As the most important movie of our young millennium, "An Inconvenient Truth" seductively thrust the issue of global warming into the face of America and spread its seed of urgency. In the powerful wave of activism that has followed, the bike has experienced a renaissance of sorts. With oil suddenly redefined as a "non-renewable energy source," the two-wheeler became the optimal mode of transportation for a generation that can no longer count on gobs of the gooey good stuff. Madison in particular has witnessed a cycling boom — it seems like every other person you see is sulking around the isthmus on a fixed-gear bike, hoping to score a couple scene points and gain social acceptance. But as hundreds of millions of Americans saddle up and clog the streets with Schwinns and Huffys, we must take a step back and shed light on the immeasurable damage these "bicyclistas" inflict upon our increasingly fragile environment. The conservative media, forever feasting on the latest scraps of pseudoscience thrown their way, are hoping that global warming is just another liberal myth like astrology, Africa or "DNA." You don't even have to visit www.globalwarmingisreal.com to get the truth. Just look at the URL, which clearly states without any spin or bias that global warming is, in fact, real. But what do we do about it? The primary cause of global warming is what we've mistakenly deemed the solution: bikes. Biking is the most wasteful and energy-inefficient mode of transportation possible and imposes great stress upon the Earth. Calories are the universal measure of energy and it seems that bikes are specifically designed to burn calories indiscriminately. For the average 250-pound adult, biking burns 1068 calories in an hour. That's 1068 units of energy that are forever lost. Driving a car, on the other hand, results in virtually no waste of energy. The average adult (250 pounds) can drive for hours without burning a calorie. Plus, he can listen to classic rock like the Stones and Green Day and enjoy the refreshing blast of cool air-conditioning. As they burn calories without considering their impact, bikers must consider their environmental footprint. All the energy they waste pedaling must be replaced by food, the growth of which takes a significant toll on the environment. According to PETA, the pound of meat a biker would eat following a ride requires an additional 16 pounds of grain just to harvest. Every minute, seven football fields are created in the Amazon rainforest to grow the food that bikers need to eat after burning calories while biking. The conservative media claim Brazil has simply discovered the brilliance of (real) football. The truth, unfortunately, is tougher to swallow. Brazilian farmers are forced to go to great lengths to feed the Americas' greedy two-wheeled transportation, and Africa is probably affected somehow, too. The most common reaction is to vilify vehicles because they require oil and emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The radical right fuels the confusion as they push their "Peak Oil" movement, claiming our fossil fuel reserves are limited and that we must switch to untested alternatives like nuclear power or burning wood. What everyone fails to point out is oil is dependably renewable! Every day, organic matter like you and me is deposited in the Earth and subjected to crushing pressure and unimaginable heat. The end result (a few million years later) is the fossil fuel deposits we claim to lack! A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that 14 percent of greenhouse gases come from cars and trucks. Whether or not cycling gangs fabricated the statistic, the article points that 16 percent of greenhouse gases come from agriculture and waste treatment, two sectors completely reliant on the rapidly growing population of bikes. The mainstream media, largely funded by the bicycle corporations, will continue to point to the bike as the solution to our current environmental woes. However, as Shakespeare once said, "there's more than meets the eye," and the bike, with its subsequent vacuum of hunger, is the ultimate deceiver. The end to global warming and any problems having to do with Africa will only come with a clear-eyed rethinking of our mistaken embrace of these trendy two-wheeled people movers. Daniel Tenenbaum ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science, international studies and history.
This article was published Dec 12, 2006 at 12:00 am, and last updated Dec 12, 2006 at 12:00 am.