Following the posting of my Tidechange.ca article Re-envisioning Canada as a World Leader for Peace and Justice two people added some most valuable commentary; both are friends of mine.  Comox Valley resident Tony de Castro and I get together regularly (less often during the pandemic) to talk over current issues—often centred on agricultural policy. Lyle Olsen is a friend from my life in Grand Forks,BC. Lyle and I—with two other friends–coauthored a 1981 monograph on the effect of BC’s lax standards enforcement on the actual impact of environmental regulation.

Both Tony and Lyle are quite pessimistic about the future; especially about the possibility of changing entrenched values that make no peace with social and environmental justice. Tony comments that

“While pretending to be a peacemaker, Canada has spent most of its history first exploiting its own First Nations at home (theft of land and destruction of cultures), and then any minorities abroad that interfered with corporate profits (e.g., Canadian mining companies in Latin America) or the priorities of the US. To change that would require a type of government that the typical Canadian voter is unlikely to vote for.”

 Lyle pessimistically observes that “First, there has never been, nor will there likely ever be, any UN styled international peacekeeper organization that can stop a major power from invading or interfering with its neighbours, for the simple reason the major powers don’t want there to be, and will never delegate that sovereign power away. Peacekeeping imposition is strictly for the weaker countries as you point out, but I’m suggesting it’s not fixable.”

Wow, such pessimism rests heavy on my shoulders. Certainly if we look at the politics of the world’s leading countries Tony and Lyle’s observations seem utterly justifiable. If you read the book I just finished– Oil and World Politics: The real story of today’s conflict zones by John Foster (available in our Vancouver Island Regional Library)—you might well regard Lyle and Tony as sages of what is actually happening in our world.  I might counter with an observation about how Canada has done a great deal of work to try to establish the authority of the International Criminal Court(ICC). However—as Tony so rightly observes—the US simply refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC to have any sway over the American drive to militarily and economically dominate our world.

So? Time to despair and give up? Well there are other precedents—you know?

At one time it seemed the British had the overpowering might to rule/plunder India indefinitely. It seems the British had an overwhelming military might and it had perfected, in other countries, the craft of divide and rule.  It all seemed so invincible until a small man in a home spun loin cloth began his Salt Satyagraha campaign based on the principles of non-violent protest. Though the British beat many of the protesters severely and jailed many more, that simple act of collecting salt in non-violent protest spelled the beginning of the end of British rule in India.

Well, I can already hear the scoffing “who is going on a salt march today?” a great chorus asks incredulously.

They would be right. Great throngs of people are not going to march down to the sea and make salt these days. But—BUT—there may well be great throngs of people switching out of their gas guzzling, planet destroying cars and taking up their electric bikes. 

One might argue that we are too familiar with our cars—the best we can hope for is a huge switch to electric vehicles. But electric cars for all would consume a great deal of energy—like the electricity generated by the ill-fated Site C Dam and the ecosystem destroying run of the river projects. Those great hulking buckets of bolts will consume an unbearable supply of resources—some of them very damaging to extract in the quantities needed to switch from gas to electric cars, ie: https://www.aljazeera.com/program/featured-documentaries/2020/9/7/the-dark-side-of-green-energy .

A power pack for an electric bike consumes a tiny fraction of the resources consumed by an electric car. The electric bike is built from a very tiny fraction of the resources that go into the manufacture of an electric automobile.

Already bikes—electric and pedal powered– are taking over as the dominant transportation mode in many cities outside North America.

Imagine the synergy of interthreading buses and bikes!

Just as Gandhi’s salt march simply dissolved the mechanisms of British rule in India, a massive shift to electric bikes could put the gas/resource guzzling automobile into the museums of a destructive age.

If you do read John Foster’s book on oil and world politics you will find convincing proof that most of our wars and repression of peoples is about the need/greed to control oil supplies to sustain our unhealthy lifestyles.

Hopefully the covid crisis has taught us about the fallacy of atmosphere polluting airplane travel not just to stop polluting our atmosphere. When we drop the jet and take up the bike both we and our planet will become a whole lot healthier for not pumping all that C02 into the upper atmosphere. A deadly virus will not spread from one country to the whole world in a matter of months. We will walk around our neighbourhoods and get to know our neighbours better. And we and our Earth will become much healthier.

It may seem a daunting task but it is hardly more difficult than nonviolently expelling the British from India. It’s about having the gumption to say no to our atmosphere polluting planes and automobiles and say yes to the healthy for people and planet transportation by bicycles.  The thing I like most about this ride a bike; save our Earth and its peoples idea is that we don’t need anyone to organize us or tell us it is ok to act now or organize us. We can just go do it!

Norm Reynolds