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Get down and dirty (07/20/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"Some people in the past who knew very little biology were able to use the land without destroying it. We, who know a great deal about biology, are destroying our land in order to use it." - pro-environmentalist, farmer Wendell Berry, from "Digging In," the June Sun.

A big city bridge collapsed, killing commuters, traumatizing many others, and instigating full-scale inspections of bridges all over Minnesota. An interstate bridge was shut down on June 3rd due to rusting and deterioration. Though it has reopened, heavy rigs are restricted.

Gas prices at the pump have soared to astronomical rates! Due to these circumstances, costs for inconveniences and added expenses incurred by truckers and retail businesses are passed onto the consumer. "For Sale" signs have become commonplace on homes, RVs, and campers in every community across the Midwest.

Levees and dams don't hold up forever. Our state, county, and local roads and streets are in desperate need of upgrading. There's no money for maintaining all of these essential public fixtures. Local, state, and national organizations have lacked adequate means to assist the rash of victims devastated by natural disasters. Where have all our tax dollars gone?

People have been forced to prioritize and to realize that each one of us has to do our part to conserve our natural resources, by cutting down on wasteful spending and maintaining what we already have"¦by going green! A great deal of the responsibility lies with our elected officials.

Conversations in local coffee shops and on the street have been leaning toward people suggesting that they should have been carpooling long ago, leaving their gas guzzling 4X4s and luxury vehicles in the garage, or by walking to work or to shop. Many are reevaluating their free time and annual vacation getaways, sticking closer to home.

Get that dusty 10-speed Huffy or Schwin bicycle out of the shed or the attic and give that a spin! Good for your body and for the economy! Get ‘er done! My interest was piqued while chatting with my friend Kateri Mueller over a morning tea at the Blue Heron recently. (Eat and drink organic at the Heron!)

Kateri took me to visit a bicycle co-op that her daughter Katie is associated with. On the corner at 129 East Third, we entered a large shop overflowing with used bikes and parts. Mike Neil stood behind a counter, a likable young man who seemed enthusiastic and very knowledgeable as he explained the features of the Down & Dirty Bike Club.

The non-profit corporation is dedicated to encouraging people to be less wasteful and to cut back on their use of fossil fuels. They advise us to utilize what we already have. Buying new only encourages the manufacturing of excessive amounts. Those old bikes can be fixed and maintained with little expense and effort. For $10 a month, a member can come in and have access to all of their tools, and receive a discount on parts. They offer individual bicycle repair and maintenance lessons. As in the past, community bicycles can be checked out for use, as well.

A braided head rose from beneath a bike and Alex appeared, smiling broadly. These guys are obviously optimistic about their venture in Winona. It's ideal for folks of all ages to come together to support alternative, environmentally friendly means of transportation.

It's just what this ravaged, tired earth needs - and many more young people like Katie, Mike and Alex, to raise awareness and to offer a means to conserve.

Lavish homes and huge RVs for sale all over God's country are often the result of people spending far beyond their means. Foreclosures and delinquent loan payments have stifled the housing industry and the economy.

Through all of these catastrophes, one thing all "victims" have been forced to do is to evaluate their lifestyles and to prioritize, keeping in mind and in heart what they've come to realize is most important in their lives and for future generations.

A membership to the Down & Dirty Bike Club could be a great place to start!

Janet Burns has resided in the heart of Winona County all her life. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.  


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