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In the 6 months that I have been bike commuting, I have driven about 1800 miles less than I would have otherwise, and spewed about 38,000 fewer pounds of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere.

Whether we know it or not, we – the bike commuters – possess the mental and psychological seed of being environmentalists. Whether we mean to or not, we are taking a stand against the pollutive presence of automobiles. Whether we act on it or not, our utopia is a pleasant and safe place to enjoy the glory of two-wheeled, pedal-powered exhilaration.

And if so much can come from unconscious or non-deliberate action, imagine what our bike commute can be like when we mix action AND thought.

Enter: environmentalism.

The sometimes trustworthy source, Wikipedia, defines “environmentalism” as:

Environmentalism (sometimes ‘ecologism’) is a broad philosophy and social movement centered on a concern for the conservation and improvement of the natural environment, both for its own sake as well as its importance to civilization.

While it is wise to be wary of Wikipedia definitions (especially for your Master’s thesis), this one contains a beautiful sentiment that may be overlooked by those who are not so green-inclined: it aims to conserve AND improve the environment for its own sake AND for the sake of civilization. So you see, in my opinion, those who take on the moniker of “environmentalist” truly aim to better the world for all who inhabit it and rely on it for life. Not such a bad thing, don’t you think?

And we, as bike commuters, fit into this realm in our attempts to:

  • secure safe places to ride with supportive infrastructure
  • spread the joy of bicycling bliss
  • decrease the number of cars on our roads and subsequently reduce their toxic emissions
  • increase the quality of life by ridding our lives of vein-bursting traffic jams…

And that list could go on. But I want you to take note of something: not once have I mentioned “global warming” or “climate change.” My argument does not rely on a scientifically proven change in global climate – it relies solely on quality of life. Whether or not the earth is heating, cooling, convulsing, or just plain chillin’ – I would argue that the efforts of environmentalism truly offer benefits beyond the status quo of consumption. If nothing else, the aim is as much positive impact on the earth as possible, and the least amount of negative impact possible.

Now, please entertain me as I attempt an application of rhetoric:

Roughly based on the logic of Pascal’s Wager, we are faced with a situation: life on earth. During this life on earth we will ultimately either act in a way that is beneficial to life (B), or we will act in a way that is not beneficial to life (N). Now if we behave like B, and it turns out that our material consumption truly does have an effect on the “earth’s health,” then we will not get ourselves into trouble. If we behave like N, and it turns out that our material consumption truly does have an effect on the “earth’s health,” then we will get ourselves into trouble. If we behave like B or N, and it turns out that our material consumption does NOT have an effect on the “earth’s health,” then we truly gain or lose nothing in the end.

While I dimmed the argument in the sense of final outcomes, the basic logic implies that there is a certain risk that comes with inhabiting a living environment (earth) that could (potentially) drastically impact ALL of life. Personally, that is not a consequence that I choose to take lightly, and while I have a long way to go, I feel it is important to do the best I can to not “make the earth cry.”

That is one (of the many) reasons I have become a bike commuter. And while not all bike commuters are bike commuters for the same reason as me, I think deep down we all want the same thing (see bullet points above), and therefore being a bike commuter and being an environmentalist can easily go hand in hand, and are mutually beneficial. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

In the coming weeks, you will see more “Green Tuesday” posts that aim to provide information on issues related to bike commuting and the environment. Some will (attempt to) contain arguments of logic as this one did. I am not an expert on the subject, and am not always sure that what I write makes sense or is in fact, true. But the ultimate goal is to spark thought and discussion, because the world can become a better place when thought and action are combined.

[photos courtesy of Cicleliciousness]