home

In New Orleans, a mass of bikes to fight a mass of oil

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 20th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Flyer for "No Drill, No Spill, No Kill" Critical Mass ride planned in New Orleans.

As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, many people feel helpless and frustrated. In New Orleans, a group of activists have decided to take to the streets on their bicycles to "demonstrate the efficiency of bicycles as modes of transport for all practical purposes."

With the mantra of "No Drill, No Spill, No Kill," a Critical Mass bike ride has been organized for next Friday (5/28) in the hopes to raise awareness of "clean transportation."

I came across the event on Facebook and got in touch with one of the organizers. Here's a snip from a statement about the ride:

"Cyclists from Orleans and Jefferson Parishes are calling for a Critical Mass ride in response to the latest in the Oil industry's insults to our coast, and to demonstrate the possibilities of carbon-free transport. As we head into the next hurricane season, metro-area cyclists are reminding people that humans are not necessarily dependent on an industry that shows little regard for its workers' lives, communities, or ecosystems..."

People behind the ride in Louisiana hope the idea spreads to cities across the country. Portland's Critical Mass has fizzled in recent years, and the term Critical Mass makes many of today's more moderate bike advocates cringe, but perhaps folks will feel like coming together in light of the obscene nature of this calamity in the Gulf.

If anyone's inspired by this and plans a ride in the Portland area next Friday, let me know and I'll help spread the word.

Email This Post Email This Post

Possibly related posts


Gravatars make better comments... Get yours here.
Please notify the publisher about offensive comments.
Comments
  • ecohuman May 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Without fossil fuel, bicycles could not exist. They require fossil fuels to mine and extract raw materials, fossil fuels to manufacture them, fossil fuels to ship them, fossil fuels to lubricate them, and fossil fuels to repair and maintain them.

    the road infrastructure they ride on, and the infrastructure needed to build and maintain those roads, require fossil fuels.

    The clothes, shoes, and accessories bicyclists wear require fossil fuels. Yes, even cotton and wool.

    Bicycle tires require fossil fuel.

    In other other words, fellow bicyclists--bicycles are not "clean tranportation" or "carbon free transport". They are "lower carbon transport". They have a serious and significant ecological impact. BP provides a significant amount of fossil fuels to the corporations that build and distribute bicycles.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paulie May 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Maybe they should call this one the "Critical Mess" ride.

    What a terrible disaster! A bicycle ride seems a perfect way to point out that we need not be so reliant on toxic fuels.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nick V May 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I'm one who "cringes" at the thought of Critical Mass rides. There are many less confrontational, belligerent, and potentially violent and dangerous ways to fight for this cause.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • huey lewis May 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    the only hope is massive human extinction, right ecohuman?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ecohuman May 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    the only hope is massive human extinction, right ecohuman?

    As opposed to massive human delusion?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Velophile in Exile May 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    @ #1:

    That all may be true, but so what?

    The scale of the industry needed to create bikes and other responsible forms of transportation (e.g., electric cars and rail powered by renewable energy) would be infinitesimally smaller than the one required to support societal-level dependence on gasoline-fueled motor vehicles.

    And, as a result, the chances of a major environmental disaster would also be infinitesimally smaller. There would likely not even be any need to make the huge expenditures and take the huge risks associated with offshore drilling.

    So I think you're the one who's delusional, or perhaps just being contrary.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ecohuman May 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    That all may be true, but so what?

    What you're saying, then, is "bikes cause pollution, but it's okay, because something else pollutes more".

    The scale of the industry needed to create bikes and other responsible forms of transportation (e.g., electric cars and rail powered by renewable energy) would be infinitesimally smaller than the one required to support societal-level dependence on gasoline-fueled motor vehicles.

    You see, that's the problem. It wouldn't, really. The scale is not linear; it's not a 1:1 ratio. The infrastructure needed to be capable of producing raw materials and manufacturing and machining them is quite large.

    But I'll keep it short and recommend a recent article that I liked on this topic:

    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4801/

    Here's an excerpt from that article:

    Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption—residential, by private car, and so on—is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

    Nobody, of course (including myself) wants to hear this sort of thing. And the knee-jerk response is typically "but I'll just consume differently, and that will change all of that!" Which neglects the fundamental realities of what's consuming what, and where, and how much--and as the article author points out, reduces human beings to "consumers", which is exactly what corporations (like the bicycle manufacturers who outsource to SE Asia) want you to define yourself as. a "Consumer".

    In other words, the motto of feel-good America Green is "Better Living Through Slightly Different Purchasing Decisions".

