Barcelona Connect Article

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From 6-9th July Barcelona becomes the meeting point for this summer's Ecotopia Biketour, which will cycle over 2,000km to Venice on a journey “towards degrowth” - with an aim to challenge unsustainable growth and to visit, help and connect with interesting projects along the way.

Each summer for over 20 years people from different backgrounds and parts of the world have come together to form an eco-mobile do-it-yourself activist community, journeying in critical mass through city streets and country lanes, up mountains and by the sea. This year travels trough Catalunya, southern France and Northern Italy, but over the years Ecotopia Biketour has visited every country in Europe.

Why they do it is pretty simple. For most participants it starts with a love of bikes and an enjoyment of the freedom of a mode of travel which is better for the environment and better for your health. But more cyclists on the road isn’t just good for those who are cycling, it also undermines the increasingly common idea that long distances can only be travelled by planes, expensive high speed trains and other polluting and energy intensive ways. Cycling is a political action in its own right.

As well as this simple action we aim to learn from each other and increase our awareness of the degrowth network by visiting people and places that are involved in political struggles and joining their creative responses. They contribute to these projects and campaigns in whatever way they can, sometimes this means just sharing a meal and discovering what it's all about, sometimes staying for a few days to help out. The stops along the route will include; crazy bike workshops, ecological/permaculture projects, action camps, intentional communities, critical masses, eco-build sites as well as films and events, ending at the International Degrowth Conference in Venice on 19th September.

A key element is having fun and getting to meet people, it's also the perfect time to explore your values, share you skills, reflect and get active. Anyone is welcome to join for a week or more at any point in the adventure, so long as they are happy to get involved and can cycle around 50km per day. All equipment is carried by the group with the aid of trusty bikes and a few trailers. This year there is the added challenge of helping to transport a double bass for the serious bean project, a band who will join for a section just before the Alps! One mad participant is also building a tall (double) bike to add to the mix.

While many people volunteer their time to make it happen, this is no normal tour group, there is no 'leader' and decisions are made by group consensus in facilitated meetings. There is a route, but there is freedom within this for the group to direct itself and this is an important part of the challenge to live and think collectively. Taking responsibility but also trusting in others to help get over those mountains. The aim is to live as sustainably as possible, the food is communal and, while costs are kept low, finances are also managed collectively and are based on what people can afford.

Barcelona is an excellent place to begin as there are so many projects to take inspiration from. After critical mass on 6th July (8.30pm @ Arc du Triomphe) Ecotopia Biketour is being hosted at Can Masdeu, before the first cycle day to Kan Pascual - an amazing collective who make bread and grow all their own vegetables. On the way out of Barcelona they will visit some food co-operatives who grow food in the Llobregat delta, the site of struggle against the monstrous 'EuroVegas'. The next destination is Ca l'afou, an 'eco-industrial post-capitalist colony' before heading to the lovely Can Piella on the way north towards Girona. If you are interested in finding out more about these and lots more projects, or would like to join the biketour visit www.ecotopiabiketour.net/

Sustainable degrowth is about moving away from an economic system based on consumption that often overlooks the real social and environmental values of exchange. Many of our day to day practices favour limitless growth, which is both irrational (as resources are finite), and contributes to social isolation. Rather than a new economic model, it is a tool for opening up discussion. It calls for a reduction in consumption and production , recognising the need for an intelligent use of resources which encourages ecological stability and cooperative relationships.