Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Let's talk turkey: the mad gobble gobble has a firm grip on us.

Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels on the road to infinity? Don't worry. You're not alone. It probably happens to everybody at one time or another. 

 That's the best time to take a break, to surround yourself with a few of your favourite people and to celebrate with Thanksgiving the things you love most about your life. Earlier this week my heart sank after a conversation with someone who makes a killing mining for the energy sector here in Canada. He absolutely refuses to believe in climate change. His premise? He thinks that climate change is a farce because Al Gore is a hypocrite.  He takes exception to my opinion that our first world governments work harder for big business' bottom line than they do for the very citizens who elect them. He vehemently denied that the fossil fuel industry receives any subsidies whatsoever, (!) claiming that the subsidies all go to sustainable energy companies instead.  He then boasted that he makes a killing shorting those very companies on the stock markets. Even as my jaw hit the floor, he accused me of being naive, and ridiculous.


Ok. I will admit that I am rather gullible at times, but really?! To deny climate change in this day and age seems absolute madness. I had heard that there were still a few stubbornly oblivious people out there, nay-saying the evidence, but didn't think I personally knew any of them, and I certainly didn't expect to find them amongst the leaders of industry. But it isn't really surprising, is it? Somebody elected our war-on-the-environment Prime Minister, and it follows that his greatest supporters should be the very people who gobble gobble up the planet's treasured resources, and profit most from his anti-environmental stance. 

It makes sense that Canada's energy industry, with its prehistoric policies, should be governed by a phalanx of human turkeys, fossils all... and it IS in keeping with Canadian history that a very few people should benefit from the destruction of a long-standing, balanced and healthy environment. I despair sometimes, to think of the price we are about to pay for such short-sighted thinking. But despair is not a good place to operate from. So what's a girl to do?

She really ought to get on her bike and head out to spend some time with some conscious, fully evolved human beings, that's what. Last weekend, the wee small hours of Sunday morning found me in deep, dark Surrey, 45 km from home, celebrating a few birthdays with some lovely, dear, and (thankfully) switched-on friends. As I enjoyed their light-hearted banter, I couldn't help but marvel at how fortunate I am to have so many decent, kind, good people in my life. They are exactly the kind of people whom I would LIKE to see at the forefront of our biggest businesses, and they are most certainly the kind of people I would prefer to elect to public office.

What is it about power that corrupts so absolutely?  Why are such a large proportion of the rich and powerful so woefully lacking in moral fibre?  The man  I had that ever so depressing conversation with actually bragged to me that he paid $1.3 million in taxes last year, and went on to lament that fact, griping particularly about the amount of money paid to the first nations people.  Personally, I would rejoice to be earning enough income that my contribution to the economy was by necessity so large, but not him. He told me that he intends to sell his houses here, spend a fair few million on a swanky place in Singapore, and relocate there so that he never has to pay tax back into Canada ever again.  He was dead chuffed with himself and his cunning plan. And this is a man who was last year's "Man of the Year," according to the Canadian mining industry's flagship publication. I couldn't believe the things I'd heard, yet a recording of our conversation confirmed every sad and sorry word.

What on EARTH is wrong with us??

Bucky Fuller said that there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and the reason he is right is that civilization itself is an accurate portrayal of the sum of humanity's state of mind. So the beliefs we collectively hold are fully manifest in our cities and states.  Our energy policies reflect a bizarre belief that economies must continually grow in order to be deemed healthy, and that we should constantly, endlessly gobble gobble everything in sight. We are all operating under the mandate that we must consume, consume, consume. The fact that cyclists are almost universally held in contempt is a reflection of our collective belief that a car-centric society is actually a good thing, something to be prized, aspired to, and that somehow, ridiculously, the bicycle undermines it. Never mind that it really doesn't take a genius to figure out that communities built round cars create a perfect storm of obesity and disease.

Sometimes it's hard not to feel as if I'm caught in an endless loop of danger, judgment, and misunderstanding. Last summer, I was cycling up Spanish Banks hill on NW Marine drive, when a woman drove by me within a mere few inches of my bike, laying on the horn, startling, and scaring me. She was travelling well over the speed limit, and after she passed me, she did the very same thing to a cyclist riding a few hundred yards in front of me.  I called the police, because I felt threatened.  I thought that she had broken the law in refusing to allow me safe passage on the road. I gave her licence plate number to the officer who returned my call, and he later disclosed that he was very surprised when she freely admited to strafing me, hand on horn. The officer promised then me that she received a stern warning, and would be ticketed. I was satisfied, believing that no one else would suffer the terrifying effects of her road rage. A few weeks later, however, that officer's commander called me back again, and said that the woman would not be receiving a ticket, because I was supposed to be riding on the sidewalk on that stretch of road.