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matt picio May 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    ecohuman (#1) - bicycles require a tiny fraction of the fossil fuels required by motorized transportation. While you're technically correct, a hundred-fold decrease in usage would be a great step, right? We could easily sustain bicycles for some time purely with current production, or even a mere fraction of current production. "No drill" can be attained if we're willing to work towards it.

    The road infrastructure does not *require* fossil fuels, it just gets a lot harder and more expensive without them. And for much of the year, paved roads are not a necessity.

    Shoes and clothes do not *require* fossil fuels, though without them productivity is a lot lower. If we build those items to last, hand-wash them, and own less, they can be produced without any fossil fuel inputs.

    BP doesn't provide anything to bike manufacturers - the oil industry does. Oil is a fungible commodity - like corn, there's no way to track whose barrel came from BP and whose came from Exxon. (Exxon has had a near-pristine record since the Exxon Valdez disaster, and is probably the safest of the multinational extractors)

    "Perfect" is the enemy of good. Right now almost any step forward is better than nothing.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Velophile in Exile May 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    @ #7:

    Dude, YOU cause pollution. We all do and always will. The idea that therefore we should not try to pollute less is ridiculous. And so is the notion that a transportation system powered by electric motors charged by renewable electricity sources would not pollute far less and create far less risk of an oil spill.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ecohuman May 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    bicycles require a tiny fraction of the fossil fuels required by motorized transportation.

    Again--I know that. But sometimes--and this seems the hardest idea to get across--"less bad" is still "bad".

    While you're technically correct, a hundred-fold decrease in usage would be a great step, right?

    You've got the same fundamental misunderstanding of production that the last commenter did.

    The road infrastructure does not *require* fossil fuels, it just gets a lot harder and more expensive without them.

    That's so obviously incorrect that I'll just leave it to you to spend a few minutes researching what's required to build and maintain a road.

    And for much of the year, paved roads are not a necessity.

    Wrong again, for about two dozen reasons. A few of them include the infrastructure access needed to maintain a highly urban environment (that includes pesky things like police, fire and medical vehicles), maintenance vehicles, and other maintenance. And there's a reason roads are paved and not dirt. Ask the Romans.

    BP doesn't provide anything to bike manufacturers - the oil industry does.

    British Petroleum IS part of the oil industry, man. Did you honestly not know that?

    Oil is a fungible commodity - like corn, there's no way to track whose barrel came from BP and whose came from Exxon.

    Actually, there is, and they are. It's one of the most precisely measured and tracked inputs in global manufacturing. BP can tell you to exactly what refiners and manufacturers its oil goes.

    "Perfect" is the enemy of good.

    That sounds good as a platitude...and it's also not what I was suggesting.

    Right now almost any step forward is better than nothing.

    Again, that's a feel-good thing to say, but it's not really true. In fact, "better than nothing" is not the same thing as "enough". If it makes you feel good to do a thing like cycling, do it. But claiming that it's "better"--in the sense that it effects a meaningful change in pollution and ecological degradation--will only fly with those looking for a consumer product way out.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ecohuman May 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Dude, YOU cause pollution. We all do and always will. The idea that therefore we should not try to pollute less is ridiculous.

    You didn't notice the quote Jonathan made from the Critical Mass ride, did you? It's the one I was responding about:

    to demonstrate the possibilities of carbon-free transport. As we head into the next hurricane season, metro-area cyclists are reminding people that humans are not necessarily dependent on an industry that shows little regard for its workers' lives, communities, or ecosystems..."

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR May 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    population growth control should be the real issue here, because population growth / lack of population control is what is really putting the pressure on our natural resource base, be that oil, food or any another commodity.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Josh G May 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Small improvements do make a difference. Major change can happen via a long series of small increments.

    Also bikes are tremendously better than cars when it comes to resource usage and pollution. Yes it may create pollution and take a fair amount of resources to build a bicycle. Once the bicycle is built, obviously the transportation is human powered, and no further combustion of oil is needed. Actually it is the most efficient form of transportation that exists. Yes, this doesn't count road maintenance, of course! Doesn't make it anywhere near equivalent to the overall negative impact of a car.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • michweek May 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    i ride 30 year old bikes. That's one awesome thing about bikes, as long as you don't have a serious wreck they work forever. And isn't there a bio-degradable lube out there? Also who said some creative person couldn't find an alternative, earth/human friendly material for tubes and tires? Hail the bike!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • cold worker May 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    so what are you doing besides lecturing online and shitting on everything? how am i to change my horribly flawed life to live up to your ideals? and why are you online anyways? shouldn't you be off the grid somewhere where your smug sense of superiority can really shine?

    there is a way out of this madness, ecohuman, the ultimate way to give back to the earth...

