John Nightingale is 76 years old and received a bike from The Big Birmingham Bike project a few years ago. Now John is looking to take part in the 100 mile Velo Birmingham in May on his Big Birmingham Bike. Read his guest blog below……
It was during morning meditation that the thought floated into my mind. That mammoth 100 mile cycle ride on May 12th this year, when, as yesterday’s leaflet had told me, so many roads would be closed, was it not something I could do? And, in a funny way, was there not a chance, in these times of Brexit negativity, that I could make a pitch for what I passionately believed in?
I have been a late convert to the environmental movement. Over the last ten years have come to realise that our current rate of global warming is jeopardising the lives of future generations. My grandchildren are very precious to me and it makes me angry and sad that we are putting the lives of so many of their contemporaries, and certainly of their grandchildren’s at risk. Could this cycle ride be an opportunity for getting this message across?
My own generation has been favoured by health, long life and physical wellbeing. Not all of this is sustainable; our planet will not support everyone at the standard of living of the UK, let alone that of the US. Much of our consumption is unnecessary. We don’t need to have so much stuff, eat so much meat, or travel so far and so fast. What is really important for human well-being, as surveys have shown, is the depth and breadth of relationships, particularly when they are not unnecessarily far apart, within easy cycling distance. As Ivan Illich pointed out, the bicycle is the most convivial form of transport, using five times less energy than walking. “Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.” What better way could there be of pointing out that we don’t need so many fossil fuels and that there is a healthier way to travel.
Like many riders I want to be sponsored, to raise money for the Climate Justice work of Jubilee Debt Campaign, which concentrates on the particular difficulties of small states and islands. Imagine Caribbean islands such as Haiti, Grenada, Puerto Rico or the Maldives, which have suffered in recent years from hurricanes, floods or rising sea levels. The increased number of these events is caused by global warming from the emissions of rich countries which have profited from the Industrial Revolution. Poor countries get into debt to repair the damage, or are tempted into dodgy deals like tax evasion or selling off their mineral rights to foreign bidders. The purpose of the Climate Justice campaign is to ensure that poor countries badly affected get relief and compensation to put right what has gone wrong and to be prepared for the future.
When I worked in Nigeria I saw people close to the breadline in the lands to the south of the Sahara, from where many of the supporters of Boko Haram now come. If the desert encroaches and their fields or livestock fail, then they are tempted to move, even if that creates difficulties for others, or to respond to extremist voices which seem to be offering something better.
It is the victims of climate change I am thinking about while I pedal away on my hybrid Big Birmingham Bike. At the age of 76 I am hoping at least to cover as many miles as my age – my longest day ride so far has been 65; with training I hope to complete the full hundred before the marshals go home. If you want to sponsor me please go to justgiving.com/fundraising/John-Nightingale1
Or, would you ask yourself: what is the challenge for which you would put yourself on the line?