There’s a massive difference between fact and perception, but as a species, we mostly operate on perceptions. Add to the mix the fact that psychology teaches us that humans tend to first form an opinion, then look for reasons to support that opinion, and things can rapidly get messy.
For many thousands of years, humans thought the earth was the centre of the universe, and it took supremely knowledgeable people a very long time – often at great personal risk – to get most of us to accept that the facts are different to the perception. And even now, the Flat Earthers (they have members from all around the globe, you know) are still trying to take us back in time to primitive times!
Why is this relevant? Simple – we’re killing the planet’s ability to offer an environment in which humans can survive. Climate breakdown is real, terrifying, and happening faster than any of the forecasts predicted. And yes, every single one of us are to blame.
Your perception is – sadly, fuelled by decades-long misinformation campaigns – that you’re “doing your bit” by recycling. Your perception is that your company can buy “carbon-offsets”, leaving you free to pollute as much as before. Your perception is that your shiny new SUV (did you know that’s short for Stupidly Unnecessary Vehicle?) has a more efficient engine, and is therefore less polluting. Your perception is that cycling – outside of speedy club rides, on blazingly expensive, ultra-light road bikes, made from pure Unobtanium and unicorn farts – is for the great unwashed, the desperately poor, the failures in life.
Now let’s look at the facts. I hate to break it to you, but all those perceptions above are simply false!
Simply put, we cannot recycle our way out of this mess. No matter how carefully you separate your rubbish into recycling piles, the problem is there’s too much of it. There’s a well-known slogan of reduce, re-use, recycle – we urgently need to focus on the reduce and re-use parts! Recycling is the “if all else failed” option, not the part you should feel proud of. Reduce by buying less crap, and consuming less.
No, your deep-rooted insecurities that drive you to continuously splashing money on the latest, most shiny new thing is no justification for destroying the planet. If you have to buy something, can you buy it second-hand? Equal to that, fix things, instead of throwing it away all the time. That also implies never buying things that should be reusable, but were designed for single use.
In medieval times, priests told the gullible that they could buy “indulgences”. An Indulgence was claimed to be a way to release a loved one’s soul from purgatory, and some priests said that as soon as your money clinked at the bottom of the collection vessel, that soul would jump from purgatory to heaven. What an obvious load of codswallop! Nobody would be stupid enough to fall for such an obvious scam today, would they?
Erm, yes – many are indeed still stupid enough. After all, selling carbon-offsets are pretty much as stupid and dishonest as selling indulgences, yet many people believe it!
I cannot put this any clearer: you cannot BUY your way out of climate change. If you buy carbon offsets because you believe they make a difference, then I have news for you: the only difference they make is to the bank balance of the scam-artists selling you those. If you buy carbon-offsets to soothe your conscience, despite knowing they make no difference, then you are the scam artist.
The rise is popularity of SUVs has wiped out any small gains made in making engines slightly less polluting. SUVs are a plague, and if you drive one, then you’ve been conned. They cause additional pollution, additional road danger (especially to vulnerable road users), additional road damage, and additional congestion. A Range Rover is only very slightly shorter than a Sherman tank! Why do you need something the size of a tank to pop to the shops? I’ve previously written about the growing size of cars on our roads, and I really hope you’ll go read that.
Cycling is a fantastic sport, be that road racing, cycle-cross, mountain-biking, or any of the other forms it can take. Driving can also be a sport (though we tend to refer to it more accurately as racing). Just like most driving is not a sport, most cycling certainly isn’t a sport, and it is vital that you change your mindset, so you can start seeing cycling as the serious, non-polluting transport choice that it is, right at a time the world is in desperate need of a non-polluting personal transport option.
Race drivers tend to wear fire-retardant suits, and full-face crash helmets, but you don’t wear that when driving to the shops, do you? The same applies to cycling: to cycle to work, to visit friends, or to the shops and back doesn’t put you in the same category as a Tour De France racer, and there’s nothing wrong with cycling in normal clothes. Cycling is NOT just for poor people, or hippies, or any other stereotype you can think of.
Cycling is a serious form of transport, one that many thousands more would take up, except they’re too scared to, due to all the cars (and the way those are being driven!) Not everyone can cycle, and not every journey is appropriate to cycle, but in cities, the vast majority of trips can easily be done by cycling.