Barb Morris via the CBC
Ok,  So a few things come to mind, other than the obvious obscenities. In the first place, it is hard to even see that non-sensical sign, hidden as it is amongst the branches of the trees. Also, that particular path is heavily used by pedestrians, and on a bike, I am definitely NOT a pedestrian. I am a vehicle, and as such, represent a danger to pedestrians, children and dogs on the path.  Bikes are fast, and pedestrians are slow and unpredictable, and the two simply don't mix. It is a recipe for disaster. Pedestrians seem to hate cyclists even more than cars do, and they make it loud and abundantly clear that they resent my presence on any pathway they use. Besides, according to the BC Motor Vehicle Act, "a person operating a bicycle has the same rights and responsibilities as a driver of a motor vehicle." Furthermore, it's so narrow along that spot that many joggers, and even some walking pedestrians choose to use the road. Tell me: exactly where is everybody supposed to go?

(David Dunnison)

Cyclist David Dunnison measured the sidewalk width to be 72 cm in some sections. Provincial guidelines state that a path with a concrete barrier and shared pedestrian-cycling traffic must be at least 2.5 metres wide. This particular path falls more than a little short, don't you think?  And that's the thing.  As long as we collectively agree that a motorist's right to speed with impunity supercedes everybody else's right to safe passage, we will continue to have conflicts on the road, and we will continue to see unnecessary fatalities.  On the day that woman threatened me with her car, there were dozens of pedestrians on the path, so that my presence there would not have been welcome, nor indeed even safe - for any of us.  There were certainly far fewer cars, and in fact, there were none coming down the hill when she chose to make her hatred known.  Instead of passing me safely, she indulged her road rage and endangered my life for no good reason whatsoever, and the police chose not to hold her accountable. Why?! And how many other cyclists have suffered terror at her hands?

Why do people behave like cars have a greater right to the road than anybody else?  Roads have been around since time immemorial, and bikes have certainly been here longer than motor cars.  Motorists are responsible for countless injuries and deaths all over the world, yet rarely are they called to task for the lives they ruin. Why not?  What is it in our collective consciousness which allows for such wholesale manslaughter? Good grief. If so many people died of any other singular cause, you know that we would stand together to make it stop.

Why? Is it merely an extension of our willfully blind energy policies and our capitalistic, grow at all costs economies? Or is it because we are all culpable?  I mean, really, who hasn't driven too fast on occasion? Who amongst us has never gotten behind the wheel when they were too tired to drive, or too distraught? Which one of us has never, ever opened their car door without shoulder checking first to ensure nobody was there?  But then again, maybe we are finally waking up. In Ontario, a motorist caught driving whilst on their cell phone faces a $1000 fine, though in BC, the fine is less than a fifth of that.  But it isn't really that hard to mandate safer driving habits, and to enforce the rules in such a way as to create safer streets. And deep down inside, you know that the time has come to make it so.

It's not just a pipe dream. Bucky nailed it - you know it's true. Once we agree upon a logical course of action, nothing can stop the march of progress - even if it does revolve around two beautiful wheels.


  1. More cities (countries) could learn from the Dutch about creating a cycling friendly society and infrastructure. Check out the video in the attached link: http://wheelie-good-guys.co.uk/5-great-things-about-dutch-cycling-infrastructure/

    1. Thank you! xx
      We could all learn a lot from the Dutch in so many arenas. After all, is it not the only country on Earth to bury its transformers and thus be protected from the potentially devastating effects of a big solar storm like the Carrington event?

  2. "They" gotta get more cheap energy... How am I ever going to afford the trip to L'Eroica!?!?
    I have to travel in your circles and meet millionaires!

    Wow, cops actually tracking someone down! I thought you were going to say they laughed in your face... at least you got some response... for a close call with no injury even!
    My friend got knocked over on purpose by a car service guy who fled the scene and filed a false report. Witnesses and film and everything. Cops did basically nothing.

    Love to see solar and wind power put to work.
    A great site I go to read up on stuff is treehugger.com .

    Me, I am sunspots conspiracy theory guy. Now don't go telllin' me the earth is round and stuff, that's just too avant garde for me!

    vsk / Sunny New York

    1. Lol! Yeah, right... in my circles indeed. Pretty sure you meet a lot more of em daily than I do in a month of Sundays, given your line of work.

