Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

London to Zurich

When my sister set off to ride from London to Cape Town she broke down in Ashford, a friend Chris blew his engine on his way to the Sahara in Reims, and on a family holiday many years ago our car croaked in Basel on our way to Italy. Those 3 cities have been psychological landmarks of success for me, and I’ve now passed the last of them to arrive at Binz in Zurich.

Paris is a city I know well so it’s hard to see it with objective eyes. Dinner with friends catching up and remembering old adventures, and the next day a fantastic bike ride from the north of the city to the south (which is almost all downhill so more of a bike roll than a bike ride). On the way I discovered that Paris has invested heavily in a public bicycle rental scheme. The bikes and the automated stands are all over town, and largely empty because the bikes are being used. I noticed that Parisians like to check the bikes for a few common faults learnt from experience before committing to a bike for their journey, a sure sign of how familiar with the scheme.
I also saw a couple of antipollution patrols. They check vehicles for excessive emissions, but mainly they are looking out for bikes with loud exhausts, which are very fashionable in Paris and reverberates off the 7 storey Husmanian buildings that line the boulevards.

On the motorway the bus is so slow. Any hill decimates the speed. Perhaps a blocked filter, but I don’t think so. It’s just old and gutless, and loud. None the less I am starting to warm to the bus. It’s been such a job of work to get it ready I haven’t really grown any affection for it yet, but that’s coming.

In France I saw a few wind generators, and on the border a hydro electric project run by EDF (who, lets not forget are French so why are they sponsoring Team GB in the Olympics? And aping Ecotricity’s logo in the process). My friends place didn’t have any low energy bulbs cos they said they didn’t like the light colour and there doesn’t seem to be the same awareness of green issues as there is in the UK, however a much higher percentage of their power is generated from Nuclear which is low carbon (albeit high in Uranium). Industrialised agriculture is the most visible sign of the countries carbon footprint, with endless rolling fields to stare at as I chug along at 50mph.

Germany was great and I scored my first supply of 100litres of oil from the filling station, but the country whizzed past in a brief flash of perfection, only surpassed by the perfection of Switzerland. So tidy and rectilinear, clearly marked bus lanes and sequenced traffic lights. Away from the rectitude of the main street I am now staying a couple of days at Binz, a disused factory being squatted by 40 or so artists/activists/ordinary people that have created a visually amazing community devoid of right angles.

Reclaiming seems to be all pervasive here and aside from reclaiming an abandoned building, the warehouse is full of the sort of stuff I’d collect if I had the space, junk that’s been found in the street or picked up for next to nothing because no one else wants it with a new purpose in mind. From old timber, 1970’s hifi’s, tractors, 1960 factory machinery, office furniture, 16 inch Mercedes wheel rims which are tragically too skinny for my tires (I’m still looking).

Private rooms are built into the upper spaces as perched and jutting aerial constructions that look as precarious and simultaneously inviting as children’s tree houses. Timo who invited me has been here since they first squatted the site 3 years ago, as have most of the residents. There are a number of kitchens and communities of 6-10 people around each kitchen. There are no drugs or drunks, and nothing is left locked. The ownership of the building has just passed back to the state from the local council who is being more aggressive with the squatters and has demanded 20,000CHF as a deposit. The group is due to pay it on Monday, with 700kg of 5cent coins.

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