“If we make plans for a year, let's plant rice. If we make plans for ten years, let's plant a whole forest. If we make plans for a hundred years, let's prepare the people”… (and let's plant bamboo) Ancient Chinese proverb.
BAMBAS is a social, economic and environmental project that seeks to propagate bamboo bicycles community workshops, with the main purpose of establishing collaborative networks to impulse the potential of the social, economic and intellectual heritage of diverse groups of people and communities. We chose the bicycle as the main motor of our project, because it’s a vehicle of transformation in the relation between humans and their natural and social atmosphere. We chose the use of bamboo because it represents a sustainable, renewable and accessible material. There have been many successful experiences throughout the world and throughout different historical periods, which have proven that both the use of the bicycle and the use of bamboo offer an important potential to improve the quality of life of different societies and individuals.
ABOUT THE BICYCLE
One of the reasons for which the bicycle represents such an efficient transportation option is because it facilitates cardiovascular exercise, which brings benefits to the heart and to the brain, liberating endorphins that reduce physical pain, improve physical and mental performance, and relax the nervous system, making us feel satisfaction. Another reason to consider the bicycle as an efficient and convenient transportation option is that it represents a real and direct impact on ones budget. Changing the use of the car or public transportation for the use of a bicycle significantly reduces the amount of money spent in the use and or maintenance of another type of transportation.[From Elly Blue. Bicieconomía. Cómo movernos en bicicleta mejorará la economía (si nos lo permitimos). México: Bicitekas / Camina haz ciudad, 2013,7.] A recent study in Baltimore revealed that the construction of infrastructure for bicycles requires more human labor than the construction of streets and highways. Even though constructing bicycles lanes is cheaper than constructing roads for cars, more money is invested in paying human labor for the construction of bicycle lanes, which is convenient for the local economy. [From Elly Blue. Bicieconomía. Cómo movernos en bicicleta mejorará la economía (si nos lo permitimos). México: Bicitekas / Camina haz ciudad, 2013, 20]. Other studies performed in Uganda, Tanzania and Sri Lanka measured the impact of three different projects regarding the promotion and encouragement of the use of bicycles. The results reflected that in Uganda, the bikers saved two hours in their daily transportation; in Tanzania there was an increment of 55% in the family income, and in Sri Lanka, after the tsunami of 2004, the bicycle became the main type of transportation for 88% of the population. [From Bycycle Potential. “An Analysis of the Huge Unnoticed Potential Increased Bicycle Density has in Accelerating Rural Growth in India” [en línea]. En Bycycle Potential (2009). [Consulta: 24 de marzo, 2016]
WHAT BICYCLE PRODUCTION IMPLIES
It is commonly thought that the use of bicycles made out of metal materials represents an environmental benefit. Nonetheless, the production of metals represents a negative environmental impact. The extraction of the minerals used for the creation of one metallic bicycle frame can generate approximately 5 kg of CO2, without counting its process of production and transportation. [From Kat Austen. “Examining the lifecycle of a bike – and its green credentials” [en línea]. En The Guardian (15 de marzo, 2012). [Consulta: 24 de marzo, 2016] For many years, bicycles have served as an effective response towards environmental devastation and mobility problems. Now, the global tendencies suggest that the demand for bicycles will continue to increase over the next years, and its environmental impact will increase. Regarding this, we consider it is fundamental to put in practice alternative bicycle construction techniques, for example using bamboo as the main material.
The use of bamboo as raw material brings benefits to the natural and social environment. The construction of bicycles with bamboo reduces to a minimum the environmental impact of this process. This is due to the sustainable and renewable properties of this plant. It is also geographically accessible and easy to obtain and use, which means that bamboo is a naturally democratic material.
The first bamboo bicycle to ever be constructed was during half way through the industrial revolution. Ever since, there have been different innovations of this type of artifact throughout the world. The actual experiences of bamboo bicycle construction have developed interesting and innovative management models. We consider they can be categorized as follows:
● Industrial model: serial production at a private initiative factory.
● Social businesses: serial production at communitary factories with a social development purpose.
● Craft model: small scale production without an employer-employee relation.
● Auto-construction clubs: private inititatives that offer bicycle auto-construction classes.
All of these models offer social and economic contributions, and have served as inspirations to us to design our own model of integral management.
In 2012, we were distant from bamboo. Our first contact with it was at a research trip we did in the mountains of the Mexican state of Veracruz. From that experience we were interested in bamboo, and continued exploring its possible applications. That is how we came upon the bamboo bicycle, and there we saw an opportunity to start a social and environmentally responsible livelihood project. After a year of research and performance of experiments, we were able to construct a bicycle frame made out of bamboo; it was safe and trustworthy for riding. From then on, we started a very simple line of production in the small patio of an apartment in the center of México City. We exclusively focused in the design, production and sale of bamboo bicycles. We were two members, and we could manufacture approximately one bike every two months. Gaining time and experience, we learned, improved and grew. We realized that the construction of bamboo bicycles was not only a source of income, but it had also a lot of potential for social transformation.
