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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bike to Work Week

Avery in for Rodger again.

It's Bike-to-work Week.
The average Louisvillian spent 42 hours stuck in traffic in 2003, which means that even as Americans are the most overworked people in the industrialized world, we add a week per year to that miserable work life just sitting in traffic. Meanwhile, Congress has just passed a gargantuan and retrograde highway bill, and the media can't be bothered to say anything about it except that it's larger than the president wanted. James Inhofe, the Senior Oklahoma senator most infamous for arguing on the Senate floor that global warming is a hoax, is the chair of the relevant committee and a strong supporter of the bill.
Meanwhile, Louisville's Member of Congress, Anne Northup, wants to build more, and wider, highways, as well as two unaffordable bridges over the Ohio River, so as to extend the number of lost hours from 40 to 50 or beyond.
Yes, the fact is, when it comes to roads, the "Field of Dreams" rule applies: "If you build it, they will come." More roads = more time stuck in traffic.
The automobile is what Ivan Illich called a radical monopoly. As a social institution, as a tool, the automobile is a disaster. It has worsened the problems it was designed to solve, and disabled us from finding alternative solutions to those problems.
Bike-to-work week is a small, individual way to rehabilitate oneself, to limit the radical monopoly's power over one's life, and to stop wasting time and money stuck in traffic. Ultimately, the problem is obviously structural and goes way beyond individual choice. But if we want to preserve human life in anything like the form we now know it, we'll have to declare independence from mega-industry and help to cause some healthy micro-macro-micro feedback loops. So in the spirit of bike to work week, here are some resources.
1. Find your local bicycle club. Here's the Louisville Bicycle Club.
2. Find out what your city is doing to encourage non-fossil-fuel based transit, and get on their backs to do more. Here's Louisville's rather pathetic first attempt.
3. Help build a "Locally Integrated Food Economy" to cut down on the number of miles your food has to travel to get to your plate, and reverse the corporatization/consolidation of agriculture.
4. The Earth has 1.7 biologically productive hectares per person. That's your ecological benchmark. Find out how you're doing relative to the benchmark, and do something about it. Remember that it's not just survival, but eco-justice, at stake.
5. Not convinced? What if I told you that there's probably a 40% chance that we are going to experience civilization-altering, catastrophic climate change, and even possibly what's known as "runaway" climate change. How high does that probability have to be before precautions are in order?
Which brings me back to Anne Northup, the 3rd District Member of Congress. How far in the sand is her head? She doesn't even have an entry for environmental problems on her issues page. One would think she represented the cleanest city in the country. But alas, she represents the dirtiest city in the Southeast. Check out the American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2005" report.
N.B. full disclosure: I don't bike to work, I walk to work. Same principle.

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