July 21, 2013

Modern human travel assumes faster is better, signaling “progress,” which assumption is result of the one century blip of the fossil fuel revolution burning stored sunlight (carbon) that took millions of years to form in the ground. The blip will NOT repeat.

This assumption is riddled with delusions: (1) that these energy “resources” are infinite. Of course, the Planet is finite and many will be depleted in our lifetime; (2) that extracting and burning these resources are necessary and benign. Extraction is extremely energy/capital intensive preempting biocracy* as it severely damages the ecosystem (i.e., us). Burning these resources creates fatal consequences for all life, threatening climate instability equaling nuclear winter. [*Biocracy incorporates nature into all cultural policies. Democracy is a conspiracy of humans against nature as if humans are not intrinsically nature]; (3) that moving faster is desired. In fact, traveling faster impairs individual and community awareness of egregious consequences of fast movement while preventing important experiential inputs on one’s journey; (4) that the energy embedded in complex transportation and communication technologies can be ignored. When incorporating embedded energy into the equation, most renewables are not sustainable.

When calculating energy consumed and pollution emitted for every passenger mile of airline travel, I chose to stop flying. Though not as onerous, car travel nonetheless is nearly as polluting and energy devouring. Being addicted to moving our 150-200 pound weight in 4,000 pound vehicles spewing carbon molecules equivalent to particles of mass destruction threatening all Planetary life is just plain absurd, and ecocidal.

Extracting, manufacturing and burning finite raw materials to provide our monstrous air and land “tanks” is producing massive negative net energy sinkholes.


Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years in small, locally cooperative food and simple tool sufficient communities, that is, until the advent of hierarchical, patriarchical power complexes called “civilization” some 6,000 years ago. We are now staring at a huge “correction” from having dangerously exceeding the restrictions of finite systems, and destroying the diverse, sacred interconnected natural world. Our survival begs re-discovery of our ancient eco-consciousness where life is experienced in smaller, slower, and simpler rhythms, living locally and cooperatively with less.

Cultural historian Ivan Illich (1926-2002) concludes that “high speed is the critical factor which makes transportation socially destructive” [“Energy and Equity,” 1973]. He suggests that social health is maintained when moving weight at efficient bicycle speed, or about 15 mph. Moving faster hinders social and economic equity as it increases scarcity of both time and space. It saves time for some as it forces others to lose it, increasing class-based inequities.

My primary bioregional transportation is my arm-powered handcycle – traveling nearly 60,000 miles over 14 years, riding at 10-12 mph. Moving slowly without a surrounding cage is a dramatically different experience than moving faster in an airplane or car. It not only aids in promoting physical and mental health, it facilitates community conversations while expanding sensitivities to our larger nature as we journey without burning fossil fuels.

High tech, high speed modern lifestyles have dramatically shaped our thought patterns, language, values, and living habits around unsustainable bigger and faster addictive practices. Human powered movement represents a dramatic metamorphosis from a noisy, fumy car society to a more quiet, sustainable bicycle one. This is as radical as the metamorphosis that occurs in the chrysalis cacoon woven by the devouring caterpillar that fiercely resists its transformation into a nearly weightless, cross-pollinating butterfly. It is up to us to re-discover that we are part of nature, living lightly and responsibly.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 6, 2023 at 1:46 am | Permalink

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