Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Perpetually Provisional Polluting SITPS

Celebrate! Bogotá just extended the life of the city 'Provisional' Integrated System of Public Transit (SITP) for yet another year. Just translate 'provisional' as 'perpetual' and you'll have a better understading of the situation.
A SITP bus disappears
in its own smoke.

As terribly polluting as are many of Bogotá's cars, buses, trucks and factories, the provisional SITPs stand out as extraordinarily poisonous. It's hard to comprehend how a capital city supposedly concerned about health and air quality chooses to not only tolerate vehicles like these, but happily supplies them with subsidized diesel with which to poison all of us.

One might even ask why, someplace which is supposedly defending the public by cracking down on such terrible crimes as farejumping and the possession of small amounts of drugs, turns a blind eye to the violations of pollution laws which cause thousands of premature deaths in Bogotá alone.

A small start to improving things would be to retire the worst of the 'rolling chimneys' - if the city is willing to give public health more importance than private profits.
Quite a blast of smoke!

Pity the poor driver alongside this (non-provisional) SITP bus, and the suffering bicyclist behind taking pictures.
In Bogotá, green does not mean clean.

Provisional perpetual pollution.

A view of grey Bogotá from its Eastern Hills.

I cut out the high-rise buildings to show the bus's pollution in its full glory.

Wow! A factory couldn't be smokier than this bus!

Pity the poor cycllist stuck behind this (normal) SITP bus.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Cemetery's Art of Discord

The empty mausoleums along 26th Street, with their stencils commemorating the conflict's victims.
Does anybody notice? Drivers pass the
mausoleums decorated by Gonzalez.
You've probably noticed them while traveling east along Calle 26 past the Central Cemetery: the mausoleums decorated with stenciled images of men carrying stretchers and corpses representing victims of Colombia's violence.

The thousands of images are the work of artists Beatriz Gonzalez and a partner and provide a

haunting reminder of Colombia's violence, in particular the victims of the 1948 Bogotazo riots...for those who notice them. My impression is that few do, (despite enforced viewing from Calle 26's chronic traffic jams), and even fewer pay attention.

Gonzalez is now fighting to preserve the artwork in the face of city plans to create a park in the old block of the Central Cemetery.

The stencils of the discord.
Historical memory is important. But so is greeen space, particularly in a poor neighborhood with little of it. A football pitch, a skateboard park and a basketball court would give the youths of the troubled Santa Fe neighborhood behind the cemetery an alternative to drugs and gangs. Some young rappers from Santa Fe whom I knew used to tell me almost routinely about their friends getting stabbed and even murdered. I understand that today one of those same rappers is dead and another is an addict.

And, if the city does the sensible thing by using part of the land for recreation while preserving one of the mausoleums, with explanatory information, lots more people would see the memorial and we might have fewer murders to lament.

The situation strikes me as absurd. But not nearly as absurd as the land across the street and the other a few blocks west by the Jaime Garzon mural, which could be nice public parks if the city did not fence them off with barbed wire. Go figger.

Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Better Late than Never for Renewable Energies

Checking out a windmill's blades.
Colombia has a tiny but growing and enthusiastic renewable energy sector. They were on display this week at an exhibition at the Colombian Engineers Association, in La Candelaria.

Colombia's renewable energy sector is tiny: wind and solar combined total only 0.1% of the energy supply, altho 86% of Colombia's electricity does come from relatively clean hydroelectric power. But renewables are growing, in part thanks to new regulations, including one enabling generators to hook up to the grid and even to sell their surplus energy there. And next January the government plans to receive offers to purchase ten-year contracts for renewable energy.

The country also has some large potential projects, including one planned for land along the
Deinpro's plans for a solar farm
along the Magdalena River.
Magdalena river by the Bogotá-based Deinpro Global. A company official told me the project is to power some 1.5 million homes, but that they still need financing - which might come from the Andean Development Corporation or the Chinese Development Bank.

Another company, which works with solar panel and wind projects, told me that Colombia's best winds are in coastal regions, including the La Guajira peninsula, where farms are already operating and another large one is underway.

A solar panel model.
Some Colombian companies are also benefiting from the international market in climate change bonds, which pay companies for installing renewable energy generation. The money comes from climate change gas-generating industries in industrialized nations which want to compensate their pollution.

However, this enthusiasm shouldn't distract from the fact that Colombia is an important producer of coal and petroleum and plans to produce as much fossil fuel as it can during the next years. Altho almost all of those fossil fuels are burned overseas, they pollute the air and alter the climate of the whole planet - including Colombia's.

And to give just one example of the dire straits the planet is in, airline travel is expected to keep growing by an incredible 7 or 8 percent annually, and CO2 generated at high altitude produces much more potent cliate chaging effects. And Bogotá recently expanded its airport - and plans to build a second airport.

And lots of renewables won't do much good for the planet unless they actually replace polluting energies, instead of being additions to them.

