The Burning Question of Our Times.
For some time now I have been having real doubts about my own behaviour over the years. I've been a petrol head for most of my life, and so involved with motorcycles for both transport and leisure that they are ingrained in my character. Yet as I watch the news of environmental disasters unfold on the telly virtually every evening, I have to wonder how much my own behaviour has contributed to this mess, and what I can do to help our planet.
While it is obvious that my own individual environmental sins are an infinitesimally small part of the problem, that is no excuse for claiming that the problem is not mine. According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), there are almost 67 million people here in the UK. As well as heating our homes, which is a major source of our pollution, a huge number of us have vehicles. According to the RAC (www.racfoundation.org), "In Great Britain, there were 31.7 million cars (82.1 per cent), 4.26 million LGVs (11 per cent), 0.48 million HGVs (1.2 per cent), 1.27 million motorcycles (3.3 per cent), 0.14 million buses & coaches (0.4 per cent) and 0.77 million other vehicles (2 per cent) licensed at the end of March 2021". That is a total of 38,620,000 vehicles.
A very conservative and completely unrealistic estimate, based on an average 2000 miles per year for each vehicle, and 50 miles per gallon, would mean that the UK vehicles travel 77,240 million miles annually, and consume 1931 million gallons of fuel. I tried looking up the pollution/ greenhouse potential of one gallon of fuel, but even Google does not seem to have an exact answer for this. However, taking a low estimate from Google for one major greenhouse gas (CO2 at 9kg per gallon), shows that UK vehicles spew 17.38 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. Google gives the average miles travelled in UK cars as 7,400 per year in 2019, but that says nothing about the paltry number of miles the average motorcycle travels, or by contrast, the massive mileage covered by commercial vehicles. My estimates are low, but they are deliberately low so that no one can say that I am blowing the problem out of proportion.
My own vehicular contribution to burning our planet is somewhat different from the one above. I estimate that at the moment I am travelling about 6,000 miles per year. During lockdown, I really haven't used my bikes, so the following is based on the 40mpg that the old Astra did (I had to change it, but haven't owned the newer car long enough to know it's average). That means that I, on my own put 54 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year! This worries me.
You will sometimes see CO2 given as an equivalent in trees. It always seemed a fairly pointless comparison, because what exactly does the standard tree used in it look like? Is it big, small, evergreen, deciduous; who knows? Google tells me that there are six of these trees per tonne of CO2 though. So if you want my global warming vehicular impact in trees, it is 324 trees per annum! Where the hell am I going to get enough space to plant 324 trees every year? And this is just for transport! It takes no account of home heating, using aircraft for foreign holidays, the growing of my food or it's transport to the shops where I buy it, or the legion of other things that will increase my impact on the planet.
The bottom line is that we all need to change. We have all grown used to living in the hangover of a twentieth century lifestyle, and that lifestyle was founded on burning oil, gas and coal. This cannot go on, and the implications for everything are huge, so huge that our politicians do not want to discuss them in any detail and so just fudge around them. Still, this is not todays subject, so back to the story.
For me the change starts here. I used to think nothing of going out on the bike for the day and covering 3 or 4 hundred miles just for fun. Yet, thinking about this rationally, I cannot live with the side effects of this 'fun', so the bikes on which I would have covered bigger mileage have to go. It seems that I found a solution to the BMW's rattles just in time to get rid of it.
This line of thought has been rattling around my brain for some time now. I suppose it may even have contributed to my lack of use of the bikes during lockdown, and to the lack of enthusiasm whereby although I rebuilt the BMW's top end, I then left it alone. All it needed was the carbs balanced, and a new thrust bearing in the clutch mechanism to make it run and ride well, but in the many months since the top end rebuild I have not done even these simple tasks. I even have the clutch parts.
I would love to be proved wrong here. I will miss those days out seeking unused roads and strange places, so if you have a counter argument, please, please pass it on.