      It didn't take them much tracking down, when I gave them a description and a plate number, but at least they talked to her. Never mind that what she did is technically a criminal offense... but it's true. Our police ARE better than yours!! :p

      I love treehugger. They featured us when I was making furniture with Ami. So did Oprah, and Architectural Digest... that girl is one hell of a designer.

      re: Sunspots - what? You don't believe in them? Did you tell that to the province of Quebec when they lost their power to one? I am sure they would be delighted to discover that it never really happened. ;D
      The day the sun brought darkness

    2. Hahaha, was just thinking I have to Snob you later (new verb - to contact you on BikeSnob! haha). There's a cadre of us that meet up on the Snob circuit. ... just amusing meeself!

      I am at a desk until I go do an audit. "I am only a poor corrupt official"! I have no "circles". If I meet big money people the one sided conversation is usually "get out of my way" from them or "yes, I have to see all of last year's files" from me.

      I was referring to sunspots and effects on weather. I know we are all due for a big plasma dump.

      Your police are so much better than ours! And polite too! We have to resort to vigilantism.
      I have to look up the furniture design stuff. Sounds cool.

      I am all for the reduction of airborne particulates and the greening of our spaces. That's about as enlightened as I get.



    3. That's funny, cause when you said you were going to snob me later, I thought it might have something to do with the way he treated Fred of the Sea yesterday. I can imagine it gets hard in his shoes sometimes, because people like to take the mickey out of him, in keeping with the tone of his blog.

      Ah! The audit crew... we got to know ours really well after a few years of audits in an office jam packed with publicly traded companies. It got so that we made sure that they had a box of donuts their first day in the office, and we were definitely on a first name basis. It is funny how much time you can spend looking for that one last invoice.

      Yes, the furniture was amazing. Google PURE by Ami McKay furniture, and check out the images. Pretty sweet.

      Yes. I'm sorry, but I am convinced that our police are better than yours. The RCMP can be pretty scary, though I suppose it IS thier job. They shut down the town of Slocan last week when they couldn't find a guy who shot at one of their cars. The fellow was known around town as a gentle soul with a mistrust of government and the police. When the RCMP couldn't find him after two days, they let people come out of their homes, and asked the guy to please call them (!) which I found very funny. Two days later, the guy was dead, with a police bullet in him. I wouldn't want to be an RCMP officer.

      Yes. We are all due for a plasma dump, and if it was the same as the Carrington Event, we would all be without power for a VERY long time. Some estimates are at 4-10 years!! ( a shortage of transformers can't be rectified without transformers available to build more of them.) In that event, you have to worry about the safety of all of the nuclear power plants out there. WHY can't they all shut themselves down safely without diesel fuel, hmmm? Cause you know it takes electricity to pump the deisel out of storage. Better yet, why can't they transform their own energy into useable electricity to cool the reactors?! Madness. I heard that the latest generation of the damned things can do, so I guess there's that.

      The reduction of airborn particulates is good, as is the greening of our spaces. That much would be a great start.

    4. Wow, the PURE stuff is wild!

      A PA State Policeman was ambushed outside the barracks a month ago or so. I don't know what came of the hunt for the guy.
      Cops here in the city are so overloaded with stuff going on and miles of paperwork for anything that happens. I have sympathy. The lack of enforcement against those that injure law abiding cyclists is very demoralizing though. Excuses not to ride to work start to pop up more often... even though I feel great after the first pedal stroke and all feels OK.

      Funny about the Snobby / FredSea back and forth. Perhaps Mr. Snob is still jetlagged. Or has had a dose of post 'roica hangover. There aren't gourmet goodness, postcard views, and gorgeous vintage bikes around every corner.

      I'm stopping by the vintage bike club meeting after work on Thursday... You should come!! hahaha Get that big tar sands shale guy to fly you out here!


    5. Ha! As IF! I doubt he will ever talk to me again, after this little baby. I had to record the conversation, too, once I caught the jist of it, because I couldn't believe my ears.

      A vintage ride in NYC does sound like fun! You could always sail round through the Panama Canal and up the west coast and join us for a wheelmen's ride...

    6. I have more of a chance at a cross country ride than going through the Panama at .75 miles per gallon!
      Stupid me... the meeting is the 23rd, not last night!! Just wishful thinking as I will be in Buffalo, NY next week.
      I will be able to see Canadia from the shore!


