Stopping bad things and starting good ones
Sometimes the world asks different things of you.
A couple of weeks ago, many of us heeded the planet’s call to block a bad thing: the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. All in all, 1,253 of us ended up in jail, and many more helped in other ways. That fight’s not over yet, not by a long shot. (You can keep up with developments at tarsandsaction.org).
But we’ve all got another side too, one that wants to start good things. Which is why I’m looking forward so much to Sept. 24 and Moving Planet day. All around the country and the world, people are concentrating on the kind of future we can build as we put fossil fuels in the rearview mirror.
Or, in this case, as we get rid of the rearview mirror altogether. Because Sept. 24 is largely about transportation — about all the other ways we can move our bodies and our stuff if we begin to leave the car behind.
People will be skateboarding and kayaking and marching, and most of all, they’ll be biking. In Indonesia, people will be cycling (and ferrying) for 350 hours from Bali to Bandung, collecting petitions for climate action along the way. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, thousands will march and rally for better public transportation and bike lanes. From Cairo to Quito, from Dhaka to Denver, millions of people will pound the pavement in every corner of the world, demanding action on climate change. And they’ll have three things in mind:
First, that bikes and such are a key part of the solutions we need. We know that 40 percent of commuters in Copenhagen go by bike. (In fact, there was a recent article about bike congestion in the city — now that’s a problem to have!) We’ve got to remind ourselves that simply because we’re used to getting around one way, that’s not the only way. For many Westerners, there’s a psychological unwillingess to even think about life past the car. Maybe you can’t do everything by bike, but once you start thinking differently, then buses and trains and so forth seem more plausible.
Second, in the rest of the world the psychological problem is sometimes a little different. In poor countries, bikes have been stigmatized and cars glamorized. Before everyone else follows us down the same blind path to climate ruin (and suburban sprawl), we need to peel some of that glamour off the car and stick it on the bike. The bike is one of the few tools used by rich and poor alike, and that means this is a great chance to show solidarity with the people hit hardest by climate change, to show them that they’re doing a great job already of building the solutions we all need.
And third: Bikes are fun. So are skateboards and canoes and feet and all the other ways we can move, together. And that together is vital: If you’ve never ridden a bike in a big crowd of other people, you’ve never felt the fun of being part of what feels like some powerful, galloping animal, slithering around corners and powering up hills.
Sometimes we’ve got to stop things, and sometimes we’ve got to start things. On Sept. 24, we’re moving into high gear, pushing the planet out of neutral. It’s going to be beautiful.