In 2019 Critical Mass became an Extinction Rebellion Critical Mass.

We have excellent public transportation in Chicago which reduces our need for cars.  However, when it comes to getting around town, ever considered a simple bicycle?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified bicycling as one solution toward ensuring a sustainable world.

A bicycle leads to cleaner air (no emission of the car’s harmful particles, chemicals, and gases), reduced dependence upon fossil fuels, and less noise.  The average driver of a car emits five metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, so you are improving the living world’s long-term survival by switching to biking.

I recognize that economics may drive (no pun intended) many of us to work too far from home to bike to, which is a built-in economic incentive to pollute.  Because I recognize this, I am not condemning anybody who owns and uses a car, I get it.  However, even as an older person I discovered I had the ability to bike ten miles to work, and ten miles back, five days a week for seven years until I retired.  I did not know I even had the ability to do that at first, and in fact I achieved that minor feat by putting in a few months of parking my car mid-way, then biking to the car, locking up the bike, driving to work by car the rest of the way, then driving back later to the bicycle, until my body was capable of doing the full ten miles.  But this distance is remarkably easy for almost anyone, and probably most of you do trips each day that are far shorter.  Many workplaces let you keep your bike in their building, or in your office.  Even if you don’t want to carry out messy repairs, there are plenty of bike shops out there that will keep your bike in good working order for pennies (okay, maybe under $50) compared to what you were spending each year on your car before (hundreds or thousands).

After years of biking, I eventually just gave up on the car altogether, saving myself expenses on fuel, parking, insurance, repairs.  We have Divvy in our city too, so for about $100 a year you can have a bike anytime you want even if you don’t own one.  For those trips that require public transportation, we have great buses and trains around the city (I do realize such prospects are greatly diminished for those who live in the burbs).  But even then periodically using an Uber or Lyft will still cost you next to nothing compared with car ownership.  Though formally retired, I do work part-time, sometimes needing a real car, in which case apps like Turo let me have one for $70 for the day, but overall even with six such trips a year, I am spending far less than owning a car.

But even more than the expense saved, not owning a car means you are free to explore greener transportation options because you have no choice but to.  It’s kind of like not letting children spend the day on their social media; left to their own devices, they will play with anything, and will relish playing with real friends.  However, if they have that phone in their hand, you know they will prefer that over almost any activity you try to tempt them with verbally.  Same with car ownership.  When you own it, you feel you need to use at every opportunity.  Without one, you are more likely to walk, bike, or use public transportation.  Without one, you are more likely to lose weight, be healthier, feel better.  Simply reducing a dependence on a habit that is playing some part in undermining the living world will make you feel better, and will be, much more than just a feeling, a doable act toward saving our much beleaguered planet.

There was a great critique of cars written by Andre Gorz in 1973 that is still very much relevant today which you can download here: https://chisineu.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/biblioteca_motorcar_gorz.pdf

There are bicycling activist organizations in Chicago such as Bike Grid Now! that is trying to get the city to render at least 10% of its streets bike friendly.

It is true, incidentally, that large corporations and governments pollute much more than individuals put together (the US military alone pollutes more than 140 countries according to this source: https://theconversation.com/us-military-is-a-bigger-polluter-than-as-many-as-140-countries-shrinking-this-war-machine-is-a-must-119269   We must obviously continue to support political ideas and legislature that work to protect the living world we are part of.  However, making personal choices that are greener are small ways, yes, but big steps, yes too, to take a stand against a way of life that is intrinsically destructive.  Our choices can help to create a new culture in the spaces of the old that incorporates concern for the web of life of which we are a part, and upon which our culture is leaving an absurdly disproportionate footprint, one toward worsening disaster of proportions we are unsure of, but which is already devastating, leading to mass species extinctions, and possibly ours too.

I only thought at first I would be writing about the Extinction Rebellion Critical Mass that took place five years ago in Chicago, as the video above illustrated.

It is time we have another!