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In the latest members’ magazine from the Sierra Club, America’s massive hiker-and-national-parks organisation, there’s an excellent piece from author Mike Davis on how US citizens became super eco-conscious to help the war effort in WWII.
Given some of the same determination, America’s impact on the world’s resources could be much reduced, argues Davis.
Of course, bicycles played an important conservation role in WWII but it wasn’t all hair-shirts and self-flagulation, Americans found they liked riding everywhere: they were fitter, happier, healthier.
…[The] national obsession of the 1890s, the bicycle, made a huge comeback, partly inspired by the highly publicized example of wartime Britain, where bikes transported more than a quarter of the population to work. Less than two months after Pearl Harbor, a new secret weapon, the “victory bike” — made of nonessential metals, with tires from reclaimed rubber — was revealed on front pages and in newsreels.
Hundreds of thousands of war workers, meanwhile, confiscated their kids’ bikes for their commute to the plant or office, and scores of cities and towns sponsored bike parades and “bike days” to advertise the patriotic advantages of Schwinn over Chevrolet. With recreational driving curtailed by rationing, families toured and vacationed by bike.
In June 1942, park officials reported that “never has bicycling been so popular in Yosemite Valley as it is this season.” Public health officials praised the dual contributions of victory gardening and bike riding to enhanced civilian vigor and well-being, even predicting that it might reduce the already ominously increasing cancer rate.
But some Americans seem to think it’s their God-given right to consume as much petrol and as many quarter-pounders as possible. Media darling Trilby Lundberg seems to be a good case in point. She’s a ‘gas prices’ analyst and doesn’t look as though she would wobble away if somebody said “fried Mars bars, free samples.”
Fritz over at cyclelicio.us has the photographic evidence for this.
Ms Lundberg told CNN:
I’m hoping that consumers will see through the rhetoric about consuming less, demanding less, as faulty. It is not a given that consuming less will be good for our economy or for our personal freedom. It is not even established for our environment that we [should] deprive ourselves of gasoline for our personal mobility as well our commerce. And to suppose that it is good to do that, and pretend that we have consensus and put our heads together to deprive ourselves of this great product that makes the country go around, commercially and individually, I think is flawed.