Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bicyclist's lament: Change a-coming

Prologue:

Just shook myself off like a wet dog, hung up dripping reflective vest, socks, gloves, water resistant (ha) jacket, rain pants, regular pants with wet cuffs, shirt with wet shoulders, helmet, reflective velcro strips to secure pant legs; then took a long, hot, water-wasting shower.

Ah, bicycling in winter.

This is an undertaking that is going to require assistance, backup, outside support, consultation and, shall we say, a pat on the back, something more than splattering in the wake of sport utility vehicles.

As will several other undertakings in the offing.

Let's start with bicycling.

What the heck, let's start bigger.

Post-aught United States, careening from Biggest-Recession-Since-The-Depression, to something that may or may not be recovering, is on the brink of cathartic and possibly cataclysmic change. Of course, everything changes all the time, but there are periods when change comes quickly enough that history books take note, and this might just be one of them. Whether from the effects of instant communication, change in the temperature, shortages of oil, rare metals, water or food, monetary policy, securities based on "repackaged" loans, social unrest -- it doesn't matter. Change is a-coming.

What are comfortable ordinary US citizens to do? Do we try to help change come about in a good way? If so, how? Between comfort and ordinariness, it seems insane to do anything. My family already thinks me eccentric. Gosh, maybe change will come about slowly enough that it won't matter until after this body passes on. Or is the attempt to do "good," naive and a waste of time? Maybe the future will be fantastic. Nimble and creative minds will reshape everything in a good way?

That seems unlikely, at least in the short run. And in the long run, the usual rebalancing, winners and losers, as always. Which leads back to the question of what one person can and should do in the face of oncoming social, political and environmental change. And the age old lament in the form of a question: how much difference can one person make?

So here is one lapsed Catholic, raised on guilt, and brought up in a Disney World, where indeed, one person is supposed to be able to Make A Difference, and to put in a good try. Even a comfortable, ordinary housewife. Erin Brockovich's Unite or some such thing. But Erin had moxie, boobs, and a mind like a steel trap. Not exactly ordinary. We're talking run of the mill, behind the scenes, smallish town Mom here, driven by an ordinary person's sense of duty, and a comfortable person's sense of wanting to give back, as well as a bit of excitement and dread about what might be ahead.

Where to start?

1. Volunteer. Check.

2. Buy local, organic food when possible, in that order. Check.

3. Start a back yard garden and a kitchen compost pile. Check.

Not nearly enough to make up for, um, two big screen TVs and a minivan. Not to mention long, water wasting showers.

How about biking? How about, instead of driving to a gym to exercise, biking to exercise? Or at least walking? Um. OK...

So began the Great Bicycling Chapter, which on days like today, seems like a really stupid idea.
Here we come full circle. The GBC, part 1, coming soon.


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