Thursday 24 February 2022

The patriotic act of riding a bicycle during wartime

Russian forces under control of Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last night. Sadly, such an act of aggression  was expected as it's been clear for a very long time now that Putin is dangerous. He's already occupied part of Ukraine for many years without provoking much of a reaction, and even his fairly obvious Russian support for Brexit and Trump and other actions to undermine the EU and the USA, and the more recent Covid / vaccine misinformation spread by Russian bots have largely been ignored. Unfortunately we even have political parties within our countries which are acting against our interests and instead supporting the interests of Russia (examples from NetherlandsUKUSA).

Sadly, Europe's energy supply in particular is very much tied to Russia. In Europe we pay hundreds of millions or euros every single day for Russian gas and oil. In addition, part of Europe's supply of Uranium also comes from Russia. The payments for these fuels help a regime which has long been  trying to undermine our democracy and has now attacked an allied nation.

It's immediately obvious that our gas supply to businesses as well as to people's homes for heating is inextricably linked to Putin's Russia. So is the supply of petrol and diesel for cars. However the problem goes deeper than that as a large part of Europe's electricity is generated by burning Russian gas or in nuclear power stations so electrically powered vehicles are also to some extent dependent on Russian energy, as of course is our domestic electricity supply.

We don't only import energy from Russia. In total, the EU is dependent on imports for 61% of the energy supply. All of the imported energy is in the form of fossil fuels which are burnt here. That includes Russian gas and oil as well as imports from other countries with unpleasant regimes and oppressive leaders including, for instance, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations. Stopping those imports, would not only reduce the flow of our money which goes to prop up unpleasant politicians in Russia and the Middle East but would also go a long way toward reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, the burning of which threatens human lives all around the world. Cutting those ties sooner rather than later would be good not only for us, but also for the people living under oppression and for all mankind.

Cycling is a patriotic act

When driving a car means funding a country which is attacking Europe, riding a bicycle should be seen as a patriotic act. Insulating homes and other projects to reduce energy consumption should be viewed similarly, as should projects to generate sustainable energy in our own countries.

Parking for patriots

Of course it's easier for everyone to do the right things when there is political support. Unfortunately, our political leaders cannot be counted on to provide that support. They have mostly not built the necessary infrastructure to enable cycling (though it's been known for 40 years what is required), but instead have chosen to subsidize the most destructive forms of transport. Our housing stock is also inefficient because it is being improved at a ludicrously slow rate. The energy we consume is becoming greener and less dependent on imports, but this is again happening at a very slow rate compared with what is required.

DIY sanctions

So what can individuals do about this situation ? We can take our own sanctions against Russia, against Saudi Arabia, against all destructive regimes and against companies which are profiting from planetary destruction and we can do so every single day by buying less of the products that they sell to us. Ride your bicycle with pride. Insulate your home if you can. Reduce the temperature to which you heat your home. Don't travel long distances. Buy less of everything and make what you have last longer because the production of everything consumes energy. The things that we need to do to stop supporting tyrants are the same things that we need to do to preserve a decent standard of living for everyone on our planet.

Finally, when we have the chance to vote (in the Netherlands we have local elections in March), remember which parties have made us dependent on imported energy, which parties have sided with Russia's interests against our own, which parties are uninterested in taking action on climate change, and vote against them. We need to change how our politics work, so that our countries are run in order to support individuals who are doing the right things instead of for the benefit of a few oligarchs who don't care if we live or die.

"The world" in this case means anywhere in the world, except one country whose laws make that impossible and repressive regimes