We try to generate a model of integral management that has a minimum environmental impact, with fair, just, human and worthy economic and labor relations. In this way, we contribute to the local and national commerce. On the other hand, we have become conscious that the global market and industry have converted the bicycles into a luxury product. Through this project, we try to reclaim its initial focus, and think about the bicycle as a democratic instrument for daily mobility. Besides, the use of bamboo facilitates us to give a new scope to our project, where bamboo bicycles represent a tool for sustainable social transformation. We have configured a process of production of easy handling and accessibility in its materials and tools that can be reproduced in any place and context where the interest of implementing the project exists.
THE PROJECT´S WORKSHOPS
● Self-construction workshop : This course offers the necessary knowledge, tools and materials to construct a bamboo bicycle. It is open for everyone; previous knowledge or abilities are not needed. The main purpose is to reconnect people with the potential of their bodies through self-construction and the use of an autonomous way of transportation.
● Propagative workshop : This is a training course designed for communities that are interested in forming a worthy and pleasurable way of subsistence that improves their quality of life. Its objective is to democratize the knowledge, techniques and means of production. Therefore it grants the necessary capacity to be able to obtain the knowledge, abilities, and use of tools and raw material to create, administrate and maintain a community workshop.
● Community workshop : This is an established shed where the design, manufacture and commerce of bamboo bicycles takes place. It is also a space for self-employment, learning and experiment, which is created and supported in a collective way. It is meant for people to explore their creative potential. Information is considered a common good, and the technologies are offered in a free and affordable way. The purpose is to generate an economic collective benefit with an integral social impact for the community where it is implemented and for the network that embraces it.
The transverse axis of this project supports itself in a rhizomatic philosophy [from Gilles Deleuze, Rizoma: introducción [en línea]. En Spanish Theory (marzo, 1977). [Consulta: 24 de marzo, 2016] ], which proposes an epistemic model that does not act in a pyramidal, hierarchical structure, but in the form of a rhizome composed by nodes inter-related in an autonomous and independent manner. Each node influences and provides to the set, regardless of its role in the system. This rhizomatic model implies that each core, each community workshop, can function in an autonomous way, in support and in a collaborative net with other workshops. This model demands an arduous and committed work that equilibrates individual and collective manners. This rhizomatic model functions in such a way that all the different community workshops dedicated to the construction of bamboo bicycles can share experiences, knowledge, materials and technologies, in order to strengthen the rhizomatic system as a whole. The different bamboo bicycles constructed in different community workshops generate income for the local community and for the net as a whole - for it to continue spreading and growing. In this way, each community workshop is able to meet local demand and collaborate to boost large scale projects. This collaborative net between community workshops demands productive and economic relations that in part form solidarity and non-competition. It requires collective work efforts in order to generate collective benefits. It is about collecting and adding up strengths in the face of a global situation that tends to individualization, confrontation and competition.
THE ETHICAL CONTRACT
We aim for this project to be a crosscurrent effort which differs from the economic and labor forms that are commonly practiced nowadays. For this to happen, we need much more than good intentions; our project requires a deep commitment. It is essential to strengthen the communication with ourselves between others, to act in a responsible manner over our actions and to be consistent with our ideology, discourse and discipline. It is important to keep present the human side of the project cultivating and the psychological and emotional strength of the team, and anyone interested in joining. We follow the idea that states that only in worthy working environments can people exercise the level of commitment that this type of project requires. In this sense, we have elaborated an ethical contract. The idea is to explain and remind the members of the project that they need to be in constant self review and exercise a self-critical attitude towards the following values: discipline, constancy and punctuality, a clean and ordered work space, direct, timely and assertive communication, honesty, self-knowledge regarding abilities and limitations, willingness to learn and share acquired knowledge, humility, adaptability and openness to change among other aspects. This is not a commandments imposition, but a list of the principles that have been collectively constructed; these can be changed and adapted to the different situations presented everyday in our more subtle acts and our most intimate relations.
EXPERIENCE IN THE NET
In September of 2015, one of the members of Bambas had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to impart self-construction workshops in the location of Ciudad Colon, in the Mora municipality. The workshops took place at a project called Club House, which promotes digital culture and self-construction among local youth. The result was the construction of two bicycles; the young participants of Club House kept one, and the other was given to the most outstanding athlete of the community. The workshop took place in the main public plaza of Ciudad Colón. Many people of different ages attended. They were interested in learning about new ways to exploit and use their abilities. Local and clean raw material was used. The bamboo they used had been harvested in an area a few hours away from Ciudad Colón, and the mechanic pieces were mostly recycled or obtained at a low cost. The trip in Costa Rica also offered an opportunity to give a self-construction workshop at the Universidad de Costa Rica in the school of architecture. From this experience, we learned that our project is not only needed in Mexico, our country, as we learned that it is applicable and relevant in other countries also. At this moment we are setting up a workshop in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. It will be the first community workshop generated by Bambas under the rhizomatic logic.
SPREADING THE RIZOMA
To create alternative ways of life, relations, work and transport is not a dream - it´s a reality that we are building and propagating through our project, thanks to a collective effort. We want to create other realities for ourselves, for our children and their children. We keep our door and arms open to anyone who shares the idea that this is possible and wants to create it with us. The more people join this crosscurrent, our roots will be stronger and more numerous and fertile may be our shoots.
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