Saturday, August 02, 2008

Going Green for Me

I'm pretty excited about the whole 'green' movement going on right now. And I'm pretty stoked that it's coming at the same time as $4 gallon gas. Of course, I'm not stoked about all of the people around the US getting pinched right now because of the economy but it's not like we didn't see this coming.

When I first got bitten by the bike bug as an adult, I was going to college at Salisbury and my roommate Dave had a mtn bike. Darryl down the hall was a mechanic and had grey stumpjumper (steel of course) with Suntour 8 speed microdrive all around. I still remember 'I hate that Shimano stuff.' So funny to think back on that now, but I digress.

I bought a bike with the money I made working for HomeFix on Winter break 1992, setting up sales leads for a company that got into a lot of trouble 4 years later. I rode my bike around, off-road, on-road, bought a few upgrades and remembered what I really loved as a kid about riding bikes. I rode bikes a lot as a kid...

I figured out pretty quickly that if you live off-campus, getting to class was way easier if you just rode your bike. Duh. Back in those days, you brought your saddle/post into class with you...

I got a job at Bike World in Ocean City while I lived in Ocean Pines with some buddies. When I got back to school, I worked at Salisbury Schwinn. I learned a lot about bikes. I started racing and bought a Sworks Steel frame and built it up. Rad.

There was no 'militant cyclist' crap like there is now. At least, not in my world. I got out of college and moved to San Diego. I rode to work a lot. I moved to San Jose. I rode to work a lot. I rode my bike a lot. I raced a lot. I had fun a lot.

I decided that I needed to go back to school. I moved back to MD and started working part time at the League of American Bicyclists and started grad school at UMCP. I started opening the mail, answering the phone, drinking it all in. I listened to every conversation I could, read every piece of everything that I saw. I learned. Quickly. I got promoted quickly after finishing my class. I delved into bicycle education based on the whack-job John Forrester. He credits himself for inventing bicycle safety but he borrowed heavily from other's work. I was thrust into working with NHTSA, FHWA, Safe Kids, USA Cycling, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rails to Trails and a ton of local and regional organizations. I was exposed to the most influential non-car transportation-type people out there. And I drank it all in. And I rode my bike a lot.

I learned that there were fundamental problems with the way that the US had developed and was developing. Car-scale development, lack of 'sense of place' as a contribution to many societal ills, obesity, socio-economic social justice transportation movements, positive benefits to employers with bike-commuting employees... endless stuff.

After Susan and I got married and started a family, we found somewhere we could afford out in the 'burbs and brought our one car and made it work. We both still worked in DC and had HELLACIOUS commutes. She rode the bike to the train station in the morning, I drove Emma and dropped her off. She drove home from the train station and picked Emma up and I rode home later. We rode around the neighborhood every chance we could. I found a lot of ways around driving. I found a lot of short-cuts and paths that allowed us to avoid driving.

Al Gore dropped 'Inconvenient Truth' on everyone and things changed. I'm glad. And I've always had environmentally-helpful tendencies. In high school, I went vegetarian for all the right reasons (and girls). I stayed after school when we started a paper recycling program in middle-school and pushed mail-bins around the hallways collecting and sorting paper. I feel like I've always 'gotten it.'

But I always have been cheap, too. I think that's the main reason that I appreciate a lot of the 'green' stuff but also think a lot of it is crap. I have seen a lot of white people talking about the environment while people in, say, the Anacostia watershed suffer. Prius ain't cheap! Inner-cities with predominantly mono-race situations get highways that cut off bus routes and isolate communities. From Detroit to Portland (yes, Portland), Washington, DC, to San Jose, I worked with some social-justice people who saw bikes as the way out. So many people couldn't afford a car but needed one to get a job. So how do you get a job if you can't afford a car to get TO the job and there's no busses or you have a 8-lane suburban conveyance device (highway) cruising in front of your house. It's hard for me to ignore the entirety of the things that I've learned when thinking and talking about these things. It's really fun while out drinking with me...

Roads should be for people, not for people in cars. Be nice to the planet and your neighbors.

So, all of that to say that the main reason that I support 'green' stuff and recycling is because I'm cheap and I see that it CAN be less-expensive to live low on the totem pole. Why buy potting soil for your plants when you can compost? Why use potable water to water your plants when a billion or so people don't have safe water? Why pollute the Chesapeake Bay when you can just cut down on your driving (cheaper), use a water barrel and leave your grass long? Complaining about high gas prices and sending your $$ to people that funded Bin Laden? Ride your damn bike. You KNEW that that stupid SUV you bought got crappy gas mileage but you 'needed' it. The Federal Gov't passed a law that allowed people to write off their heavy vehicles in one year instead of the usual five for smaller cars so you were greedy and bought a few Hummers.

To borrow a phrase from Jawbox, we protest our complicity.

Bush says 'go shopping' after September 11th and many of us were dumb enough to listen. We send our country(wo)men to fight in Iraq AND Afghanistan but we don't plant our Victory Gardens or change our lifestyle a bit. Oh, people bought little USA ribbon stickers and yellow ribbon stickers or other stupid displays of blind patriotism but everyone kept driving, kept buying.

And the mortgage market lowered its standards to sell more and more bundled securities to Wall Street and here we are. It's all tied up in a nice big fat crap sandwich that all of us are chewing.

This is why I never got through grad school. I can't hold a single thought in my head without it running over. Apologies to those with the patience or time to actually read this well-intentioned rambling.

In other news: I GOT A NEW BIKE!


At 9:23 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Hey- great blog. I like your ideas. your latest posting goes through the evolution of it. You always got it. Cool.

I stumbled upon your blog through linked in.

tom Martin

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Big Daddy Mike said...

Thanks Tom. I was lucky to be around talented people and I just sucked up their ideas.

At 10:41 PM, Blogger sean said...

Good stuff, dude.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Darren said...

New bike give me heads up and lets do that through ride maybe like Sept 6th?

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent rant brother, I am in Bethesda now for the NIH interview but saw one of your female riders at the Fool's Gold Race. I had to give her a hard time.


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