A Global Bike (a longer post)

Globalization. For many it has been a contentious issue the last decade or two. For others, it has been a boon to business, and merely the next step in our economic evolution. In any case, it is hard to deny that we now feel the extreme consequences of globalization, good or bad. The truth is that globalization has been a fact of western life, and therefore its colonies and conquests for hundreds of years. It has only been the recent (maybe 30-40 years) industrially scaled globalization and hyper application of outsourcing  that globalization has had the extreme effects we feel. This system of  commodities, markets, raw materials and labor (i.e. Capital systems)  have a wide range of outcomes when applied, but like everything else, how it is carried out and to what ends determines the results.

When I got my old English (?) bike it had parts from literally around the world. Handle bars from Japan, end caps  and kick stand from the USA, hubs from Austria/germany, brakes from England, cargo rack from Switzerland and pulley, cables from who know where. And now, I continued that history  by “importing” a few more vintage parts from England to complete it. So in the case of my old 1954 English bike, maybe globalization has been a birthing ground for a solid piece of transport. Globalization produced a bike that has been used and appreciated  for over 60 years (though, seemingly not cared for in the last 10-20 years.).. Maybe this is a little romantic, because it is just a bike that could have been made anywhere at any time and done the same job; but you get my point.

I am the first in line to claim that globalization with its underlying capital systems is out of control. It is a Frankenstein that is slow killing us, but as William McDonough (One of the originators of Cradle-to-Cradle design) talked about in a little video I recently watched, the detrimental effects of business are design problems, where regulations are symptom. In his view, governmental regulation is necessary to stop these effects, but it will take a proper re-design to fix the error. He talks about how pollution is not in a companies best interest. Hurting customers, facing law suits, lower productivity from works, are all costs, that can be lowered or erased by removing the pollutant in most cases. IN the Cradle-to-Cradle design process, that is what they do, and the result is that the companies cut costs, increase productivity, and therefore make more money. Clean environments and healthy workers and customers makes for good business? Who would have thunk?

So is an international old bike really all that meaningful? Maybe a little, but probably just a object of vanity. Philosophically, though, some important the lessons are built into what I am doing with that old bike. A 60 year old bike that promises to once again be a utility (and maybe a beauty) for (wo)man kind, shows us what good deign and forethought can accomplish. If all our objects can become as much, I think our global society would be in a bit of a better place.

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