A couple of days ago, the WHO called out China for their Zero Covid strategy that is causing such huge societal problems in Shanghai, and to some extent Beijing. But what is Zero Covid? The Zero Covid strategy is….. fighting the pandemic. That’s it. Remember at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK and around the world. We had full lockdowns, we had 30 minutes of outdoor exercise time per day, we wore masks everywhere, and it was wildly successful in reducing cases and deaths. Far more successful than anything we’ve done since the vaccines came along.
Zero Covid in Shanghai has not been as effective this time, but you have to imagine that frustration at being the only country still taking Covid seriously with these kinds of measures is playing a big role. Western governments have inflicted their stupidity on the Chinese people, and are trying to use the anger of the locked down citizens to pressure the Chinese government into dropping Zero Covid and letting the virus run free, with devastating consequences. And the western media are eating it up. Even the WHO have now been brainwashed into advocating for ending covid measures and putting endless economic growth above public health.
One of the big talking points in western news is that China isn’t vaccinated properly. Their own vaccine isn’t as effective as the western vaccines, and a lot of the population hasn’t been vaccinated at all. But, funnily enough, they tend not to mention that China has been more successful in suppressing the virus and protecting its citizens (and the economy) than the rest of the world has been with highly effective vaccines. Practically everywhere outside of China, countries have brought in vaccines and then given up on other measures, and it hasn’t worked. But rather than accepting their mistake, they’re hell bent on forcing China to go down the same path.
I really hope China continues to resist the pressure and stick with Zero Covid, because it’s clearly the best strategy for both public health and the economy (not that I care about protecting this economy). I think they will, but the western media will not give in either. In the west, we’re so stupid now that the only evidence that could maybe prove to people that Zero Covid works would be for them to drop it and then see the resulting massive wave of cases, long covid and deaths. It’s never enough to show what would or could happen based on what we know. People need to see the disaster before they believe it.
The only thing I would change would be to allow people who haven’t tested positive that crucial 30 minutes or so of outdoor exercise time per day no matter where they’re located. To not allow people to leave home at all is what’s really made this situation newsworthy, and given ammunition to the western governments who only care about the health of the destructive fossil fuelled economy.
I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.
The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.
I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?
The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.
But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.
It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.
I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.
It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.
When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.
The only time I’ve ridden one of my three bikes in the last year was going to get my booster jab in mid December. Why? What’s wrong with me? Why would I have 3 bikes and not ride any of them? It sounds odd, but really I think it comes down to a mix of reasons that have just worn me down to where I’m at now.
Before covid, I was doing a relatively long ride once a week or so on a Monday or Tuesday. At that point I was working part time, and having those two extra days off a week was crucial to my mental health. It made working a pretty miserable, low paid job a lot more tolerable. But over time I was becoming more and more frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of car-light route options. Knowing that there was one somewhat enjoyable route to a location; and that taking any wrong turn would lead to stressful, fast moving traffic and the general feeling of being a second class citizen sucked so much of the fun out of these longer rides.
This wasn’t the first time I was feeling like this. I’ve had a couple of long breaks from cycling over the years. The first one was from about age 18 to 23, and then from 27 to 30. The first time was due to generalised anxiety disorder, and then the second 3 year gap was when I started a new job and I felt that I couldn’t cycle the 5 miles there because it wasn’t cycle friendly. I got a scooter for two years and then a car after that. Which brings me back to where I started doing those longer rides.
Looking back now on when my anxiety was the most incapacitating, I wonder how much of that time was attributable to what I now know about our unsustainable economic system, as well as that trapped feeling I had as a cyclist. Maybe subconsciously that played a big role in me feeling the way I did, but I couldn’t articulate it at the time. Maybe I knew that this society wasn’t made for people like me. When it came to the decision to buy a scooter and later drive a car, I was definitely very aware by that point that people like me who wanted empty roads and everyone cycling weren’t welcome here. Electric cars made me feel as if I wasn’t succumbing to society’s demand to drive, and that I was doing it on my terms. But I really wasn’t. I think it’s pretty clear that had I been living in a more accepting society rather than a closed minded one, I probably would have kept cycling all the way from childhood to now with no breaks. And my anxiety would have most likely been a lot more manageable too.
When covid came along, I felt a kind of relief at being locked down for months from April to June 2020 and being restricted to 30 minutes of exercise per day. It meant that I only had time to go from home to the seafront and back again to stay within the time limit. There was one route that allowed me to make it down there almost car free. It also allowed me to avoid the majority of pedestrians and other cyclists in addition to the few cars that were still driving around.
I continued in that pattern for a few months, occasionally trying some other local routes while the traffic levels were so low. When the full lockdown was prematurely eased, I went back to just riding that one route to the seafront. It became gradually less fun. The couple of busy roads I had to cross filled up again and took ages to cross, the noise returned, but it was still by far the best route to ride. I decided I wouldn’t go back to doing any long rides again until after the pandemic.
Then, the temporary covid bike lanes appeared in August and officially opened at the beginning of September, months after the full lockdown had ended. I decided to ride on those instead and change up my route. At first it was a novelty to have a whole car lane to myself going into town, but it wore off when I thought about how polluted it was with so many cars right next to me. I stopped using it even before it was removed at the end of November (just three months after being installed).
By that point, I had stopped riding long distances, seen drivers become more and more dangerous and anti-bike, experienced a (albeit fleeting and poorly executed) glimpse of what being given permanent dedicated space for cycling might feel like; and seen us return to business as usual while covid was still far from over. I started riding at night instead, but I couldn’t keep that up very long. I retreated from society even further and stopped leaving the house entirely.
Covid got worse and worse. All restrictions ended. The government became more and more openly absurd and anti-science. Scandal after scandal and yet they remained untouchable. No one in the mainstream challenged the anti-science stance that had seeped into the public psyche. Scientists who were doing that (such as Dr Deepti Gurdasani and others) were increasingly ignored and no longer able to get on major TV or radio. And that pretty much leads us to today. I still don’t want to go anywhere. I still don’t feel safe anywhere in public covid wise. I still have no intention of taking public transport anywhere.
Every day I just have this ridiculous hope that maybe soon we will come to our senses as a society and force the end of car ownership, so we can have empty streets to ride again. In my mind, getting rid of cars has become the symbol of when our insanity stops as a species. But it doesn’t feel like anything is going to change any time soon. Only the climate crisis or another deadly Delta-like covid variant have the potential to interrupt business as usual and maybe lead to lasting change to the benefit of cycling (and everything / everyone else sane left in this world). It doesn’t seem as if the current cost of living crisis is going to be enough to force any real change. People will just put up with it quietly, like the obedient little pawns in the economic game they are.
So I guess if I have to sum up why I’m not cycling, it comes down to lack of quiet bike routes, cars, psycho drivers, endless covid mishandling / corruption / stupidity, lack of infrastructure and my depression at the endless stupidity of our broken economic system. I think that covers it.
The cases are going down gradually at the moment according to the ONS / Zoe Covid Study, but they’re still remaining stubbornly very high compared to previous waves of the pandemic. Universal masking is a distant memory at this point, and the booster must be wearing off significantly by now.
I’m hoping that by the summer, things will have shifted significantly in a positive direction, and I’ll hopefully head back out on the bike again. I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who feels this way. There must be others out there who just feel so beaten down by all this shit.
Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.
These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.
It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.
I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.
It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.
Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.
And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.
We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.
We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?