I was in Austria with my family for about five weeks. Before that period, I have only been once working at the office due to the regulations. That one time I went by bike. I moved to the Netherlands and thought it is a good time to change my transportation behavior. Sadly (or embarrassingly) enough, when I lived in Belgium I hardly went by bike. I am on my path to a more sustainable life for some time now and transportation has always been an issue. Some time ago I read a study outlining the source of CO2 emissions and I was shocked to see the contribution of cars (Akenji et. al 2019). I knew that I have to do something about this. Thus, I planned to go by bike more often.
To be honest in the city I live now, going by car is a pain in the ass. Traffic jams, insane fuel prices and high parking fees. Going by car is partly a waste of time and money. During the lock downs I have done most of my travels by bike. Something I am still getting used to. I do quite some sport, but I am still not used to biking. Though, a little success is that I learned to bike free handed!
We are still not back to normal. Well, the question is whether this is wanted after all. However, I plan to go to the office once or twice a week. The first time after my stay in Austria I went by car to the office, because my bike had a flat tire. How convenient. Today there was no excuse. Almost no excuse. Already the evening before I started to have an inner monologue about going by bike or by car. The weather was bad, rainy and very windy. Not the best weather for biking. And I am tired, and, and, and. Funny how many excuses one can find. But then the bad conscious sneaks in and I try to find reasons why it is good to go by bike. Honestly my footprint is not enough to convince me. The health and sport aspects seem to make the difference for me. Another one is that I do not want to think about myself being a sissy. Am I such a princess that bad weather and a bit of sweat is holding me back? Though, I have to admit, I think I am quite a princess... Anyway. The morning came, I got up and immediately had another inner monologue. Bike or car? The same arguments as the night before. I got ready to go by bike but as soon as I opened the door, I figured it was raining a bit. No! No way I bike more than 45 minutes through the rain. My shoes are not water proof... a new monologue. I open the laptop and check the rain radar. The rain clouds are vanishing and so there is no excuse. Unfortunately. I step on my bike. It is still dark. I wear too much, because I easily freeze. So I sweat like hell. But I prefer this to being cold. At least it is not windy and I like the calm of the morning.
It is far and I get tired, almost sick. I do not stop and constantly think about having an e-bike. (Here comes the reference to the cover image. I was like princess Vespa wishing her industrial hairdryer back. If you do not know this movie, go watch it now!). I start another inner monologue about the pros and cons of an e-bike. The most sustainable solution would just be biking. My thought goes as far as to argue that I am fueled relatively sustainable as I run plant based. This compared to a battery that I have to charge. Am I such a sissy? I get taken over quite often. People on race bikes and people on e-bikes. I see them vanishing in the distance and I see myself already in the shop to get an e-bike.
On the one hand, I think the more often I go by bike the more I will get used to it. The faster I will get, the stronger I will get, etc. But am I able to get over this step? Or will I in remembrance of the long exhausting bike ride choose the car next time? Will my mind be like: remember last time you almost died on that ride? Sure, my mind will also answer: but you survived! You are strong!
When I had to fix the flat tire of my bike I already asked at the bike shop what an e-bike costs. It is quite an investment. Well, compared to the costs of the fuel, I suppose it is fine. The fuel here is very expensive. I still think I will keep my car. What a privileged position! I often think that modern "men" has become weak. Couple of years ago we had to be much tougher and now a little bit of rain and sweat is asked too much. We are seeking ways to make life more comfortable. Me thinking about an e-bike is nothing else. Comfort. I think I will make that compromise. I will have to accept that I am a little princess. A princess on an e-bike. I think this is a middle ground I can live with.
I am reading a paper (Newell et. al 2021) that is I think a follow up an a longer report stating we have to make drastic lifestyle changes to stay within the 1,5°C target. Soon the realization will be that it is not about whether we want to change, but we will have to. We will have to live with a certain discomfort. I do not know how life will look like. I suppose that the earlier we accept some discomfort the more comfortable the future will be. It is really about how does life in a +1,5°C world look like compared to a +3 or +4°C world? Is me using an e-bike a middle ground that suffices to reach 1,5°C. Of course whether we will get to 1,5°C does not depend on me riding an e-bike or not. Not sure if I should be happy or sad about this. I do have responsibility, but I cannot change the world (or can I?). It is critical to not think about the fact that my actions have hardly any impact on whether or not we stay within the 1,5°C. If I would think about it, I would go by car. Rationally, doing something that has potentially no impact and creates some discomfort is not logic. But why am I doing it then? Why am I even thinking about it?
I am wondering where my own motivation comes from. Maybe it is related to what Bourdieu writes? My values and worldviews, my habitus depend on my past, the experiences I made, the information I got, etc. But I think there is more to it. More that I have not yet understood.
Akenji, L., M. Lettenmeier, V. Toivio, S. Nielsen and M. Kamei (2019). 1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprintsr, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies Aalto University and D-mat ltd. https://www.iges.or.jp/en/pub/15-degrees-lifestyles-2019/en
Newell, P., M. Twena and F. Daley (2021). "Scaling behaviour change for a 1.5 degree world: Challenges and opportunities." Global Sustainability: 1-25.
Newell, P., F. Daley and M. Twena (2021). Changing our ways? Behaviour change and the climate crisis. The report of the Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behaviour Change, The Cambridge Sustainability Commission.