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UM Student, Educator Join Inaugural 'Bhutan Ride For Climate'

Nicky Phear, instructor and program director in The University of Montana’s Climate Change Studies Program, and UM student Mara Menahan will begin pedaling across Bhutan on July 2 to see firsthand how climate change affects the Himalayan country and its people.

The two will be joined by Katy-Robin Garton, a documentary filmmaker with Missoula-based Sprout Films, in the inaugural “Bhutan Ride for Climate,” which was conceived through a partnership between UM’s Climate Change Studies Program and the Washington, D.C.-based Bhutan Foundation.

The trip brings together 15 teenagers from Bhutan and the U.S. to cycle 300 kilometers, crossing three passes over 10,000 feet to explore perspectives on climate change from farmers, foresters, monks, micro-hydro engineers and conservationists. The ride ends at a regional climate summit July 15 in Thimphu, where students will offer recommendations to political leaders based on their experience.

“We’ve designed the program to help students develop their voice and leadership on the issue of climate change,” said Phear, who will serve as one of the ride leaders. “Having a chance to do this in a country committed to carbon neutrality and gross national happiness will be fascinating.”

Throughout their journey, and with the help of a small team of Bhutanese and American educators, the students will use the written word, photographs and short videos alongside social networking tools such as multimedia blogs, Facebook and Twitter to create a unique visual storytelling experience that allows viewers to be a part of the learning adventure as it unfolds.

“I’m most excited for  the cross-cultural dialogue,” Menahan said. “Climate change is a global issue, so I feel it’s important for me to understand how my actions affect communities across the globe.”

To follow their journey, visit “Bhutan Ride for Climate” online at or Facebook at or the Kickstarter page at