Sunday, March 11, 2018

steady growth is not a sustainable earth model

I have been sneaking peeks at the racing scene periodically, just to see what's up.
These have been fewer over time, but today I took another peek and found two things:

1. The Giro d'Italia plans to have its Grand Departure in -- wait for it -- Jerusalem, Israel.
Right, I know. Israel has almost NO road cycling scene (though mountain biking is huge and flatland BMX enjoyes a youth following in the cities), owing largely to the fact that it's mostly desert and it's in the middle of an otherwise inhospitable Arab Middle East, half of whose residents would like to see Israel nuked off the map. So yeah, it's kind of a wacky place to begin a road race that will be in Italy the rest of the month.

Then, there's the environmental impact. Bicycle racing is anything but "green" -- watch the trailers and trucks in the parking lot at any road or mountain race and you will see piles of waste being generated with every repair, ever souvenir, every rush-job to sublimate a leader's jersey with the right team, etc. etc. etc. And most of that waste, in the new era of the collapsed plastics market, is bound for the landfill.

Fast forward to this morning. I held an informal bicycle tools and parts yard sale while I finished a repair on a friend's bike. A few people came by, all of them folks I knew from Portland's cycling scene and most of them current or former local racers. As they poked and prodded their way through my boxes and selected their purchases, we talked about the unsustainability of all things carbon, the unsustainability of new bike manufacturing, and the sheer madness of a constant-growth business model that is emblematic of the bicycle industry. The truth is that I got out of the industry just in time to avoid the worst of the hypocrisy -- of carbon-fiber, disc brake-equipped commuter bikes, of $400 childrens' bikes (seriously? Who can afford or justify a bike your kid will outgrow or destroy in a few weeks?) and the trickle-down from racing that refuses to die and still, sadly, informs too much of the consumer bicycle market.

In the end, it's all stuff, mountains of stuff, way too fucking much stuff. And I've grown weary of it.
I've grown weary to the point that I doubt I'll ever buy anything new again (including tires and tubes; they're readily available in decent used condition all over the city, mostly free for the taking). Who needs jerseys? Who needs padded knickers if all you're doing is riding to work and back? Who needs an eleven-speed drivetrain, for crying out loud? Nobody I know personally really uses much of that anymore. We all just ride our bikes. And when they break down, we fix them ourselves.

A new generation of consumers has moved into Portland, people who don't seem as interested in getting their hands dirty at all -- witness the rise in the number of mobile bike repair businesses and also the number of downtown bike parking facilities that keep a mechanic on staff.Shops that used to do a steady business in used bikes, parts and tools have shifted to selling those items online, where more money can be made from overseas collectors. And yes, I've been guilty of that, too; though I am now rethinking that part of my scavenging and reselling schemes.

Because when you get down to it, this emphasis on always making new stuff and shipping it around the world may be great for economies, but it's lousy for the planet. It's lousy for the poorest among us. And more and more I fear it's becoming lousy for our souls.

It's highly possible that in the future there won't be a need for this blog -- I may eventually reach the conclusion that curating my life feels less and less necessary and so I won't write here as often.
I'm not done yet, but wrapping this up is a distinct possibility in the future.
And now, a bicycle ride.
Happy riding!

No comments: