This week, the carbon fast is all about transportation, something prized by North Americans as an inalienable right. When I say ‘right’ I mean the ability to travel anywhere, anytime usually at high speeds and without any restrictions.
Cars and trucks are marketed ad-nauseaum as more comfortable, more fuel efficient (not a bad thing), more agile and capable of going anywhere, to the tops of mountains, into the dessert, and here in Canada through any and all kinds of weather. Overcoming the struggle in travel is so . . . Canadian.
The idea of staying home contributes little if nothing to our economy, and let’s just say that you see precious few advertisements with people sitting on the couch reading books. Mobility is where it’s at.
All this has been denied to me personally, as one born legally blind I have never driven a car, flown a plane or even piloted a boat. For some eye conditions technology makes driving possible but not for me. I must wait for the trillion dollar Google Driverless Car http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car (I will start saving now).
I have always felt like an outsider, especially on the occasion of my sixteenth birthday when all my friends processed down to the drivers license office for their adolescent rite of passage. Growing up in the mid seventies in Western Canada, the world of the bicycle was remote. I got the bike, they got the girls. Sigh!
Things have certainly changed, as my own city of 300,000 or so persons is replete with bike lanes and biking is now cool. A new consciousness of slower speeds, and a renewed interest in travelling less has taken hold of at least middle class life in the residential sections of our city. The suburbs are another matter. To arrive at one’s destination sweaty and carrying pannier bags no longer elicits puzzled looks. Folks say ‘good for you.’
What I describe above is only a small shift in culture, but the carbon fast is all about small shifts adding up to significant changes. if you and I can change our patterns, others can also, and eventually a huge consumer group can drive cars longer because they use them less. manufacturers and governments will notice. Urban designers can re-discover the role of corner stores and small community centres as places we can walk to and from instead of depending on large shopping malls and office blocks distant from where we live and work.
Schumacher said in the seventies that Small is Beautiful, and you know what, it still is. We don’t need to travel half as much as we presently do, and if I can build my life around a bike, so can you, hence a bicycle ‘built for two.’
Happy riding, Ken Gray+