When Greens Belittle Green Too: Low Tech is Often High Impact

Image credit: Word on the Street

When I asked yesterday if a ten hour police cycling course was a waste of taxes, a commenter called Tired (I am guessing this is not their real name) told me to get a grip. He/she argued that I, or we, are "at least as negative and offended over the most practical and valid green-minded actions as [we] are over the top in your support for the most hair-brained bullshit ideas to be rendered into pixeldom." I reluctantly admit that there may be a grain of truth to this critique.Looking back on the article, I had somewhat uncritically picked up on the debate being had in England over whether these courses were even necessary or not. Once you think about the fact that almost everything police officers do on a bike is likely to need a very different set of skills, whether it is riding down steps, or using the bike as stealthily as possible, it makes perfect sense that this is more than your average "rules of the road" refresher course.

But even this is beside the point - the whole debate reflects a tendency in the media (and I'm surprised to find that I have to include myself in this) to not always treat the lower tech green solutions with the seriousness and respect they deserve. After all, cycling cops are not just a nice gas-saving alternative to officers in cars - they are, in many situations, an evolutionary step forward for policing. From better community relations to increased stealth and an ability to go where cars can't, cycle patrols are a vital part of modern policing. So the idea that a ten hour course on how to best maximize this asset might be a waste of money seems ludicrous to me now.

The same lack of respect is often evident for any number of practical, affordable and green solutions that lack the sexiness of, say, gigantic solar power plants. Saving energy by changing light bulbs and encouraging line drying are much more immediately actionable steps toward a greener future than building high speed rail. It's much easier to envision no-dig gardens in every neighborhood than glittering vertical farms in every city. Yet which solutions get the headlines?

Now don't get me wrong. I think technology and innovation have a vital role to play in a greener future—and as I have argued before, eco-modernity vs green traditionalism is a false choice. But in a society that often focuses on the new and the flashy at the expense of the tried and the tested, we need to recognize firstly that the most pragmatic, sensible and affordable green solutions may be right under our noses. And secondly, that these lower-tech solutions deserve at least as much investment and attention as the wackier Utopian pipe dreams.

So once again I find myself thanking our commenters for giving me a reality check. I'd like to say it won't happen again, but that seems unlikely. I just hope Tired is there again next time to keep me in line.

Tags: Activism | Alternative Energy | Bike-Friendly World | Energy Efficiency | Transportation

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