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Greg May 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    ecohuman - I don't think you're making your point as clearly as you could (assuming I understand what you're trying to say). Here's the way I would put it (apologies in advance for any misstatements of your position):
    ----
    Bikes can be a visible symbol of a massive transformation that needs to happen in the way Americans live - or they can be another essentially meaningless consumer "choice" that simply throws a layer of green paint on a deeply ugly system that benefits an ever shrinking inner circle while dumping increasing costs (externalities) on everyone else.

    Bikes *should* be seen as a symbol of hope in that some of the most efficient, happy societies in the world use them heavily now for local transport and are increasing their reliance at a rapid rate.

    But they do this in *concert with* well designed density, increasingly sustainable power generation and distribution systems, economic systems that generate egalitarian outcomes between citizens, well built and run public transit networks that complement bikes, and sadly *terrible* pop music. All these things (except for the music) are elements that you can't buy in a store - you have to build them together with your fellow citizens.

    Individually riding a bike won't get you these any more than shopping at Ikea will get you a single payer health care system (believe me, I've tried.)

    However, to the extent that the bike is a symbol for all these things (and in a funny way I think it really is for reasons that I won't bore you with right now), then yes, a critical mass ride right now in New Orleans is a fine and appropriate thing.
    ----

    How's that?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jim May 21, 2010 at 8:24 am

    2 wrongs don't make a right

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Minnow May 21, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Oh, you are so idealistic. There are many ways to cut down on oil consumption. You can choose not to eat meat. You can choose different ways to shop, dress, feed your family, etc. None are better than others. Would a demonstration against eating meat help the people in Louisiana? No. And neither will a Critical Mass ride. Have you ever lived in New Orleans? I was raised and educated there. It isn't all that safe to ride a bike on a daily basis there. You aren't in Portland anymore, Toto. What is happening down there is awful. Seafood and fishing are these people's lives. It is absolutely tragic what is happening to the Mississippi Delta-the environment, the water, the fish, and the animals. The current administration is reacting on a daily basis to whatever the NYTimes prints the day before. Bobby Jindall wants to build barrier islands to save the marshes, but he has to wait on permits. That waiting will be the destruction of the marshes. I am totally disgusted with all of it. Do something constructive for once. Riding your bike in a demonstration is not constructive. Go down there and help out. Jump on a shrimp boat and help skim the oil. Help to clean up the animals. Help the fishermen who are losing their livelihood.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kyle May 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I wouldn't say that anyone necessarily organizes a critical mass ride. The New Orleans one is the last Friday of every month, and the facebook folks send out nice reminders. The theme is appropriate.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Vance Longwell May 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

    echohuman - Let's compare households, shall we? Jonathan Maus's household, to the best of my knowledge, is made up of 5 people. My household is made up of 1 people. Our households utilize roughly the same amount of real estate, and are therefore, comparable. I can then concluded that Mr. Maus's household consumes roughly 400% more natural resources than mine.

    Why should I have my resource allocation sanctioned right along with Maus's?

    This is fundamental to my own feelings about conservation. The underlying issue is, and always was, population density. In my scenario I'm to be sanctioned because somebody else has made the arguably selfish decision to produce more off-spring. Wars have been fought over less.

    A country the size of Brazil is birthed everyday. While the Church of Green busily encroaches upon my own personal liberty, under-developed nations are burying us alive in people. I am supremely angered by the notion that I must conserve resources while another will horde them. It just ain't gonna play-out like that, I'll take-up arms first.

    echohuman is attempting to burn through the Church of Green haze and effect some of the smug, arrogant, surety amongst the life-style police. They're attempting to counter the disingenuous rhetoric often used here to anthropomorphize gross abstractions about sustainability, and lifestyle choices. Human mammals effect their environment simply by existing. As long as certain elements simply choose to ignore global population density, I will continue to ignore calls made upon me to conserve.

    Just as echohuman has repeatedly attempted to point out no thing is as beneficial, usually, as it's represented, and the argument that the lessor of two evils is patently 'right' is asinine. The ready availability of bicycles to the domestic consumer market is intertwined, inextricably, with a vast network that produces goods, and brings them to market, and it is that underlying mechanism which sucks all the oil.

    We have a choice. Terrifying controls placed upon the child-rearing process, or a dead planet. Given that humans have proved, time and again, to be supremely adaptable, given that I'm not inclined to make decisions about other people's sex-organs, I'm left with nothing more than the hope future generations can adapt to a natural environment that will change due to anthropogenic climate change.

