Notes from September, 2019
My mom fainted the first time she set foot in an American supermarket. I stood transfixed in the cereal aisle. After six long years on Earth, here was a place that understood me. These were cartoon characters, made of pure sugar, that you could eat as a meal. Every box had a toy inside. How could I possibly choose just one?
I ask forgiveness of Hong Kongers if at times I am still that six year old kid, dazzled by what to you is ordinary. You live in a kind of city we Americans can only aspire to, and it’s no wonder you love your home so much you will take any risk to save it.
A man driving a dump truck the size of a house put my son’s life in danger.
The details of what happened unfortunately aren’t that remarkable. It was a perfect storm of road rage, reckless driving, terrible street design, and total lack of any kind of recourse, so basically a normal Tuesday on a bicycle in DC.
The dump truck driver drove aggressively and blasted his airhorn over many blocks on R Street NW. He was just feet from a half dozen other people on bikes who could do nothing but cringe and hope he didn’t mash us into pulp.
Oliver was terrified, asking me if we can ride on the sidewalk, asking me if we can stop, almost in tears.
After we turned up 18th Street and jumped the light at S Street to get away from this reckless man, Oliver turned and asked, “Can we take the Metro instead?” And that was it. I decided I can’t subject my son to this traffic violence anymore.
The most infuriating thing about this particular incident and many others is that this is how it’s supposed to work. R Street is supposed to be shared by cement trucks, tractor trailers, monster SUVs, dump trucks, and squishy fleshbags on two wheels.
They call it an unprotected bike lane, but in practice, it’s a little bit of extra space that people on bicycles can use as long as no motor vehicles are using it. It’s a design that squeezes us into sharing a narrow road with literal dump trucks.
No protests were authorised in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another.
“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children are living arrows sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
I took Tommy down to the San Jose Climate Strike on Friday. He enjoyed reading the various signs and trying to make sense of everything. When we got to City Hall, he quickly lost interest, and after a pee break and some ice cream, we headed home.
I’ve been to a lot of protests that blocked a lot of street traffic. The Climate Strike is the first time I recall any motorists Freaking The Hell Out. We were near the head of the march and cars had to sit through a light at a four-lane off-ramp. (Because the South Bay is the kind of place with four-lane off-ramps…) A dude slammed on his horn, we all raised our fists in solidarity, then he jumped out of his car and came running, maybe four car lengths down to the crosswalk, and started arguing with people.
I didn’t stick around for details, as I was with a six-year-old who wanted to read signs further up.
I was thinking. Don’t Go to War? Don’t Hate Gays? Most protests I have been to haven’t asked much of the public. Climate Change is a different beast: if we’re going to make it work, we’re all going to have to make adjustments to bring our energy use into a sustainable place. Some folks find this threatening. But does it have to be threatening?
It does have to feel threatening, not out of necessity for stopping climate change but in order to avoid making systemic changes. We need to make big changes at the level of national policy and international treaty. If you find that threatening, then you need to shift the discussion to the tragic impractical sacrifices the climate extremists are asking of you. Greta Thunberg is looking down on you sternly, in your internal combustion car, getting off the freeway. These youngsters waving signs about saving the Earth are Your Enemy.
The way I describe it: we need to change our policies so that people can live closer to work, and to give them the option to walk or bike or take transit. Sure, we need to electrify our buildings and raise energy prices to discourage careless consumption. When Greta gives us a stern disapproving look she isn’t getting on Your case about Your sloppy recycling habits, her stare is fixed at Donald Trump, and the myriad other world leaders who want to keep strip-mining the planet to burn the carbon out of the ground and into the atmosphere, who want to keep you buying cars and driving on wider and wider roads and highways to get anywhere because that is where the money is at. She’s looking down on shitty land-use policies that perpetuate wealth inequality.
We have to do our parts. For regular folks, it is merely a question of trying to live better. The heated rhetoric is for the Powers That Be that Profit from The Status Quo who are willing to fight stern-faced teenage girls in the name of the Almighty American Dollar.
Save your ire for the protestors, Off-ramp Dude. It ain’t about You. It is about all of Us, and especially the High and Mighty, who will need to surrender some Power and Convenience for the sake of our Children.
Last night, the Mountain View City Council enacted an RV ban.
If I were a Mountain View resident I would make a mental note to "toss all the bums out" at the next election. https://t.co/KM8gdN96OY
— Danny Howard (@dannyman) September 25, 2019
Addendum: Mountain View CMs Hicks, Ramirez and Clark may be worthy of your vote.https://t.co/6udgMpwX1F
— Danny Howard (@dannyman) September 25, 2019
For what it is worth, as a bicycle commuter, RVs are not a problem, as long as they aren’t obstructing the bike lane or sight lines, which they rarely are.