  3. As for sidewalk riding, i dont think theres a more dangerous place t be (in most circumstances).Literally EVERY crash ive had involves a sidewalk, and 80-90% of my close calls do too! I cringe when i see people riding on the sidewalk. I know they are there because theyre scared and i cringe because drivers are so distracted/inattentive/impatient/unaducated/etc, that it really IS scary.

    As for callingthe police, you mean they actually investigate calls from cyclists in Canada? I called just this week when a pick-up ran 2 wheels in an unpaved median to get around me. Another 100 feet and the median ended and he could have just passed safely. Instead he drove in said median and when he almost hit a tree, he swerved right to miss it. Well, just so happens that someone (me) was using that piece of pavement at the time! So glad i was right smack CENTER of that lane, otherwise i would have had no where to go but the ditch, and possibly my own collision with a tree.

    Needless to say, the police have not contacted me and i cant find a single record of the report. Maybe i should trade Florida's warm climate for Canada's better infrastructure/law enforcement?

    1. Yes! For sure! Safety in numbers, after all. :)

      Your police scare me. The whole attitude towards bicycles in the US is pretty frightening, actually, though there are more than a few people with the same issues up here, for sure. Like that lady I spoke of, who is still out there somewhere, probably nurturing her roadrage...

    2. And OMG! Looks like you have a long way to go before you have a real health care system, too! I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that the CDC let the second nurse diagnosed with ebola board a commercial flight when she had an elevated temperature...
      Might as well pack your bags and head north now.

  4. Babble, once again I amused at the parallels between Canada and OZ, follow this link to our Treasurer in the UK denying that we have the highest per capita greenhouse emissions in the world http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/absolutely-ridiculous-joe-hockey-denies-australia-is-dirtiest-greenhouse-gas-emitter-in-oecd-20141014-115q9g.html

    Of course he is completely wrong and not counting our energy exports we are the dirtiest member of the OECD. He then goes on to say that our coal exports are good for living in poverty because we will give them electricity, yeah right but we don't export coal to poor countries. Anyway we're not going to do anything about it because our PM thinks that coal is good for humanity.

    On the subject of safe cycling infrastructure our city Mayor Clover Moore has annoyed conservatives by building cycling lanes. Their answer is to pass a law that will give all companies in the city 2 compulsory votes in Mayoral elections compared to the 1 individual vote. Just to get her kicked out of office.

    Makes you want to crawl into a hole sometimes.

    1. Right?! And our man of the year figures government is by the people and for the people...

      Coal is a serious problem all over the world. Here in BC, most of our power is generated hydroelectrically, but we export obscene amounts of coal. Hard to lay claim to the greenest city on Earth with massive coal exports leaving our harbour daily...

      I am just trying to find some information for you - I met a guy yesterday who has come up with an ingenious little portable power unit for developing nations, and places like the refugee camps which have appeared as a result of the Syrian conflict, and the problems with Isis... it is a super cool, green little idea.

      Necessity may well be the mother of invention. We won't change till we have to, but when we do all get on board, the change will come swiftly, and then technology will be what saves us.

  5. https://bikehub.ca/about-us/news/update-on-nw-marine-drive-in-vancouver

  6. I thought it was pretty awesome that the police officer took your complaint seriously and investigated, at least. I've complained about drivers, including a photo of their license plate & the close pass, and all I've gotten was, "How do I know who was driving the car?"
    If you're making a lot of money with a particular point of view on the environment, or anything else for that matter, it's very hard to change your mind. (Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!") That's human nature and it's not hard to experiment and show it is true in yourself. I've played with Internet fake-money prediction sites like Good Judgment Project and found that when I took a particular position on an issue, I found myself looking for news to confirm my point of view, whatever it was. Even though it's not real money, it still influenced how I think.

    1. For sure! I think it goes further than that, even, so that people can only perceive that which they presume to be possible. Our senses are already rather limited in scope, but we narrow them further with our judgements, our system of beliefs. Expectation creates reality. Hell, just look at the stock markets!

  7. There is plenty on the indirect subsidisation of cars and fossil fuels in this book by Lester Brown.
    All of his books are pretty good.
    I don't think power corrupts as much as it selects. Only people who will do "whatever it takes for the good of the business" will get into the inner circle of like minded organised environmental criminals.
    Love your posts Babbles. Keep in riding.

  8. Of course that was supposed to be keep ON riding.

    1. Of course! Thank you, Harry. :) xo

      And you're right, for sure. That's the thing... if only I were the kind of person who could do whatever it takes to make the world a better place. Or not me, even, but somebody... anybody.
      Sigh. If only there were a few powerfully proactive heroes out there.