Ted Simon, one of the great writers-on-bike and contributor to a better understanding of our planet, sent out a call for help and action: “What could a 90-year–old biker do to save the planet from ecological disaster?”
Ted invited motorcyclists and non-motorcyclist reading his diary to come up with some ideas or suggestions for action.
One of Ted’s readers appropriately answered “Ted, just keep writing. You’ve done enough for three or four lifetimes”. And I agree profoundly: Ted talent is in writing and in moving, with words, minds spirits and bodies. He should continue spending the talent in this way and the readers of this blog should support his work by subscribing to his incoming biography “An interrupted Life “
Ted request for ideas “to save the planet” occupied my thinking since and I decided to put down my consideration with the hope of increasing awareness and sparking some action. Here excerpts from Ted Simon web site starting from 11 September 2021:
“There is no Planet B” … in 1976, coming down from Ootacamund, in southern India, I met a younger German also on a bike. His name was Hans Bohle. He had been a volunteer working to help Indians grow better vegetables… Although much younger than me he was already on the way to becoming an important scientist studying global human vulnerability to food and water shortage, climate change and so on. He became a Professor and the Chair of the geography department of Heidelberg University but he died too young in 2014. We stayed in touch all those years… About ten years ago I asked him how long he and his colleagues had known for sure that climate change was a threat, and he said they’d known for fifteen years, at least. That’s twenty-five years ago. So like many others, thousands, maybe millions, I have been living with this knowledge for a long time now. I have always wanted to do something about it… Now we are at a point where something MUST happen, and I ask myself what must I do. At least a million – maybe more – have read my books. How many of them feel as I do? Is there something I could do to bring our combined sense of urgency to bear? Very soon, in Glasgow, national leaders will meet, either to save the planet or to trash it. What are the odds? Not great…What could a 90-year–old biker do to the same effect? Any ideas are welcome”
Presences in the internet, individual choices, rallies and rides, conferences in and offline were the key suggestions but the overall feeling of the answers was “Nothing we can do will alter the future”. As Mr Russell Schuetz (father of a climate scientist) put it: “We have already passed the tipping point on Climate Change and are snowballing down the other side. … For me, that combination of things (world increasing population, capitalism pushing for higher consumption, pollution) is the perfect storm working against a bright and sunny future”
And, despite a “brief/crazy consideration” to a ride of million bikers to 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, in winter, Ted agree that there is no hope and that “the combination of over-population and over-consumption will eventually make the earth uninhabitable”
On the 19 of September on his web page, Ted writes: “I asked you last week what I must do about climate change. So first of all I need to apologise for dragging you into this quagmire when what you really wanted was happy tales of adventure and twisties in paradise. Secondly, I apologise for asking an impossible question. Eighteen of you were kind enough to indulge me, but we all know that there is nothing I could do or say as an individual that is going to change the course of events. If Greta Thunberg can’t do it, nor can I. The things some suggest – generally individual choices, small sacrifices, lower consumption – can mitigate, and delay the crisis, but won’t avoid it.… Most people think the combination of over-population and over-consumption will eventually make earth uninhabitable and I’m afraid I agree…”
Fathi A., a good friend and contributor to this blog from Poland, agree with Ted and with the ones that believe that nothing can be done: we are all doomed and only a natural disaster with the inevitable reduction in population is our only hope.
I agree with Ted Simon- he writes– that small moves may reduce the effects but not solve the issue of an ecosystem already very close to carrying capacity, maybe over the tipping point, …the effective solution, in my opinion, is to reduce consumption and to achieve this the easiest way is to reduce the population by birth control or/and by a natural disaster. Birth control seems more efficient, but it is asking sacrifices to the poor segment of the population while keeping the affluent outside the equation… disasters will hit us way before we learn to read the signs… I lost my confidence “in the society” and I pulled myself back from any activity that may create over-consumption.
Despite the lack of hope and the gloomy vision built inside the message, Fathi indicates a change of awareness and a possible set of actions: reduce futile riding, reduce personal consumption. Maybe nothing will change but the sacrifice is worth it.
Mustafa D., a good OMM rider, is still confident that the “society” can turn the tide: “As individuals – he writes answering to Ted – we cannot change anything. There are organisations like WWF that we can support and through them produce changes”
In this blog, the conversation on AWARENESS cannot and should not step away from Ted interrogation.
Lack of awareness and ignorance, lack of self-awareness and violence are at the roots of the systematic degradation and destruction of humans, animals, nature. Consider the social groups that are the greatest contributors to the incoming disasters and check the cultural basis for the criminal actions: groups of profiteers with different masks (companies, foundations, associations, organizations) covering the violent search for more and more profit, populations kept away from education and development, a global entertainment society that put to sleep the great virtues, that silences the search for value replacing self-awareness with a showing-off racing to consumption, groups and individuals born in the restrictive view of nationalisms, sects, followers, fans buying every minute lies, fake news, conspiracy theory and paranormal culture, deaf dumb idols, media (new and old) selling every day the mirrors of success and the paradise of richness to increase sales and consumptions in a never-ending race to be the “most envied”.
Forgive my aggression but engage awareness to the reality around you and you will see that violence is pushing away acceptance, greed ridicules generosity, profit sterilizes charity and wisdom is replaced by “breaking news”.
In “The sixth extinction: an unnatural history” Pulitzer prize winner Elisabeth Kolbert writes: “in the amazing moment that o us counts as present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will be forever closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy”
And this consideration inspires my hope: we may be too late in avoiding the ecological disaster but we still can slow down the impact and as such modify, mitigate the outcome.
We can act and we can answer personally and as social groups to the call of Ted by promoting with our example kindness, cleanliness and frugality.
Small actions can start big consequences: politically we may sustain in elections only GREEN PARTIES and boycott products (bike or not) from countries that did not ratify or did not respect the Kyoto protocol. Although controversial the Protocol could be used as a thermometer of ecological awareness and the vote to GREEN PARTIES, in most countries small and emarginated, can be seen as a vote of protest. We can sustain, as Mustafa suggests, honest groups and organizations that fight degradation, exploitation, poverty and racism.
We can as well conduct a frugal life reducing consumption in controlling our sport and hobby. Refusing to buy new bikes, new clothes, new accessories, rewarding lost lasting quality instead of decaying fashion, repairing instead of replacing, bringing a bike to complete extinction over the years instead of changing to new models every season.
We can turn into “policemen of the extinction, documenting and denouncing the disasters that we see while “biking free in contact with the wind and the nature”. We can eliminate rides, trips and travels “without objectives, done for the pleasure of filling up our social media.
We can turn to frugality, a lifestyle that the generation of the post-war experienced, learned and forgot. We can bring our awareness and imagination to give an immediate answer to Ted question, rejecting the absence of hope and the desperation of ignorance.