Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Energy (part toooooooo)

In the world of human powered transportation, no matter the purpose, energy has come to mean two things: how we fuel the machine (meaning we ourselves) and the broader issue of the energy we as a species consume in order to power our lives. Our microwave ovens do not run on hamster power and our cars, trucks, buses and airplanes all require fuel to run.
The problem, though, is that the fuel we use to run our cars, SUVs and jetskis is non-renewable. We have only a certain, finite amount of fossil fuel energy and the current energy "crisis" we are facing is more a matter of that we can no longer have the cheap and easily obtained fuel than that we are rapidly running out. Oh, one day, I suppose we will run out of oil but, for now, our problem is that it's getting more and more expensive to find, extract and refine less and less oil.
We have responded in various ways by such things as buying smaller cars, driving less often, using public transit more frequently and otherwise just being aware of how much energy we are using and in what way. Remember going for a "Sunday drive"? Thing of the past. Remember those huge behemoths skimming down the road? Gone and replaced with compact cars. Solutions, to be sure, but only short term.
I'm not against car ownership - if you want a car, that's your decision. I'm just for more creative ways to get around and, when it comes to doing just that, relying on my own energy is what works for me.
I don't know anyone who owns a car and regularly touts all the wonderful things or lists all the marvelous benefits to having a car. Face it, nobody has a car and proudly announces that it can carry groceries or that it's a neat way to get around. The first we take as self-evident; the second is not something I often hear. In fact, I usually hear the opposite.
"#$&*%#^@*$# traffic!" is a comment one is likely to hear from someone driving a car, whereas "#**&#%#*@ cars!" is a comment one is likely to hear from cyclists.
But, back to energy.
Like the family who decides to cut back on their use of energy, you know, hanging out the laundry to dry rather than tossing the shirts, slacks and underwear into the dryer or heating things up in the microwave rather than employ the stove, our decision to rely solely on our own human power - our own human energy - to get us around is our way of helping the environment. By no means do either of us presume that our going without a car (easy to do in a city - especially Ottawa) and fully embracing human powered transportation will preserve all the oil reserves in the world. It's just our way of taking advantage of our bodies' ability to move us around at will. In the case of our catrikes, we can have the best of both worlds. We can rely solely on whatever energy our bodies have at their disposal and yet be able to comfortably carry groceries home from the store.

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