Add title – reduce heat to low – go for a walk

It’s Saturday morning, and as I warned you, I’m writing a blog post today.

I’m at the bus stop this morning, because I wanted to give my feet a bit of a break*.  They were quite achy and tired when I got back to the house last night, and I decided that, unless they felt perfect this morning, I would take the bus.  I’ve got change in my pocket for the fare**, since I let my bus pass lapse, and I have no intention of renewing it.

I suppose I shouldn’t feel too disappointed about the fact that I needed to cut myself some slack here and there.  It’s my first week of full-on walking, and since Monday I’ve already done about 48 miles.  Since last Friday, it’s quite a bit over 60 miles.  That’s not too bad.

In epic fantasy novels and such, people just up and leave home and start walking to go on some quest—I guess they might ride a horse or pony at least part of the way, sometimes—but you never really hear about them needing to get in shape as they do, and you rarely hear about things like blisters or soreness or other exercise-related troubles.

I guess, to some degree, that’s reasonable, since the people in those fantasy worlds—e.g. the hobbits of Middle Earth—don’t have cars or anything of the sort.  They walk most places they go, so they’re not at all strangers to what we would consider quite long walking in our modern, advanced world.  Hobbits always go barefoot, but then again, so would our own ancestors have done while they hunted and gathered over the course of scores of millennia.

It’s really striking to realize quite how much we’ve fallen off from our more natural tendencies to ambulate.  Humans are built for tremendous endurance in hot conditions like sub-Saharan Africa.  As I understand it, we have more sweat glands per square inch of skin than any other animal known on the planet, extant or extinct.  The bushmen of the Kalahari are said to bring down big game largely by running it to exhaustion—they can’t overtake an antelope on a straight run, maybe, but they can just keep following it until it drops from exhaustion and overheating, and then they can spear it and bring it back to their camp.

Meanwhile, in our more advanced societies, we’ve made ourselves dependent upon devices—like cars—that not only cause issues for the environment, but actually weaken our bodies.  In many parts of America, there simply is no good way to get to a job if you don’t have a car of your own.  Public transportation is only decent in select, quite big, urban areas.

I heard a podcast once in which someone discussed technologies that improve our abilities while strengthening us, and others that improve our “abilities” but weaken us in the long term.  The interviewee compared, for instance, the abacus to the electronic calculator.  Masters of the former tend to have superior arithmetic skills—even without their abacuses—while regular users of the latter tend to suffer atrophy of their basic math abilities.  He also compared the automobile and the bicycle.  A bike definitely allows one to go farther, faster, than one ever would have simply by walking or running***, but it nevertheless keeps a person exercising and in great shape if that person does it very much.

We all know, if we’re paying attention, that going everywhere using cars does not tend to improve our physical conditioning.

If we developed a culture of only using public transportation for longish distances, and walking or biking everywhere in between, I wonder how much the rate of insulin resistance—and therefore of hypertension, of heart disease, of stroke, of cancer, of dementia—would diminish in the developed world.  We could keep the fruits of modern technology; for instance, we’d still have all the medical care that prolongs our average lifespans despite diminishing physical fitness, but we would probably need much less of it.

How much healthier would we be?

It would probably also be good for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Now, it is a fact that humans do emit carbon dioxide as a waste gas, so we’re not carbon-negative or anything.  But very few of us eat food that’s derived from fossil fuels, so the carbon we expel was recently taken from the air (by plants) before it got to us.  I suspect that, just straight food-wise, we’re carbon neutral.  However, the transportation of our foods and various other aspects of it are run largely on fossil fuels, so that’s an issue.  But that’s addressable.

Imagine if we all only used mass transportation when we had far to go.  First of all, of necessity, public transportation would be better by far than it is.  And we’d all be in better shape, and probably would have better mental health, if we walked or biked for “shorter” distances.  Getting people to give up their cars might not be easy, but making it much more expensive to drive—with various taxes, and then frankly, just with the fact that the fuels to run cars will have become rarer and thus more expensive over time—can push people toward alternatives, leading to new equilibria.

I’ve often thought that it would be nice if, in public gyms, we paid people to ride exercise bikes attached to generators, which could then feed the produced power into batteries of one variety of another.  It wouldn’t pay very much, maybe, but imagine if someone who was down on his or her luck could—instead of, for instance, donating plasma—go into a public gym and earn money by biking.  Nowadays, the ambitious pay a lot of money to get exercise into their schedules.  Might they, and others, not do it more if they could be paid?

Well, that’s enough pie in the sky for today.  I hope you all had a nice, if minor, holiday yesterday.  My bus should be here soon, and I’ll be walking back from the train in the afternoon, which should bring this week’s total to about 55 miles, not counting last Sunday.  That’s not too bad, but I’ve got a long way to go…so to speak.

walker on dirt road

*Not that kind of break.

**I ended up accidentally overpaying by 50 cents.

***As long as there are paved roads and/or paths, but then again, you need those for cars, too.  Feet are, in many ways, much more versatile than wheels.

One thought on “Add title – reduce heat to low – go for a walk

  1. I’ve heard that the powers that be are already dithering about how to fund road repairs (and other things🙄), once the switch is made to electric cars and the gas tax- which is nearly 60 cents a gallon state and federal here in Ohio- goes away.

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