It was the Wright brothers, those enterprising Ohio bike dudes of history, that discovered a way to keep airplanes in flight. They believed that flight technology would make wars of attrition obsolete – a noble scientific aim. But the inventor of dynamite, the inventor of the machine gun; they too believed the same thing of their own never-before-seen technological accomplishments. High hopes for the cutting-edge geniuses of our progress-hungry society.
Of course the airplane only changed the face of war – to something more expensive, more demanding of resources – it did not reduce the casualties of war. Technology, by its very nature, is complicated, and tends to require continual advances, in a snake-biting-its-own-tail relationship, akin to how alcohol tolerance requires increasing doses to get you drunk.
Flight technology brought the way we travel, for whatever purpose, to a new level, the world over. They say that once the human race imagines that something is possible, it achieves it. Knowledge follows imagination. Flying machines have made it possible for us to imagine ourselves as larger than this Earth, able eventually to leave the atmosphere on titanium wings, able to use the depleting natural resources of this planet to find other planets untouched by, and ready for, our industrious spirit.
The invention of the airplane was probably inevitable; and though it portends, as one of the most earth-shattering discoveries ever made, an escalation of our consumptive appetite for progress on a galactic level, a wasteful decommissioning of less ravenous technology, and the death of a certain way of life in the name of convenience, I cannot say I wish it had never happened. Progress seems to be an attribute intrinsic in humankind, trailing on the heels of population growth like an eager squire; and since I consider myself part of the human race, I cannot protest too strongly to the advancement of our technologies. Indeed, many lives have benefited.
Yet I still feel the urge to resist. I’ve got a spirit that yearns for simplicity, for a time before e-mail conquered my beloved hand-written letter, before all the suffering caused by the popularity of automobiles, before the advent of all these complicated machines with even more complicated demands. The Earth would last forever if we had never found a way to stay warm with wood, a way to remain free with guns, or a way to travel fast with oil. But such hindsight is moot; these technologies were invented, and similar technologies will continue to match our exponentially increasing population. Unless we as a global race of humans find a way to plateau our virus-like sprawl, ever-newer technology will always be our savior.
Indeed, we’ll need it, just to survive.
I’m sure once we’re being forced to colonize other planets, abandoning Earth like cockroaches from a dilapidated house under demolition, I’ll have nothing to say about all this; I’ll give up when it’s too late. But it’s not too late to tincture the progress of technology with temperance; it’s not too late to look back. It’s never too late to learn from our mistakes.
And so, during this World Bike Tour, I reject the notion of commercial flight.
Postponing arguments as to what’s less environmentally destructive and further discussion of the “whys” of our modern culture of convenience, I hereby vow not to succumb to the ease of flight technology. I am riding my bicycle in lieu of driving or riding in a car; and now, across distances where a bicycle cannot be ridden, I will endeavor to take ships instead of planes. I will remain as close to our Earth as I can, utilizing alternative methods of transportation only. Even if it amounts to months of delay…