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Unless you’ve been hiding your head under the world’s biggest rock for the last two-plus decades, you’ve heard about climate change. Heck, you’ve probably also heard of 2 degrees celsius, the Paris Climate Agreement, carbon sequestration, and the doomsday clock, too. But I’m not here to lecture about rising seas, bigger storms, shorter winters, or the litany of ways we all may die.
These are big, scary, world-ending concepts. And like all ideas of this magnitude, they do little to move the needle of human behavior. Yes, we urgently need worldwide change, but it starts on a local and individual level. If something doesn’t change a person’s day-to-day existence, it’s not going to incentivize them to act any differently. Humans are, if nothing else, stubborn, selfish, and myopic.
With that in mind, we produced a short film that’s deliberately basic, benign, and digestible, called Usufruct. Usufruct is an ancient word that essentially means we all have a right to enjoy and live off the land, but this right is balanced with a duty to preserve and take care of it for future generations.
The film weaves together bikepacking with climate change’s impact on trails, and what we all can do about it. For mountain bikers, Usufruct means repairing damaged trails, clearing trees, and advocating for local leaders who will do the same. For many places across the country, mud season is here—cool temps, tacky trails, and unadulterated fun—and with it comes a lot of downed trees and washed-out sections of trail, both of which have gotten exponentially worse with wildfires, beetle kill, and [gasp] climate change.
To highlight how bad this gets—and to foreshadow what most of the west should be preparing for in the next five to 10 years—we visited Durango, Colorado, the epicenter of some recent wreckage. We filmed a bikepacking trip through a burn zone and a valley filled with beetle kill, not because we’re masochists and love hiking our bikes, but because we know the issue is real and wanted to see it firsthand.
Usufruct features three friends—Sarah Sturm, a Durango local and Specialized pro, Evan Green, a geologist and bike fanatic, and Dillon Osleger, an earth scientist and pro mountain biker—as they tackle a three-day trip through a variety of trails in the area. The route takes them through the 416 wildfire area, where they see and experience trails completely erased from the map, and many others that will take thousands of man hours to rebuild.
I’ll let the film do most of the talking, but suffice to say we all gained a much more clear understanding of the impacts of beetles, burns, and climate change.