Monday, April 20, 2009

What Moves You?

The amount of energy that is required to operate a bicycle is 100 watts, about the same as powering one light bulb. The average amount to operate a car is about 100,000 watts, or 1,000 light bulbs. Something that we all need to start asking ourselves when we step into a car is whether we really need to use that much energy for most of our travels? There are without a doubt lots of trips that a car makes the most sense to travel in, on a rainy day I always appreciate a ride to school. Anyone who unconditionally refuses to ride in cars is out of touch with reality, but I think these people would be very hard to find. On the reverse, the people who refuse to ride in anything but a car are much more common but just as equally out of touch with reality.

The uncomfortable truth is that the world cannot afford to have everyone using 100,000 watts of energy to travel to the grocery store. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to create this amount of energy with petroleum and have this lifestyle last. There is obviously not enough petroleum. Lewis and Clark prides itself on being part of the global community. A crucial part of any community is responsibility to people throughout our community. Our overconsumption of fossil fuels today is not only leading to climate change, but also makes it more difficult for developing countries to develop.

Our demand for petroleum raises the prices of oil worldwide, limiting the availability of its usage to the poorest countries. Not to mention all the political problems this resource create. If we really consider ourselves to be part of a global community we need to think about this before the next time we drive our cars somewhere. What are the true costs of our dependence on petroleum?

Bicycling is not the only answer to our transportation crisis but it can make up a big part of the solution. They are cheap, available to most people, don't require much energy to operate, good for your health, fun...

We need to start thinking about what are the reasons that we depend on cars that require so much energy to operate. How and why did we create a society in which everyone has to own a car? Who benefits from this society and who loses out? And most importantly we need to start acting.

We need to start demonstrating in our own individual lives that a society that doesn't require the energy of 1,000 light bulbs to move around is not only possible but is preferable. A more sustainable transportation network is only going to happen if people decide to make it happen. There is no better place in America to plug into this new society than in Portland. Check out and or just get on a bike.

Getting your bike ready for the summer

Here are some basic tune ups anyone can do to get your bike ready for some good summer riding.
What you need:

Rags, WD-40, Bike Chain Grease, little piece of sand paper (you can get all of these at Fred Meyer or just stop by the Bike Room located in JR Howard)

First we are going to improve your braking capability.
Begin by cleaning off all the residue and junk on your rims with a dry towel

Next lightly sand the inside of your break pads to get off any residue build up on them, this will increase your breaking ability. To do this you will need to unlatch the breaks and take off your wheel.

Unlatch your breaks – the latch might work differently depending on what kind of breaks you have

Next unlatch your wheel and unscrew the lever until you can just pull the wheel out. When you put it back in make sure it goes in the same way it came out, lever on the same side as your gears.
Lightly sand the inside of your break pads and then rub with a dry cloth to get off any extra residue. Then check to make sure your breaks are tight enough. This is somewhat of a personal preference.

However the break lever should not go to the handle bar

Twist the break adjuster until your breaks are tighter, you want to be able to spin your wheels without rubbing onto the breaks.

This is about how tight I like my breaks

Next we are going to clean and lube the chain, begin by spraying WD-40 into a dry cloth and then running your chain through the cloth. This will remove any grim from the chain.

Then liberally apply bike chain lube to your chain. As you drip it onto the chain have someone crank it and go through all the gears. This will make sure everything is lubed up!

Run another dry cloth over the chain to pick up any loose lube. This will prevent your chain from attracting lots of dirt.

Lastly get on your bike and enjoy your ride!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Comes After Environmentalism?

By Charles Halvorson

With just three short weeks remaining between now and graduation, the urge to reflect has begun to occupy this senior. In what must be a perennial activity for graduating classes everywhere, I fill out cap and gown measurements and I recollect. Often this recollection takes me down paths of social remembrances of little interest to anyone who wasn’t there. But sometimes, the object of my reminiscence has far broader relevance.

Central among these is the problem that dwarfs all others in its significance – climate change. Within our four years at Lewis and Clark, we have witnessed a transformation in the discussion of this issue. What was once a demand for radical change put forth by an almost exclusively liberal base has been taken up by mainstream society. This would have been a good thing except most Americans did not want to radically restructure the way we live our lives. Maintaining the status quo has hitherto taken precedence over enacting meaningful change and the solutions we have put forth seek to address the issue in terms that do not threaten the hegemony of capitalist accumulation in our culture.

As it was commercialized, global warming lost its urgency and its capability to inspire radical action. Green became the new black and proved itself an equally capable color when it came to denoting the bottom line. Emission credit swaps and the Hybrid Cadillac Escalade illustrate the degree to which our response to the threat of global catastrophe has been co-opted by the forces of capitalism and to our willingness, our eagerness to let this happen.

Skepticism cuts through the rhetoric of “buying green” and reveals our collective desire to hold environmental protection in high esteem without challenging the status quo of conspicuous consumption. We cannot simply change the names of our deities and presume to continue our vociferous consumption unabated. Our burgeoning population inhabits a planet with finite resources; clearly, our strategy for continued survival clearly cannot be predicated upon unlimited want.

Hardworking environmental advocates have capably synthesized and presented what will be the dire fate of our planet should we remain stuck in our current patterns. The threat of environmental catastrophe is real and plaintively evident to all who care to look: the dreidel on which humanity currently spins is coming perilously close to the edge of the table.

Recollection may remain in the realm of mere nostalgia. But remembering and empathizing with our younger selves also presents an opportunity to reconsider our present condition. The current state of environmentalism is not the inevitable conclusion of our historical circumstances. Indulging in our memories offers a poignant reminder of our continued agency.  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Earl Blumenauer

Lewis and Clark is a place where ordinary people become legends. Earl Blumenauer graduated from the same grounds that we walk on 38 years ago with a major in political science. At the age of 24 he ran and won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. Ever since then he has worked his way up through politics. In 1992 he lost his bid for mayor of Portland, however this turned out to be a stroke of luck because a US congress seat opened up afterwards which he won. He has been there ever since.

During this time he has taken a leading role in advocating action against climate change and bicycling as an alternative means of transportation. While many congressmen still sport their American flag pins, Blumenauer shows off a bicycle pin. The Wall Street Journal once commented that Blumenaer's “congressional office is one of the few – if not the only one – that didn't even apply for a parking permit. On occasion, Mr. Blumenauer has cycled to the White House. On Mr. Blumenauer's first visit, the Secret Service, more accustomed to limousines, was flummoxed at the sight of his bicycle.” He is one of only a handful of congressmen to vote against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

This past week in a heated debate on the floor of Congress he called out Republicans for fabricating numbers on climate change. In a moment of political passion he called the Republican claim that climate legislation would cost every American $3,100 a “canard” and “outright incorrect” based on the same MIT study the Republicans cite. He has recently been rewarded for his bike advocacy with the passage of the Bike Commuter Act, which pays people $20 a month to bike to work. (wouldn't it be nice if the LC administration followed in his footsteps and offered $20 a month for students to bike to school?)

At a college whose legacy into the foray of politics is usually only referenced to blow jobs and Monica Lewinsky, it is nice to see someone making a difference.