THIS MONTH'S THEME
Heldur Netocny /
FROM THIS MONTH'S EDITOR
At first I didn't take National Leave-your-car-at-home Day too seriously. The whole idea of it is, I suppose, to loosen the global grip of the private motorcar. But I live 30 miles from work. There are no buses or trains anywhere near my home, and I wasn't about to walk the 60-mile round trip. I do have an old and trusty bicycle, but it travels as far sideways as forwards. I could imagine arriving at work just in time to turn round and set off for home.
But Andrew Kokotka, the designer of this magazine, cycles to the airport when he takes his bicycle on holiday to challenging destinations. He talked ominously of the upcoming London-to-Oxford bike ride in aid of Oxfam. The excuse that, as an individual, I am powerless to influence 'global economic forces' didn't seemed to cut the mustard. On impulse I went out and bought a rather fetching, brand-new 'mountain' bicycle.
Well, in a very small but beautiful way it has transformed my life. Ever since National Leave-your-car-at-home Day I have cycled to work one day a week, more weeks than not. I have traced a special route along country lanes, across fields and over bridges where the car cannot pass. I have breakfasted at dawn by the Thames, dined at dusk at The Swan pub in the village where I live. I have sat and chatted with strangers about the life-cycle of the sparrow hawk or the intricacies of fly fishing. An 'ordinary working day' will never have quite the same meaning again, and I am fitter than I have been for years as a result.
However, on closer examination, I notice that my bicycle has been globalized. The frame and the tyres were made in Taiwan, the wheel rims in Malaysia, the gears in Japan, the label in the Netherlands. The dealer says that because of increasing costs in Taiwan the frames will soon come back to be made in the Netherlands again, just as soon as the Taiwanese have taught the Dutch how to do it.
There are two references in this magazine to the merits of recycled bicycles, and I'd overlooked the possibility. Obviously my impulse buying needs a dose of de-globalization. But however hard it may be to disentangle oneself from the grip of the global economy, I reckon it's still worth the effort. Finding a small space between the lines of that dismal mantra 'There Is No Alternative' and leaving the car at home, certainly gave me a great deal more pleasure than I'd expected. One day I might even be able to get rid of my car for good.
Quite how onions first crept into this magazine I'm not so sure, although they are one of the few truly 'global' vegetables and grow almost anywhere. And then, as Marvin Gaye tells us in The Onion Song: 'We've got to be headstrong about righting this wrong.'
for the New Internationalist Co-operative