Sep 22, 2014
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Talk about a disturbed climate.

About 170 climate activists, including a contingent from Richmond, embarked last week on a four-day, three-night Amtrak ride from Emeryville to New York City to attend the People’s Climate March on Sunday.

While the activists seemed to have had a ball on the so-called People’s Climate Train, non-activist passengers did not have such fun, according to a author who wrote about the trip.

Some highlights from the train ride include bathrooms that smelled like the inside of a bong, seats used to host a workshop on Menstruation and Climate Change, and banjo-playing musicians holding band practice.

During the ride, the writer said she had “never in my life seen a group of passengers carrying so much food,” including a woman who brought an “entire flat of peaches.”

“This looks less like a four-day train jaunt and more like the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt,” she wrote.

Passengers could expect plenty of noise from the activists. At one point, the article pointed out, a “guy with long, flowing gray hippie hair” hollered “Go back to the jungle!” to a young Latino activist who wanted to salute the indigenous towns where he’s from. also commented on the train’s smell.

“I have never smelled burning sage on Amtrak before,” she said.

Also, the bathrooms smelled like “the inside of a bong.”

With so many excited activists, there was plenty of aisle-blocking.

“When people try to pass you in the aisle, they don’t just touch you on the shoulder; they knead your arm like it’s a ball of dough,” according to “On the plus side, everyone is really generous about sharing their trail mix.”

Several paragraphs later, the author writes about getting her iPad stolen during the trip (thief unknown). She also writes that “many of the people on this train are growing to hate us.”

“The People’s Climate Train people make up about 80 percent of the passengers, so with their aisle-blocking, folksong-playing, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill-blasting, workshop-holding, and earth-centric arts-and-crafts making, there’s not much room for the usual pastimes of non-activist long-distance train travel — like sitting quietly and reading a book.”

Some activists actually worried that the activists were “giving a bad impression of the movement.”

Conductors apparently felt the same.

“For those of you going on to Penn Station…I hope that you have good luck and I hope that you make a better impression,” one said, according to the article.

The article did, however, give props to Richmond’s contingent, who were called the “most self-sufficient.”

“The Richmond contingent brought a rice cooker, which they use to make everything, including nachos. They serve hibiscus tea in tiny cups out of a teapot sitting on a plastic storage tub,” the article said.

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.