Bicycle Thinking: Finding a Balance Between Technology and Life
To cycle one kilometer consumes less energy and creates less waste than walking that same kilometer. A bicycle helps get us from A to B while putting the least stress possible on the environment. It is, in the truest sense, energy efficient and waste minimizing. It has the added benefit that it improves human health. For older people, it puts less stress on bones and joints and thus allows them to live more independent lives.
We need bicycle thinking design. We need to design things that minimize extraction, minimize waste, while reducing overall energy use, enhancing human potential and improving human and planetary health. We are searching for the human-machine-earth sweet spot.
How much technology do we require to lead a decent life? How do we find the balance where technology is contributing to a sustainable planet, rather than being the primary destroyer of conditions for life? Because let’s understand one simple fact: If humans didn’t have all this technology, we wouldn’t have a climate crisis.
What to do? How to try and fix things? I have been thinking a lot about bicycles. A bicycle has long been recognized as the perfect synergy between human energy and technological energy. For many journeys, riding a bicycle is the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport. Yes, it’s better for the environment than walking. We need technology like this where there is a genuine saving to the environment by using the technology. So much technology does the opposite of what a bike does. So much technology pretends it is green but in reality it is a climate destroyer, a cause and driver of pollution.
To truly address the climate crisis, we need less technology. The technology we do keep we must judge by a bicycle’s standards. Does it deliver environmental efficiency? Does it create synergy between human energy use and its own energy use? Is using it kinder to the earth than not using it or using alternatives? Does using it meet a meaningful, necessary need? Is this technology truly useful?
Everything tells us that we are out of balance with the planet we live on. We are living a technology-driven lifestyle that is wholly unsustainable. Modern technology has turned us into rabid consumers of the earth, of life systems, of plants, water, soil, insects, animals. Humans have become ravenous, and we have become particularly ravenous since the end of the Second World War, and we have become obscenely ravenous since the beginning of the 1970s. And we have become outrageously ravenous since the beginning of the 1990s. Think about this essentially unimaginable statistic: of all the CO2 that humans are responsible for, we have caused 50% of it since 1995. This is exponential truth and it is a truth that we humans cannot get our heads around. Except that we must. Somehow, someway, we must try to change a modern human culture that has been trapped by a marketing and advertising onslaught focused on selling superficial wants for short-term gain.