Bicycles and degrowth occupied a lot of people’s minds this summer as they encountered the first Degrowth Ecotopia Biketour which traveled a distance of over 3,500km from Barcelona to Venice to arrive in time for the 3rd International Degrowth conference in Venice (18-23rd September 2012).
The Biketour, which was supported by Research and Degrowth in Barcelona, provided a space for over 120 people from all over the world to come together (overland) and organise themselves non-hierarchically, it linked over 40 projects, campaigns and groups which relate to environmental and social justice, and provided a hub to reflect on the growing degrowth network.
After a giant critical mass in Barcelona (6th July) and a visit to bike workshop “biciclot” the tour began at Can Masdeu in Barcelona with a full day of workshops and activities about degrowth and anticapitalism, before another critical mass in defense of the Collserola mountain and against Eurovegas.
The movie ECOTOPIA 2012 by daniel torrico.
Living in a nomadic cycle group with sustained numbers of over 30 is quite challenging but it also provided an opportunity to take a critical approach to organising. Over the two and a half month tour, and with each new face, the way we organised evolved. We held regular circles (assembleas) using consensus decision making processes and shared all of our daily tasks such as carrying the trailers, checking out the route and cooking delicious local food. It was also fertile ground for learning lots of new things from how to cook with (and make) a rocket stove to how to make drum rhythms with bicycles. For more about what we learned and some beautiful photos see the slide show.
Click here to see a selection of our photos from the biketour without text.
Gaining an appreciation of our needs as a collective was really interesting, especially in relation to degrowth. Cycling can be a low impact lifestyle, you are moving by muscle power alone, you only carry what you really need and can take the time to make meaningful connections along the way. We had no motorised support, sharing the load of our communal things on our bikes. We also took care to find local, bio food wherever possible, skipped lots of food and all of our communal meals were vegan. Our daily infrastructure was really simple, we slept in tents, under the stars or spaces kindly provided by hosts along the way, always taking care to be near a water source and small pieces of wood for the stove. When we think of degrowth we often focus on social organising and infrastructure and the biketour was a great place to understand the basic needs we have an how we can meet them in a low impact way.
As well as what we learned as a group we also visited over 40 projects, struggles and collectives along the way and shared stories and ideas, helping out when we could. We visited; permaculture farms, the No TAV action camp, bicycle workshops, critical masses, squats, local environmental and degrowth groups, alternative schools, eco-construction projects and places which encourage traditional crafts (for more information about where we went see the day-by-day route and projects page). People were very generous with their time and energy, helping to introduce us to their projects and inspire us to create more projects like these in the future. While degrowth is not always a term people identify with, all of these projects form a part of the move towards a more sustainable future and the biketour helped to connect these places and strengthen the network across Catalunya, France and Italy.
We can’t wait for the next biketour which is going to be organised from Berlin. To keep up to date you can join the Ecotopia Biketour mailing list here.
Contribution by Alice O’Rourke.