The challenging read

Should we go back to the Old Normal?

I admit it, I am as bad as anyone, if not worse! I am always looking for any half decent excuse to get out on my beloved two wheels and ride it somewhere, anywhere! It has of course allowed me to explore areas of Europe as part of club rides, which have been great. I have also loved customising my GSA (as you will be able to read in this Newsletter) with various accessories. My son who has probably got better environmental credentials than I have, calls it part of my late life hedonistic consumerism!

For the moment, Covid-19 has changed all this but as the restrictions are eased, do I need to just get on it and ride it? Or could I plan fewer rides where overall during the year I do far fewer miles, consuming less petrol, creating less pollution and putting less CO2 into the atmosphere? These are very challenging and unpopular questions at an individual and club level.

Let us assume lockdown is over and we have all been given a vaccine that works and we have immunity that lasts at least a year against Covid-19. So is everything going to return to normal and many of us fall back into the hedonistic consumption of more, more, more and add to the already stupendous wealth of Geoff Bezos? Regrettably I suspect so because consumption is so good, it keeps everybody happy and employed. But what is all this consumption doing to us and the planet?

When France went into Covid-19 lockdown, President Macron said ‘we are at war with an invisible enemy’! The war analogy is an interesting one, for it was the Second World War that dramatically changed the way people lived and what they could consume. Many of you will probably have got in in your attic, a box of memorabilia from your mother, who had a ration book or Rose Browns’ Cheap Recipes for War Time, costing six old pence! They survived on not a great deal and this continued until the late 40s and early 50s.

‘So why all this angst about consumption Carl?’, I hear you say! Well for one thing, if the whole world can be thrown way off course by something so small as a virus, try to imagine what might happen in the future if we have to deal with a crisis caused by global warming? A problem widely attributed to human activity.

In reality, after our current ‘war’ is over, what will things look like? More people working at home and less in the office, fewer cars on the road and more motorbikes (only dreaming!), less trips to the pub, cinema, theatre, more virtual meetings? As a club should we be doing fewer trips, fewer social meetings? I guess no self-respecting club President or Social Secretary will want to have created a history where it can be seen that during their tenure-ship, the club has actually done the same or less. Most of us will want to do more and consume more. So what will cause things to change if nothing is done, nothing is discussed and we just sleep walk back to what we were doing before Covid-19, because it is so comfortable to consume? ‘Get back in your box Carl’ I hear, ‘advances in technology will sort it all out’! To some extent they will, but as Michel Barnier once said, ‘the clock is ticking’!

So what could I do to consume less? A good question indeed, because it is going to be very, very difficult and for some of the things I love doing, I feel as though I will really have to challenge myself and ask, why am I doing it? One very small example I am trying, is to rein in my right wrist, so instead of it taking 1.25 seconds to go from 30 to 60 mph, it now takes considerably longer! Another is to become an Observer for the Thames Vale Advanced Motorcyclists, to encourage trainees in their advanced riding, to ride in a safe and sensible manner and interpret progress as keeping the wheels turning rather than going as fast as possible, as often as possible!

Perhaps little changes like this are too pathetic to be considered or even talked about? The very fact that I feel it is worth putting finger to keyboard to create this Challenging Read is doing something. It is a sort of activism I guess (recently a very popular human condition following the death of George Floyd and the fall of Edward Colston) and I am happy to be called an activist if this results in a dialogue where what we do as individuals and a club is a more frequent part of our conversation.

Covid-19 has brought out the challenge of human existence, do we want life, in other words, complete freedom to do whatever we like without any regard for the wellbeing of others or do we want quality of life where we look out for ourselves and the health of others. When Covid-19 is a thing of the past we will be faced with a similar dilemma, live life to the max and soak up our freedoms or look for the longer-term quality of life?

Your angst-ridden Editor.

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Author: Carl Flint

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