Is the Church of Green Piety a hinderance to cycling becoming mainstream?

Whenever I am in trouble for leaving my clothes on the floor, or am caught sneaking parcels from online bike shops into the man-cave, I like to distract my dear Primrose with prophesies about the end of the world. Simply intimating that our children might die of starvation, and that it’s all the fault of the Boomers, will usually buy me the breathing space I require to go back to looking at e-Bay and the day’s search results for “Columbus steel frame bicycle”, or whatever it is I was doing.

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But of course you can’t play tricks like these on your wife and get off completely scott free. At some point you will have to contemplate the actual depletion of resources, global warming, or both. As surely as sprinters lead sprinters to victory, contemplating dooms day will lead to the Hubbert Curve, and The Limits of Growth. The latter is the theory that the number of people the world can sustain will decline relative to the lack of resources and destruction of nature.

I’m always amazed by the sheer lack of imagination shown by prophets of doom. At once they want followers, yet want all their followers dead. There are so many ways the population of the world could be allowed to keep growing. We could genetically engineer the next generation of kids to be tiny so their world becomes proportionally bigger; our great grandchildren could each live for a week on a banana—assuming they could find some way of getting it down from the tree. There could be enough dried pasta in your cupboard right now to feed all you descendants for decades.

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Okay, so maybe food production is one of those things that benefits from fossil fuel energy inputs. Other things don’t, like urban mobility, moving through buildings, and building heating and cooling. Bicycle transport, ramped buildings and solar-passive design would buy our species another few thousand years on this planet. The boomers could each live to 150, without guilt or reprisals and Gen-Z would not have to shrink the size of their children.

When pneumatic hyperloops are finally built we won’t even have aeroplanes spewing carbon into the air. Then I won’t feel so guilty about trips like the one I just made to Sydney, to meet a few people then turn around and fly home.

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I wore my Brooks backpack onto the plane. It  looks like a parachute. It just needs a light and whistle. And I carried a copy of the book I would read, J.G. Ballard’s Low Flying Aircraft.

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It opens with a short story set in a post-fossil fuel age. The world’s population has been culled back to the new-tech engineers and artisan class, getting all their energy via renewals, travelling by bike, making things that last forever, etc.. You don’t have to wait for the coal to run out to envision that day. Believers in a future when the masses have been punished by death for their consumption have Sunday churches that you can visit, places like The Grounds of Alexandria in Southern Sydney, where new tech engineers and their artisan wives spend 10% of their income (their tithe) on free range egg Sunday breakfasts. Green Piety would be beating Pentecostalism in terms of growth, but for the fact that it relies on exclusivity. You really do have to be a new tech engineer or artisan, to be a member. And you have to own a piece of that prime inner city land that will sustain life after everyone who bought in the suburbs has starved.

Now you tell me: is this a church that ultimately does more to harm cycling than the vatican has done to hurt god, or will the yuppy proclivities that it promotes (such as cycling) eventually filter out to the heartlands?

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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6 Responses to Is the Church of Green Piety a hinderance to cycling becoming mainstream?

  1. Luke says:

    Yes, greenery is not enough. There’s loads of oil for the next 50plus years. We need to show that bikes are better/more fun.

    “prophesies” ? You are going to get someone to proof read your next book? It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

    • Steven says:

      gaffs like that have to make it through 2 Dutch editors before they reach England from your penal colony :)

  2. Luke says:

    “gaffs like that have to make it through 2 Dutch editors”

    That worked last time.

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