Sunday, 15 June 2014

Changing Gears - and changing mindset

Greg Foyster quits his job in advertising to explore alternatives to the life of long hours in a soul-destroying work, to afford a big house and endless possessions to put in it.

Changing Gears is the diary of his journey from Melbourne to Cairns by bicycle with partner Sophie, exploring and experiencing different - and more sustainable - ways of living.

Despite coming from the city, having cycled trough rural and regional Australia, he arrives in Sydney with a new perspective on cars.

Here cars were crammed into every conceivable space, and for the first time I noticed, really noticed, just how many of them there were.

In 20 kilometres, we saw nothing but shops to buy cars, government departments to regulate cars, workshops to tune cars, stores to get accessories for cars, restaurants that encouraged people to eat in their cars, and mega malls that can only be reached by cars. And that was just one stretch of road in one suburb. All of our major metropolises are like this. We are citizens of car cities.

During the book he reasons that most things we do are because it's the default option. And cars are one of the big ones.

Cars are the main reason we live in sprawling suburbs, own big houses, shop at massive mega malls, and sit on our bums all day. Cars don't cause these things, but they enable them.

He refers to them as "consumption amplifiers". and says that without them, we'd

live in smaller spaces more closely together, we'd have shops within walking distance, and we'd exercise more.

The obsession with cars even affects our thinking. The funny side of this was when Greg and his wife would ask locals how far it was to the next town.

people looked at our bicycles stacked with belongings and still said 'It's a 30-minute drive'. Cars have come to dominate our concept of distance to the point where we don't think in kilometres any more.

Giving up our harmful addiction to cars is one of the lessons learnt on Greg's trip that he (and we) can take back into our normal lives.

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