Letter from America – December 2019

What Should Our Industry be Doing about Climate Change?

Nothing brings an issue into sharper focus than a study in contrasts. Let’s consider three individuals: American President Donald Trump, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In early November Ms. Ardern gave a 10-minute speech in New Zealand’s Parliament—a rousing call to recognize the rapid onset of global warming and to celebrate the passage of that nation’s historic Carbon Zero legislation. It would essentially push New Zealand to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Her speech, like her leadership following the Christchurch massacres, was much lauded and deservedly so. But more importantly, as part of her recent speech to the parliament and via the media to a large global audience, she noted cycling as part of any strategy to tame the globe’s ever rising temperature.

In contrast, our president, Mr. Trump, persists in willfully ignoring any attempt at self-improvement; he proudly shuns reading his own intelligence agencies’ briefing books…unbelievable! He is the world’s leading climate denier. And Mr. Trump has ordered his Administration to disembowel decades of bi-partisan environmental progress. Then there is Mr. Trump’s irrational decision to pull out of the Paris Accord. Sad.

Mr. Morrison is an unabashed Trump supporter and avowed pragmatic conservative. Mr. Morrison favors boosting coal production, pushes anti-immigrant policies with an anti-Muslim bent, and at times invokes his Pentecostal beliefs, most specifically in regards to sex. He is less a climate denier than Trump. Perhaps. Instead, Mr. Morrison seems akin to a ship at sea whose anchor drags in the sand while a storm pushes the ship of state onto the shoals of catastrophe. Mr. Morrison appears to be slow walking the impacting arc of climate change. I am not sure which is worse—Mr. Trump’s denial or Mr. Morrison’s slow stroll.

Age could be a factor. Mr. Trump is 73, Mr. Morrison is 51 and Ms. Arden is 39. Life experience counts. Mr. Trump has reveled in his role as a New York City bon vivant and TV show host. Mr. Morrison is a serious politician, somewhat colorless in my estimation despite a stint as a child actor, with a long history within the Liberal Party. Ms. Arden has traveled widely, worked as a policy advisor to the UK’s then Prime Minister Tony Blair; elected president of the International Union of Socialist Youth; and joined New Zealand’s parliament in 2008 describing herself as a social democrat and progressive. She has long labored in the Labour Party, finally nabbing the top spot two years ago.

Mr. Trump calls climate change a ‘hoax’. “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers,” Trump said recently.

Mr. Morrison derides environmental protesters, calling them a ‘new breed of radical activism’ and that their message is ‘apocalyptic’ in tone. Mr. Morrison would like Australia’s Parliament to outlaw environmental boycotts, particularly so-called secondary boycotts that attack businesses providing services to mining industries, especially coal.

Ms. Ardern, on the other hand, in her address to Parliament and New Zealand’s citizens, suggested that its political leadership will leave a legacy. “I hope future generations will see that we, in New Zealand, were on the right side of history,” she said in praising the Parliament’s bipartisan passage of Zero Carbon. But she noted that there will be disagreements. “We’re no longer having the debate over whether or not that (climate change) is the case. We’re merely debating what to do with it,” Ms. Ardern said.

How Should We Respond as The Bicycle Industry?

Let’s circle back to the global bicycle industry.

How is the industry (not just in Australia or New Zealand) promoting its role as a factor in the climate change debate?

What is the industry telling consumers about the bicycle’s undeniable usefulness in helping curb pollution?

How are suppliers positioning their products as informed youths worldwide grapple with the impact of climate on their future?

What is the industry doing to lessen its own carbon footprint?

New factories closer to consumers?

It’s a long list. We are making some effort in these areas, but if so, the world’s youth is mostly unaware.

Is promoting the new-found power of e-mountain bikes to access the wilderness in the industry’s best long-term interest? I doubt it.

Are hyper expensive e-road bikes—light and powerful—putting our best foot forward in the realm of public opinion?

Or should we sell the power of near pollution free transportation?

The bicycle’s clear benefit to community health?

If I were a retailer and my shop’s name was ‘Sani Cyclery,’ right below it would be the phrase ‘Climate Change Starts Here.’

It’s well past time for the industry’s global leaders to proudly pound a stake into the international climate change debate—make its role visible and loud. We should turn our focus on the future and the youth who will drive that future. We should help empower the young who rightly worry about climate change.

I would go one step further and suggest that the industry help fund these fledgling environmental protesters. Now is the time to get on the right side of history. And the right side of our future customers.

Marc Sani is the Publisher of the leading USA based bicycle trade publication, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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