    Playing like it's not too late, by about 500 years, to effect any real change in the global climate, is unacceptable. What needs done is what's being done. We have no choice but to mitigate, and to plan for the worst. I feel this can be characterized by the careful management of resources, rather than imposing inherently arbitrary consumption sanctions. It's just too late for that and pointing your finger, and assigning blame arbitrarily, is a fool's errand.

    Regarding this spill. Do any of you ever consider what the world would look like without oil, and the advents it spawned? Consider critically for a moment. A major factor in drilling for oil involves ground-water, among other things. More times than not the technology utilized to source oil reserves reveals fresh water sources. It's an industry 'pain in the rear'. Just as often as oil is struck, so too is fresh water. Removing oil from a fresh-water reserve is a good thing any way it's sliced. Oil and water naturally seek out the same place to deposit themselves. Consider further. Southern California and West Texas would basically be big lakes of oil, rather than human habitat today, if not for the extraction of oil.

    Technology that could completely mitigate the harmful effect of exhausting burned carbon-sourced fuel into the atmosphere is an artificial state perpetuated, no perpetrated, upon us by corporate America. For instance, the technology to produce an automobile tire that lasts for 250,000 plus-miles has existed for over 20 years. Yet the manufacture of such a tire is only possible by those who profit more from selling a tire every 40,000 miles. That's not my fault as a consumer.

    Catalytic-converters are only one of many, many, ways to control internal combustion exhaust. Many of the other things that can be done to clean up internal combustion exhaust aren't. Why? Again, climate friendly technology is routinely ignored in favor of protecting the bottom-line. It's simply expensive to equip internal combustion devices with features that mitigate their impact. This is not my fault as a consumer.

    Same for alternative fuel source personal transportation. For at least five decades frickin' Detroit has mandated what's safe for the environment. C'mon Church of Green parishioners, put your thinking-caps on. When has corporate America done anything but throw us under a bus? Real alternatives are routinely ignored by the lifestyle police. I've figured out and formed the opinion that this is all the result of the film franchise, "The Fast and the Furious". I personally believe this film, and other cultural icons like it, have produced a situation similar to the greasers vs. the soshes of the 1950s. This is the jocks vs. the nerds. It's about social cliques. I think Maus, and his followers, irrationally lash-out at automotive enthusiasts because they are a competing social-clique.

    This is evidenced by the repeated ignoring of useful alternatives regarding personal automobiles. When opposition to the Church of Green talks about cleaning cars up, the next phrase out of the zealot's mouth is, "Urban livability.". Successfully refute this argument, and it's then something else.

    It's so painfully obvious to me that most here probably don't give a shit about the environment. Instead, people here don't have any point of relation with a person who maintains a passionate interest in motoring, and the culture surrounding personal transportation. You all rail against that way more than you do irresponsible consumption. It's just that the folks in the other club enjoy a thing you can't understand, and would therefore curtail. In a world where the population is growing exponentially, I'm not going to conserve. I'm not going to conserve because you don't like that a guy enjoys riding his Harly around. Just because you can't understand the way other people use their freedom doesn't mean that that use is subject to sanction.

    Bring corporate America inline. If you want to tell somebody how many resources they may use, jump on shipping, rail, and trucking. They can afford it. Stop canabalizing roads that are already down, they can be used for cleaner personal transportation. Stop subsidizing mass-transit, it doesn't work. Start subsidizing personal transportation, even if it's pedal-powered, 'cause 80 years later you can see personal transportation is simply more efficient for whatever reasons. Stop being a white person living in a formerly poor-black neighborhood and writing articles about how to get more black-people to ride bikes. I mean, are we seeing a pattern here?

    I'm sorry the 'car' guy got your girl. Truly. But if you don't like it maybe you could join that club, instead of just wiping it out. That's dirty pool, yo.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • spare_wheel May 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    ecohuman, we do have the means to build roads and bikes without the use of petrochemicals. electricity and hydrogen can power engines and machines just as effectively as petro-chemicals.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR May 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Vance - more often than not the water that is produced with oil is saline, non-potable groundwater.

    Oil companies are typically required to set surface casing to below the depth of the deepest fresh water, to protect fresh, potable shallow groundwater resources.

    To often, however, what ends up happening is that the salt water produced with the oil is simply disposed of in unlined surface pits, where it seeps into the shallow fresh water aquifers and degrades them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

- Daily bike news since 2005 -
BikePortland.org is a production of
PedalTown Media Inc.
321 SW 4th Ave, Ste. 401
Portland, OR 97204

Powered by WordPress. Theme by Clemens Orth.
Subscribe to RSS feed


Original images and content owned by Pedaltown Media, Inc. - Not to be used without permission.