Eco-Friendly Biking Event Defeats the Purpose

Biking event

Biking is a wonderful hobby that is hailed by many as a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and keep your body fit at the same time. I love biking, even though here in the Philippines, I never bike along national roads because of the unfortunate hazards and struggles that accompany the activity.

However, many biking events that aim to promote this delightful hobby make the huge mistake of holding it within highly urbanized and heavy traffic-prone areas. Take for example the recently-concluded CalamBikeFest 2016, a segment of which was witnessed by my mom and I last Saturday on our way to the Makiling Botanic Gardens in UPLB. We were going to attend a tree walk with the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, and we decided to take public transportation instead of driving there.

Calambikefest facebook cover
Image from the Calambikefest facebook page

We live in General Trias City, Cavite, and during one leg of the trip, the jeepney ride from Calamba to UP College, we were stuck for several minutes in one spot, longer than what we hoped (we anticipated traffic, but not that heavy!). We later discovered that it was due to all the bicycles passing through the intersection, which the traffic police blocked for the safety of the bikers.

One of the passengers in the jeep audibly complained, “Pahamak itong mga bikers na ‘to” (These bikers are such a nuisance). Which made me feel sad, because biking is such an awesome hobby that everyone should take up if they have even a little time and resource for it.

The event caused a massive buildup of vehicles in the area around SM City Calamba, which has always been prone to heavy traffic in the first place. If you calculate the amount of man-hours wasted and carbon emissions produced due to the traffic jam, whatever benefit the event gave had been outweighed by the damages it caused.

I advocate biking 100%, but large bike events, or any other big occasions for that matter, need to be planned carefully and organized in such a way that other people not involved will not suffer from its consequences. Maybe they should study the traffic flow, and identify the day of the week and time of day when their event would have the least impact. Or hold it in a less busy part of the city.

Otherwise, not only are its objectives of being eco-friendly or promoting heroism (in the case of CalamBikeFest) defeated, they also provoke the ire of the people in the community.

The most important reason to go vegetarian

“Don’t you miss it?”

This is probably the most common question that a meat-eating person asks me when they find out that I’m vegetarian. And my answer has always been the same. “I don’t miss it AT ALL.” I don’t crave it, I sometimes even feel a bit sick when I smell it.

You see, I became a vegetarian not due to health reasons, religious doctrines, nor even environmental concerns. It was the cruelty, the torture, the killing. It was seeing how animals are treated like they didn’t have feelings, and didn’t deserve any respect, and could only be valued for the food and products that they can provide.

The day I realized how bad the animal industry situation was, was the day I quit eating animal flesh. I did it cold turkey (how apt!). I just couldn’t put another piece of a dead animal in my mouth anymore. That was more than 10 years ago, and it was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.

I’m not going to pontificate in this post about how eating meat has so many negative health effects and how the livestock industry has risen to be among the top polluters and destroyers of the planet. I’m just going to share with you some of the good things I’ve experienced as a non-meat eater. These can be summarized in three things: 1) The food experience; 2) The health benefits; and 3) The love and peace it brings.

We plant our own organic veggies in our yard using any container we can get our hands on!
We plant our own organic veggies in our yard using any container we can get our hands on!

Firstly, becoming vegetarian has opened up a whole new world of food experiences for me. I’ve learned to be more creative with cooking. I’ve experimented with more flavours and textures. I realized that what was giving any meat dish any flavour, the herbs and spices, were actually all from plants! So why not flavour plants with plants? Why not make burgers, steaks, barbecues out of fruits and vegetables? It’s amazing what you can come up with when you free your tongue from the taste of meat.

And then there’s the concomitant benefits to my health. Like anybody else, I get cough and colds and all the common illnesses that go around. But I believe that I now get them less frequently, and when I do get them, my body now fights them off more easily. I have better skin, I maintain my weight easier, I believe I have more energy than some of my meat-eating teenage students!

And lastly there are the non-tangible things that a cruelty-free lifestyle brings. My spirit feels at peace that I do not have to kill a life just to satisfy a desire. I can express my love to sentient animals without feeling the shame and guilt of making thousands of their kind suffer unimaginable cruelty at the hands of humans. Being a vegetarian has given me another purpose on earth – to help free animals from the pain and suffering.

Eating what you planted and grew yourself makes you more connected to earth and nature.
Eating what you planted and grew yourself makes you more connected to earth and nature.

Many people make fun of vegetarians and vegans. There’s even a fried chicken company that capitalized on this by making a “budgetarian” advert. Being a vegetarian is probably the closest I have to a religion. You know how religious people get offended when their Gods are made fun of? I get offended when people post photos of a live pig and label it “bacon.” It hurts, because doesn’t it literally hurt another sentient being? I’m still learning how to not be affected by people like that who do it out of spite.

So if you are thinking of becoming a vegetarian, I hope you do it for the right reasons. And I believe the best reason are the animals themselves. Any other reason simply won’t make you as committed to the lifestyle. I wish you luck on your journey to finding greater joy in living a meat-free life!