Upcycling is the process of turning materials from the wastestream into new materials of higher environmental value.
Upcycle Yourself is a similar concept on a human scale, turning from agents of pollution into agents of environmental change.

May 12, 2010

I was dreading today. On our third day of cycling, we were scheduled to do 70km with a fully loaded bike. People told me that it's not as bad as it sounds. They were right. With well-pumped tires and sunny cool weather along quiet country highways, it's a blast. Despite certain body parts being a little sore (like my shoulders), all went very well. Last night I was up until midnight helping (or attempting to help) a fellow teammate fix a bikerack, and I've been promised a shoulder massage in return, so it's shaping up to be quite a good day. Once again, worry proves to be a fairly useless emotion.

18 wheel transport trucks, another common worry on cycling trips, are a somewhat misundertood phenomenon. I will probably feel differently about this if I have any close run-ins with these gargantuan vehicles, but for the moment I've befriended them. Any time I am taking a break by the side of the road and look at the oncoming traffic racing towards me, the transport trucks fill me with fear. When I'm on the road, riding alongside them, it's like a rollercoaster when they pass. There is a whoosh of noise, and they pull you forward in a vortex of wind. There is an exhilirating thankfulness of "Wow, I'm alive!" as they barrel off into the distance.

We've left Manotick and rode into Perth today. The countryside is beautiful compared to the city, though it's still evident that the human race has been dismantling and taming nature even in more "natural" settings. We didn't see any forests. We caught occasional glimpses of wetlands and rivers, and illusions of forests in the distance that proved to be shallow lines of trees. The remaining trees of what once were forests are now simply windbreaks for farmland. I understand the need to feed ourselves, though having a system of food aquisition that is based on clearcutting, tillage, fossil-fuel powered tractors, and long-distance transport is simply destroying the habitats that took millions of years to develop and find equilibrium. No wonder people drive north to build cottages in the forests, yet another industry that is threatening natural environments.

I look forward to planting my own forest garden one day. Forest gardens, otherwise called food forests, is a type of reforestation that is focused on edible perennials. Imagine a canopy of fruit and nut trees, with grape vines climbing, a black current bush, mushrooms on fallen logs, and a groundcover of strawberries and horseradish. This is a way we can reforest, create habitats and food for wildlife, sequester carbon, create enjoyable places to unwind, all the while providing ourselves with food. Planting a forest garden now also provides a positive element to a retirement plan. Rather than investing our money in questionable stocks, we can begin to plant trees that will provide us with a plenty of nourishment in our old age... food security as an ecological pension plan.

I saw an interesting sight while riding. Someone was removing dandylions one by one from a large property. He was almost finished, and there was evidence all over the manicured lawn that he had de-lioned the whole half acre. Presumably he was being paid by the landowner, or perhaps he himself was the landowner and was determined to get every last one. The house next door hadn't mowed their lawn once since spring arrived. It had a beautiful variety of shin-high grasses, and was aglow in yellow flowers. I don't know if I'm misreading the situation, but I'm guessing that the de-lioning landowner was perhaps making a passive-aggressive statement to their neighbours, that not only are dandylions not welcome on his land, but not welcome in their neighborhood in general. I passed dozens of houses in the countryside that had lawns that made a statement of wealth... entire acres of short green grass, mowed by riding lawnmowers that spew greenhouse gases. I wonder how we will change this outdated mentality, and create a new paradigm based on habitat renewal and sustainability. Guess we need to start with the kids. And the teenagers. And the adults. And the politicians. And our neighbours. And ourselves (thanks to Olivier for reminding me to start with myself :)

With the mobile community of cyclists, I've recently started doing theatre in schools about sustainable living. The children have had wonderful suggestions about how to help the environment. I'm pleased to see that even amongst 5 year olds there is an awareness of positive efforts we can take.



Je m'excuse pour le manque de francais, les francophones! Je trouve plus facilement mes mots dans ma langue maternelle... mais heureusement, nous avons un francophone avec notre groupe, donc au moins je pratique la langue orale! :)


  1. "And the teenagers. And the adults. And the politicians. And our neighbours."
    ...and ourselves. :-)

  2. Great point Oli :) Thanks for reminding me.