“I Want To Ride My Bicycle” or, Everything You Know About Protecting The Environment Is Wrong

Environmental issues have become the keystone of global European action though public policies and regulations that aim to integrate the environment — both as object and public concern — into every aspect of the human activities. The Paris Agreement (or “Accord”) of 2015 and the European Green Deal stand as the most useful examples of documents that tend to reconfigure the current global and European affairs towards a more environmental-friendly approach to almost everything implied by the concept of “human activity” — both individual and collective.

But like any best laid plan of men, environmental (and more currently, climate) action has been easily diverted towards more petty purposes, mainly involving immediate financial gain and new and quasi-ingenious means of control over the individuals. From malevolent interpretations of legal dispositions well beyond the capacity of comprehension of the people involved, to political (and criminal) action towards certain groups of disenfranchised prone to be exploited further, the “public” perception, as is the the perception that is meant to be accessible to the general public, on environmental and climate issues leaves much to be deserved.

Therefore I will try and separate these courses of action in two main categories, each exemplified further by a simplified case study; first, there is positive action, “what we must do to save the environment”, seconded by the repressive or negative action, as in “what is taboo, forbidden, witchcraft or heresy” regarding environmental action (mainly the activities most useful to the point, but let’s not anticipate too much).

“What to do” is publicly translated in a vary simple way : what looks and makes you feel cool. If it has a slight connection to concrete environmental issues, the better, the stress being obviously on “slight”. Thus the title I have chosen from this article: riding the bike has been associated with “environmentally-friendly”, “green” or “carbon-neutral” practices since, well, ever; the moral superiority of the cyclist in relation to the driver or the plain pedestrian is one of the basic tenets of what ignoramuses consider their fundamental input in saving the world from the climate apocalypse, thus his plethora of rights and the total lack of obligations, legal, moral, or of any other kind, to the fellow man. Pose is essential in this field — and I’m not talking about the correct position of the body riding a bicycle; the superhero — the homo superior cyclensis — must always stand out, through word, image, but preferably both. And social media is my witness that no good deed goes unposted.

Beyond the subtlety and irony of such claims, it is obvious that such actions — using a bike for personal transportation — does little beyond the direct (mostly positive) effects on the rider. It does indeed reduce traffic, but regarding the carbon footprint and the general emissions of the industry, the positive effects are modest (if any). Just think about the metal needed for the frame — titanium doesn’t quite grow on trees this days, just like the lithium in the batteries of electric cars.

The repressive part, or the "thou shall not"s, is comprised of every behaviour that comes against the interests or the mere points of view of the beholder turned inquisitor. Or vigilante — as it holds vigil over any act that can violates his narrow, uninformed, often malignant, view of things. It is malignant because it it based on guilt — not so different from the Catholic, and generally christian, maxima mea culpa. By default, thou art guilty; guilty of destroying the environment; guilty of any form of pollution (including nocturnal) known to man; guilty of murder of thousands and millions of species; etc. etc. etc. One can easily recognise here the blueprint of the typical Greta Thunberg speech, a sad remnant of the Khmer Rouge or Cultural Revolution approach rather than an environmental or ecological— i.e. systemic, integrated, balanced — point of view. Relying on someone to blame is always a rhetoric of failure; incriminating individual, limited, action, rather than identifying the "prime mover" of phenomena never solves the problem — just makes you fell good for acting, even though by an utterly useless action.

So get on your bikes and ride; collect the waste as much as you can, as long as you pay your local taxes that more often than not include… waste collection! Use metal straws instead of plastic, as they are more toxic and their emission footprint is hundredfold the latter; buy electric, lithium is just a myth.

Save the environment, as long as you save yourself first.

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