Rapt Cycling Advocacy

Saturday came and went with no rapture to speak of.

If you were aware of Harold Camping’s prediction, you fell into one of three broad categories:

  1. People completely convinced the rapture would happen, and bewildered when it didn’t,
  2. People who didn’t really expect the rapture but passed Saturday with your fingers crossed, hoping for the best (“the best” being a matter of perspective), or
  3. People who didn’t worry about a damn thing–literally.
James Watt
James Watt | Photo: Wikipedia

I was a little slow to pick up on all the Internet ridicule directed at Camping and his followers. And when I did pick up on it, I confess, I did pile on just a bit. But I mostly went about my business.

Now that the predicted time has come and gone, I’m going to try to walk a fine line. Tell me how I do. I’ll try not to offend anyone’s supernatural sensibilities.

However, if you are in the “bewildered” category above, this may be a difficult post for you to read.

And if you are a bike commuter who is weary of the environmental rationale for cycling to work, hopefully this won’t bore you too much.

I’ve written several posts here under the theme, “What we’re up against.” (Here they are.) In these posts, I explore some of the cultural attitudes about cycling, sometimes expressed in subtle ways, that get in the way of moving cycling forward as mainstream form of transportation.

On Sunday I found myself thinking less about Jesus, and more about James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under President Reagan.

There are many reasons that people are opposed and/or hostile to environmentalism. And the explicit reasons they oppose environmentalism may mask the true underlying reasons.

James Watt held fairly radical anti-environmental positions, but his positions and rationale were familiar to people who follow these issues. But during his confirmation hearing in the Senate, Watt laid bare his underlying belief on environmental protection:

I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.

Watt brought into focus for me the mindset that says that long-term thinking about society and the environment is a waste of time.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research center in 2006, 20% of Americans believe that Jesus will return in their lifetime.

They may be right. But to me, that’s twenty percent of Americans who are, at best, out of play for any kind of cycling advocacy–particularly the kind of advocacy that proposes cycling as part of long-term solutions to the problems created by a car-centric society. At worst, they are actively hostile to anything that might delay the rapture–you know, like acting toward a sustainable future.

This is what we’re up against.

Now, for those of you who are in the bewildered category, first of all, thank you for reading this far.

I want to believe that some of you in the bewildered group can start to think a little more long-term. Maybe, in time, you’ll be able get on a bike and enjoy the world that–against all your expectations–is still here today.

Some of you gave everything you owned to Harold Camping. The good news is, a bike is really inexpensive and efficient way to experience this beautiful world. You can afford it, and we at Commute by Bike, will welcome you.

And at that, I will step carefully away from the third rail.

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