Taking the Borneo Bicycle Challenge

Rosevan is taking the Borneo Bicycle Challenge, and will be blogging about it on Health In Harmony’s website throughout the fall. Want to do it yourself? It's not too late to take the challenge – register now!

Me on my way to work at the Health In Harmony office during summer. Photo by Michelle Bussard.

Me on my way to work at the Health In Harmony office during summer. Photo by Michelle Bussard.

Every day in October, November, and December, as part of Health In Harmony’s Borneo Bicycle Challenge, I'll ride my bike to work, home, the grocery store, you name it. I’ll do it rain or shine, but mostly rain, because this is Portland and we get 42 inches of rain on average each year. Near our own patches of temperate rainforest, I ride to support a project in a tropical rainforest halfway around the world.

Gearing up in my effective but extremely unflattering rainsuit, I'll remind myself: I am doing this to reduce my own environmental impacts, and in solidarity with the communities around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. They not only get around by bicycle every day, for every purpose, but also - thanks to the efforts of our partner ASRI - contribute to the conservation, reforestation, and stewardship of one of the most biodiverse, and carbon-absorbing, rainforests on the planet.

What’s the impact of one person riding her bike to work? Well, if it were just me, then perhaps not much. But think about it this way: carbon dioxide is directly linked to global warming; driving a motor vehicle accounts for nearly 20% of the average U.S. household’s carbon emissions; for every one gallon of gas, almost 5.5 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the air [1, 2].

So if people across the nation replaced even some of their car trips with bicycling or walking, we’d be kicking a significant portion of our carbon habit.

And what of the solidarity part of it? Why should it matter to me that folks in a country I’ve never been to are also riding their bikes in a downpour twice as bad as the one I’m stuck in?

Truly, it matters because we all breathe the same air and drink the same water. Global health, to me, means not just “medicine and disease prevention around the world, particularly outside of the United States” – the way the phrase seems to be used so often by institutions here – but also, equally, it means “the health of the environment, encompassing the entire globe.”

When I talk “global health,” I’m talking about the health of people, the health of plants, the health of animals and ecosystems and weather patterns. I’m talking about soil and seedlings and mosquitoes, orangutans and infants and old men.

Everyone and everything, pretty much.

Sounds like a lot – but it's what motivates me: the desire for wellbeing for us all. We need the integrated solutions that Health In Harmony promotes and practices; and from Portland to Sukadana, we need to work together across the world to take better care of ourselves, our forests, and our climate. But working together starts with each one of us taking action, trusting that there are others out there doing the same.

So I ride my bike to get around, enjoying the immediacy with which I experience life and the weather. And after I work five days a week to support Health In Harmony, I also give a monthly donation to this wonderful organization. I believe in this work that much. Will you join me? Give it a shot, ride your bike this fall in the Borneo Bicycle Challenge – and consider giving on a monthly basis to Health In Harmony. Remember that you’re not alone. I’m riding too, and so are all the staff at the ASRI clinic, and the men, women, and children in 30 villages around Gunung Palung National Park. Together, we make a difference.

And you know what? Riding a bike is fun. Just try it!

[1] Jones, Christopher M. and Daniel M. Kammen. “Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities.” Environmental Science & Technology 45 (2011): 4088–4095.
[2] McKibben, Bill. “Not So Fast.” The Bill McKibben Reader. Henry Holt & Company, New York (2008): 65.



About Rosevan Vickery | View all posts by Rosevan Vickery

Rosevan is the Administrative Associate at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR.