. We wanted to raise the issue and call for the stoppage of these detention camps and let them apply as their legal rights are given to them to apply for asylum in a timely manner.” He said that people were told what they could do as individuals to help out with this situation.
Volunteers also heard from Dr. Ricardo Navarro of CESTA via Skype, who spoke about the environmental movement and what can be done to help stabilize the country. “He really had an effect on us,” Kurz said of Navarro, and “helped us understand better and develop a strategy for moving ahead.”
Kurz said that Navarro explained how the bikes are going to rural schools in El Salvador, which will help kids be able to get to school in a more efficient manner. CESTA also trains youth in assembling and repairing bikes, as well as assists people with setting up small bike repair shops to provide jobs. There were 15 such shops created last year, Kurz said.
“Dr. Navarro described the conditions leading to the increase in immigration as one of extreme poverty, poor planning and lack of foresight to enact environmental policies that could create jobs in the green economy,” the release states. “Calling for mutual aid destined for El Salvador-an civic organizations and especially sending bicycles could lead the way to an alternative to the current Trump policies that try to vilify the victims without owning responsibility for the cli-mate crisis that the current US carbon footprint has had the largest hand in creating.”
Kurz said he believes foreign policy needs to be approached in a different manner, and “trying to move towards a green economy would help us all,” he said.
“We must embrace mutual aid, reforestation, technology sharing, micro-financing, and incentiv-ize the development of renewable energy systems, along with a peace dividend dedicated to these ends – working together in solidarity is the only way we can solve the global climate crisis and reduce poverty,” Kurz said in his speech at the event. “By providing bicycles, we can pro-mote affordable mobility without negatively impacting the environment. ”