The expo.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Of Fracking and Bullfighting

Is this Colombian animals' biggest problem? A Colombian bullfighter at work
this February in Bogotá's Santamaria Plaza.
Recently, there's been lots of critism to two activites in Colombia: fracking and bullfighting.

Both are questionable for different reasons. Fracking, which releases hydrocarbons by fracturing underground rock formations, can pollute water resources and cause minor earthquakes, according to critics.

And bullfighting seems like a holdover from the Dark Ages, which should have died out along with
witch burning and gladiator battles. Bullfighting is also cruel. And, making entertainmet out of killing an animal can only bring out the worst in spectators.

Nothing else to protest? Marching against
bullfighting in downtown Bogotá.
In recent months, fracking's opponents have lobbied, filed lawsuits and written opinion pieces calling for the procedure to be banned in Colombia.

And bullfighting's opponents have for years battled - futilely - in the streets, courtrooms and Congress to have the practice prohibited.

But fracking and bullfighting are only tips of the iceberg of the larger phenomena of the fossil fuel industry and animal mistreatment. Yes, fracking causes environmental damage, but so do the conventional oil and coal industries: they trigger deforestation, drive climate change, pollute the seas and poison the air when burnt. The oil shipping industry, like all shipping, damages marine life with noise, by transporting exotic animals and by collisions with marine mammals. In short, the fossil fuel industry's impacts are innumerable, and fracking is just a tiny part of that.

Is it fracking, or just oil? A  seabird dirtied by
spilled oil doesn't care where that oil came from.
And if bullfighting is cruel, practices such as cockfighting and factory farming are much crueler and affect many more animals.

But fracking, like GMOs, gets attacked because it seems new, strange and sinister.

And bullfighting represents many things despised by its leftist opponents: the wealthy, Mayor Peñalosa and the traditional landowning class.

And while both fracking and bullfighting are very questionable activities, the danger is that by obsessing with these two narrow issues, activists ignore the wider problems. And, if they actually win these two battles, they may feel that the larger battle is won and they can cease fighting.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Of the Bronx and Drug Prohibition

Winder, 28, lived as a crack addict in El Bronx for 4 years.
Winder starting smoking pot at age 8, got kicked out of his home by his evangelical father as a young teen, spent four years in prison, and then fled from his hometown of Huila to Bogotá, where he ended up living for four years in El Bronx, the notorious central Bogotá street full of crack addicts, thieves and prostitutes.

But altho Winder, now 28, who ultimately sought help in a government rehabilitation program, lost family and years of his life to drugs, he opposes drug prohibitionist policies.

"It's just a game to arrest the small guys," he argues. "The big fish always get away."
Reproduction of Bronx rooms
with gambling machines.

And in prison, he recalls, "there were more drugs than ever. Just more expensive."

I met Winder in the Museo Nacional, where he was recalling his time in El Bronx to museum guests who came to see a scale model of the street, whose real version was demolished about two years ago.

Recyclers' carts in El Bronx.
Colombia's new conservative President Ivan Duque hopes to reduce illegal drugs' damage by intensifying drug prohibitionism. However, as Linder's story seems to show, harsh punishment might not do much to reduce drug use, but does turn victims like him into criminals. Winder entered and left prison as a drug abuser. It was only afterward, when he 'hit bottom' that desperation motivated him to change his life. In the meantime, society spent a lot of money incarcerating him.

Winder also complained that few of the Bronx's residents recieved support and rehabilitation. A prohibitionist policy which treats drug abuse as a crime instead of a medical condition only makes it more difficult to provide assistance.

On my home from the museum, I passed some police searching a group of young men on a plaza near
´What's that in your pocket?' Cops search young
men on Plaza Santader in central Bogotá.
the Gold Museum. The stop and searches which convert so many youth into criminals don't seem to do much to control drugs, but are a tremendous tool for cops to squeeze bribes out of people.

Later on, I played basketball in a park in La Candelaria where troubled kids called nieros sit in the stands smoking and drinking dubious substances. Drug prohibitionism doesn't seem to have done much to cut off their supplies.

Another ex-Bronx resident, now in rehabilitation.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bogotá's Newest Street Art Street

Bogotá's newest graffiti street runs between the Santamaria bullfighting plaza and the Colegio de Cundinamarca. But if you look for it, don't get confused: It's not the primary street, with the hotel and fancy restaurants, but the obscure one right above it, with the parking lots and cultural center.

The street was painted in the past weeks by local artists sponsored by the cultural center and street art organizations. My favorite of the works is a send up of bullfighting, with the tables turned and the bullfighter stabbing the bull.

Inside the cultural center, a
portrait of an indigenous man.
It's unfortunate that, it being such an obscure street, not many people will ever see this art. But we often pass thru the street during are bike tours, which include lots of graffiti.

The cultural center's two dogs.

An indigenous guardsman.

The bull's revenge on the bullfighter.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours