It’s RIDICULOUS not to bike

A campaign in Malmö Sweden, combined with smarter biking infrastructure, has increased the share of transportation held by biking from 20% to 30% since 1995.

In 2003, the city’s bike and transportation department did a study and found that 50% of all trips under 5km were by car. That study inspired the campaign called “No Ridiculous Car Trips”. They also found that often times it was quicker to bike distances under 5km than to drive.

They did some creative marketing: putting live people on billboards, giving away bikes, and putting orange bike covers on people’s seats. They’re easily recognized with their silver and orange colors riding around, promoting biking in the city. The part that they seem most proud of is a contest where people wrote about a time when they shamefully drove somewhere when they could have biked or walked. Organizers in the video call it a sort of “confession” and the winner received a free bike.

With the Bike Resource Center getting started at MU soon, they may want to take some pages out of Malmö’s playbook.

Check out the video below by Martin Lang to learn more. (I hope you like reading, because it’s all subtitled.)

Consider “Consider the Lobster”

a lobster to considerEric shared an essay written by David Foster Wallace in 2004, which covers the Maine Lobster Festival on assignment for Gourmet magazine. He says it’s a very fast read with 20 short pages and the whole thing is definitely worth going over, but if you want to save some time the discussion material won’t start until the lower paragraph of page 242.

Questions for discussion:

  • Do you think Wallace is hesitant to show sympathy toward non-human creatures in his essay? Why or why not? Do you share these feelings?
  • How do you feel that the misinformation on lobster pain reception in the festival’s literature (p. 245) came to be? Do you think it was a misunderstanding driven perhaps by cognitive dissonance, or an active lie?
  • What do you think of the question Wallace raises on the last footnote of p. 247 about meat euphemisms?
  • Do you agree with the two critera (neurological hardware and behavior under pain) given on p. 248 for determining whether a living creature is our moral duty to consider?
  • With all the complications to consider with comparative neurology, do you feel it is fair to draw ethical conclusions based on animal pain reception? If not, on what grounds should we base our decision of whether or not to eat animals?
  • Wallace’s article was only published in Gourmet after a series of heavy edits, including the omission of the last several paragraphs. Why do you think the editor removed these paragraphs? Do you think Wallace’s tone was accusatory, or just curious?
  • It’s important to note that Wallace is a meat-eater. Was he being hypocritical with his ending?

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union. New readers are always welcome.

Discussion on environmental preservation

vulturesTim, our fearless new member, chose two articles to check out for the next meeting. He says that there are plenty more on the subject of ecological economics out there, and would love to see suggestions.


Things to think about:

  • How can environmental preservation become an issue for people who have no interest in preserving nature, i.e. the CEO of BP? What kind of economic incentives will make nature more than just a resource to be used up before a competitor does?
  • How can environmental preservation be integrated with sustainable development in places like Rwanda and Cambodia? How can “payments for environmental services” be paid for on the international market? Would something like a cap and trade system work?
  • What similarities do you notice between Silent Spring and the plight of vultures in Asia?

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union. New readers are always welcome.

Video to counter our McKibben article

This week we discussed Bill McKibben’s article “The Mental Environment.” It adopts a rather negative slant—that humans in modern western society are despairingly self-absorbed.  I came upon a video that proposes a different notion. Jeremy Rifkin asks, “Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?”

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union.

Discussion Questions for “The Endless City” and “The Mental Environment”

Adbusters 90Mallory chose two readings from Adbusters #90, Whole Brain Catalog. Both of these articles examine the changing of our environment due to physical “advances in technology” and, concordantly, how our “mental environment” is reacting.

From The Endless City:
  • How terrified are you after reading this article?
  • Let’s talk about our own pros and cons of this…think global, not just local.
  • “Cities, in short are the cradles of culture and wealth, and will allow earth to accommodate a further three billion people.” At who or what expense? (Ishmael?)
  • Would life actually be intolerable without contact with nature?  What does ‘contact with nature’ even entail?

Continue reading Discussion Questions for “The Endless City” and “The Mental Environment”

Discussion Questions for Blessed Unrest

Blessed Unrest book coverIn our first week, the Environmental Reading and Media Group chose to read excerpts from Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken. Project leader Nick Mustoe offers the following questions for discussion:

  • The start of what became the modern method of biological categorization, Systema Naturae by Linnaeus, consisted of only 11 pages. Is it conceivable today that we could make such an important decision without numerous professional meetings, conferences and articles?
  • What do you feel Emerson was referring to when he discusses learning the language of nature? Is this a type of learning separate from the learning we get in the classroom? Does it have less, equal or more value than learning from traditional education?
  • How would you have reacted to being one of the first Europeans to see Sequoias?
  • Does this book’s account of history suffer from the “great man” approach to history?

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union.