Some Good News

Good news everyone

There is good news in all of this gloom and doom. The key here is to understand that knowledge is power. It’s not that we see different things then those who are unaware of these issues... But once we understand the reality of these issues on a deep level, we simply see the same things in a new light.

6 kids by bike impossible
Close 6 kids by bike impossible

Photo by J. Maus
© BikePortland.org

We begin to understand that the decisions to choose ‘the easy way’ or follow on the heals of mainstream society run counter to our deepest feelings of compassion, respect, and connection with our living world.
As our understanding of these issues grows, the idea of treating the natural world as a ‘resource to be exploited’ no longer feels inately moral to us. This isn’t often a feeling that people understand on the surface, but it exists within each of us on some deeper level. Eventually we come to understand that consuming beyond our means compromises our own sense of self-respect.

At this point it can’t be understated that we are still within the realm of the possible. The apathy and fatalism to which we’ve all succumbed at some point can be just as dangerous as the climate change denial of the U.S. Republicans (link)

While researching this essay, I’ve been impressed by the genius which has been showing up on the internet in reponse to climate change. People young and old, from all over the world, are coming up with awesome solutions to our current shared global crisis.

School couldn't teach me
Bucket panniers
Close Bucket panniers

Bike panniers from recycled buckets

The power of our mind is now demonstrating to us that we can use our creative talents for the benefit of the whole world, rather then just for the sake of making a buck. But instead of sharing news about hybrid cars, LEDs, or other forms of greenwashing....I’m going to share with you some REAL, innovative solutions which have the greatest potential to help us create a harmonious planet.
(and these aren’t costly items either, they’re either cheap or free).

  • William Kamkwamba was a 15 year old boy from Malawi who became famous for building a wind turbine from scrap parts to provide electricity to his village.
  • In 1979, Jadav Payeng started growing bamboo on a parched island near Bangalore. He devoted 30 years to the project and has now built a dense forest covering over 550 hectares (1300 acres). Of course most of us aren’t going to spend that much time, but groups like Friends of Trees and the National Arbor Day Foundation can help you find ways to plant trees around the neighbourhood.
  • Food not Bombs is an international group of people who take food that would otherwise be discarded, and turn it into meals that they serve to the public for free.
  • Imagine building something on the same scale as the Great Wall of China... but out of trees? That’s what Wangari Maathai and the Great Green Wall Initiative is currently developing. The goal is to halt the southward spread of the Sahara desert with trees and native plants.
  • Precycling’ is the term for choosing products with the least amount of packaging, which reduces waste and construction of landfills. Katherine Kellog, Lauren Singer, and others like them are even managing to live comfortable lives while producing no trash at all.
  • Repair cafe’s - where people get together as communities and repair, rather then replace, broken items - have been spreading to cities around the world.
  • A lot of smart people have figured out how to build their own solar panel for super cheap. Here is an instructables on how.
  • For communities where solar is not affordable, in steps GravityLight. Jim Reeves and Martin Riddiford developed the idea to use gravity as an energy source for light in communities with no electricity, thereby eliminating kerosene lamps and the pollution they cause.
  • Want to heat your house for free? No I’m not selling anything. But there is a concept, called passive solar heat. It’s actually super easy to make a solar heater out of soda cans. You can look up ‘pop can solar heater’ on youtube, but here’s the quickest way that I’ve found.
  • Composting is a great way to turn food waste into healthy soil. If you don’t have a yard or a lot of space, a worm bin is an easy way to do compost right under the kitchen sink. This woman shows you how.

Notice, these ideas don’t involve spending a week’s paycheck at the store. We building towards a new era of post-consumerism, where creativity becomes the driving force rather then money.

We can influence others

Beyond taking steps like this in our own life, we can share our new-found understanding with others and be a positive influence for change throughout the community.
So many amazing people have revised their understanding of humanity’s place in nature, taking on a more humble approach in how we relate to the world. As the picture here shows, each time that one of us makes a change it influences friends, coworkers, and family to re-think their own choices and consider the benefits of healthier and more compassionate lives.

Jan Gerdes was a dairy farmer in Northern Germany and recounts how horrible he felt in causing so much suffering to farmed animals. He and his wife have since given up animal products and turned their farm into an animal sanctuary where he now has a healthy relationship with the cows.

Vegan farmer

Chris Mills worked on a dairy farm for over 20 years. He shares that the decisive moment for him came when he found a truckload of pigs halted in traffic. The temperature was -34C and he could clearly recognize the suffering of those animals. Since then he and his family have enjoyed animal-free meals for life.

Christine Mariani Egidio started raising sheep for meat in 2009. “It wasn’t long before she came to understand the reality. “Even though I learned that sheep all have individual personalities, are SMART, and definitely form bonds with one another, show joy, fear, friendship–every human emotion–I still did not make the connection.... that farm animals are no different in their desire and right to live... I was haunted by [the recognition] that the animals don’t want to die." (link)

cook WITH chicken

As we begin to learn and understand the truth behind the curtain, we feel more empowered to choose differently. Popular films like ‘Speciesism,’ ‘Forks over Knives,’ ‘What the Health,’ and ‘Cowspiracy’ are wonderful tools to help us raise awareness for animal-free diets. At the same time, influential public figures like sports heroes, politicians, Hollywood stars, and activists are embracing plant-based meals and using their positions to be positive role-models in our culture. We can be inspired to recognize that we all have the power to embrace compassion and to help our loved ones to enjoy the same.

Weekend warrior cyclist

When I was younger, most people viewed cycling as just a ‘weekend warrior’ fringe. Advertisements reinforced this idea by promoting ‘Lance Armstrong’ stereotypes and hunched over bike styles. But now brilliant people all over the world are showing how to move human-powered transportation into the realm of everyday trips. Not only just for lightweight errands, but even larger grocery trips and urban adventures.

The more that we embrace sensible transportation the more city governments will support it, and vice-versa.

benefits of biking
Close benefits of biking

Johnstonhawke @pedalmeapp

By redesigning our cities to improve the safety of regular people; bus riders, bike riders, and pedestrians; we begin to transform the culture to one in which children, grandparents, the disabled, and everyone else can feel included.

A great many people are working hard to encourage and promote humane cities which can be navigated by regular people just as easily as delivery trucks.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr. & Streetfilms have created a huge library of videos showing the value of healthy public spaces
  • Adam Conover has created a show called 'Adam Ruins Everything' in which he clears up many mistaken beliefs around "jaywalking" and electric cars.
  • Ciclovias or Sunday Parkways, inspired by former mayor Enrique Penalosa, have helped people experience how wonderfully peaceful an this, Paris recently pushed the whole city center to go carfree for one day.
  • Seville, Spain used to be a standard European town with auto congestion and pollution until Manuel Calvo was given the green light to help rebuild the network, resulting in a 150% increase in bike traffic.
  • Hundreds of brilliant people are making bikes that don’t just carry people, but groceries, pets, refrigerators, or even a bicycle powered mobile building