A rainy Monday in the neighborhood, but after a busy weekend, it’s something of a relief. My husband, Clif, and I rode our bikes and stacked wood, and I’m just plain tired today. We ordered six cords of wood for our wood furnace, and four were delivered last Thursday. We stacked a chord and a half over the weekend, and, weather permitting, we’ll stack another half chord during the week so that we’ll have room for the next two cords that will come this Wednesday. Nature’s gym! But, it’s nice to have this restful day. No biking, no stacking. Just a walk with my dog, Liam. And housework, of course, but somehow that doesn’t seem to end.
Looking ahead, I’ve found a bag online for the rack on my bike so that it will be easier to do errands around town. I went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, and I bought two pounds of sausage, a pound of ground beef, and four chicken thighs as well as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes. They all fit in the backpack and didn’t give me any trouble when I biked home, but soon enough the potatoes and squash will be in season. It’s hard to carry those heavy vegetables in a backpack and then bike home. The weight pulls you back. (I know this from first-hand experience.) Of course, I could take the car, but the whole point is to bike as much as possible and to figure out how to carry things on the bike.
There are several reasons why Clif and I are so keen on biking. The first is that biking can’t be beat when it comes to low-impact exercise that really gives a terrific work out. For someone like me, who has creaky knees, this is quite an advantage. I simply can’t walk fast enough to get good aerobic exercise. The second reason, and one that shouldn’t be dismissed, is that biking is just plain fun, given, of course, that a person is in reasonable shape. What a delight it is to speed along the road when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Depending on the season, I can smell lilacs or roses or, more enticingly, food being grilled. Dinners being cooked and the smell of garlic mashed potatoes wafting from the houses. When we passed by a marsh this weekend, I saw a great blue heron not far from shore. No matter when we go, there is always something interesting to see, yet we can zip along at a good pace.
Exercise and pleasure would be reasons enough to bike, but there is a third issue—for those of us who are interested in living a low-carbon life, biking is a low-carbon form of transportation. I’m reading a book called how to live a low-carbon life: the individual’s guide to stopping climate change by Chris Goodall. Currently, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is about 390 parts per million, and by 2050 it is expected to exceed 500 parts per million. Goodall writes, “To hold carbon dioxide levels to a maximum of 550 parts per million in the atmosphere, the world can probably afford emissions of no more than about 3 tonnes per person. Any more, and temperatures will continue to rise beyond the 3 degree level.” (Goodall is British, hence “tonnes” rather than “tons.”) As I’m sure readers know, even though 3 degrees doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to cause a lot of trouble—glaciers and the poles melting, rising sea levels, droughts, extreme weather. In short, climate change. And here’s the really, really bad news: On average, Americans use over 20 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. That’s right. Twenty tons. Per person. A lot of that carbon dioxide comes from driving cars, and, if I’m going to be completely honest, from the food we eat as well.
I’ll be writing more about this in future posts. Clif and I are in the processing of figuring out how much carbon we use, and in just our preliminary figuring we know it’s going to be much more than three tons each. Because I work at home, and we only have one car, our energy usage isn’t as high as most Americans’ energy usage, but even with just one car we use about 5 tons of carbon per year.
So abiking we will go, whenever we can. Clif and I are working at building up our strength. This weekend, we made it to the end of Memorial Drive. Ten miles round trip, and a long, tiring hill at the end of Memorial Drive. Once that hill is mastered, we have the Holmes Road route, which makes the Memorial Drive hill look like the merest bump. And after that? A birthday bike trip in September to The Liberal Cup in Hallowell, with a hill that could aptly be named “Misery Hill.” Oh, my!
Kermit had it right. It is certainly not easy being green.