Bicycle, Airships and Things that GO! A sustainability primer


Do the ankle biters know what that means? No.

Do they know the watershed from which the water filling their evening personal pool originates? Certainly not.

Do they know that 90% of the things they own are preloved? Maybe the younger one, but he’d never say.

Do they know that their veg is a little less than perfect or their fruits a bit wonky? No way.

But ask them about their favourite way to get to school and from both you’ll get an enthusiastic ‘BIKE.’ Or jogger pram. Sometimes bus. And before they could speak, trams. Do they know that these forms of transport are better for the environment? No. They just know what they like. And they like the freedom and the speed and seriously the wind on their face. “I like the fresh air, mum.” To inculcate sustainability, or preservation for the future, such a concept needs to be incorporated into their daily lives. They know no other and that they have fun doing it, so much the better.

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Thus, this week’s book is a special one. Bicycles, Airships and Things that GO! weaves a sneaky spy tale set against a futuristic sustainability backdrop. Written by Bernie McAllister, this book follows a family of four bears on an excursion from their eco-village to deliver an LED light suit created by Momma Bear to the Sunnyside Science Museum. Along the way they embark upon various forms of transport: bicycles, air ships, bike buses, high speed trains and ferries. A mischievous pair, Monkey and Toucan, are out to steal Momma Bear’s invention. Will they succeed? Think of it as a triple scoop delight of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that GO!, Thomas Friedman’s Hot Flat and Crowded and Hanna & Barbera’s the Jetsons. It certainly gives a nod to Scarry’s animal anthropomorphism, explanatory captions as well as the loveable Goldbug (here represented by solar hornet). With its display of wind turbines, solar power plants and electrical vehicle charging stations, it resonates with Friedman’s clean technological breakthroughs. And the Jetsons? Well, the future awaits and we have the inspiration and technology now. The story isn’t overtly about sustainability but it’s easy to convey as much or as little as necessary if you are reading to ankle biters as I do.

Source: Press Kit | Kids Future Press

Ankle biter 1 sat intently through an online viewing* of this book. His favourite page features balloon cars. I think it’s because, other than the bikes, it was one of the few tangible things he recognises. “How do they move?” Silence and then “Do the balloons move the cars?” A nascent STEAM wonder on our hands.  He also asked about the wave energy machines. “What is THAT?” I thought they were large ocean snakes. (Are they? *ACK* I had to look it up. Perhaps during later readings, I could talk about biomimicry???  Floating snakes could feasibly inspire wave energy collection, hey?) Given the digital nature of this experience, finding solar hornet was a buzzkill- all pun intended. Rather than the glowing solar entity it should be, solar hornet is a difficult shadow to uncover. As for the story in of itself, it’s agreeable akin to this book about public transport or this book about cross-town adventures. Although when Momma Bear recognises the precariousness of Toucan’s and Monkey’s situation, I expected a tiny act of kindness.

I do adore this book because it provides an opportunity for the ankle biters to envision something different. We can’t expect change- sustainable, resilient, healthy, stimulating, whatever buzzword we want- if we can’t envision alternatives. This book helps depict an urban that I can imagine. I delight in the overflowing bike parking garages, vertical gardens, rooftop gardens, indoor urban farm and most especially the interactive public art installation inspired by this. Building an ankle biter’s budding vocabulary with ‘bus-top garden’ and ‘interactive tiles’? Yes, please. This book is gracious enough to include real world inspirations for each page. As such, there is much that can spark the urban imagination.

Whew. Will you read it? We will, again and again.

*For this review, I was generously given a digital, watermarked copy to review. The opinions here, as always, are my own.


I don’t eat green

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Just when you think you are doing everything right because the ankle biter inhales everything on his plate, he decides to sprout his authority one evening and say “I don’t eat green.” This coming from the mouth who has curated a fine palate for gorgonzola DOP and Cropwell Bishop Nottinghamshire blue. Don’t get me started on the olives (incidentally a briny green). But anyways, there always comes a day when anything resembling a vegetable gets pushed back. All I can do is push the plate back with a smattering of grapes (a translucent green) or blueberries or rice and soy until this green resistance (obviously aimed at Genus vegetablis) subsides.

So this week’s book, not coincidentally, is a celebration of food. Nikki McClure produces a stunning picture book about local farm fresh food sold by its growers. To Market, To Market follows a mother and her son as they shop at their local market day. They visit stalls selling apples, kale, smoked salmon, honey, blueberry turnovers, napkins and cheese. The story ends with a market feast around the home table with friends and family. The beauty of this book is two-fold. Firstly, Nikki McClure’s paper cut imagery is mesmerising. Each product on the list is showcased in one unmistakeable hue. Secondly, the provenance of each product is shared on a separate page: of how salmon is smoked and cloth napkins dyed. Each mini story ends with a gracious thank you.

Anklebiter 1 liked this book because let’s face it, he’s a closet foodie. For as far as I can remember, he does this thing where he picks food off the page, pops it in his mouth and savours it. For this story, he doesn’t understand why there is blueberry filling spilling from the turnovers or what kale is. But he certainly appreciates the  ‘crunchy apples’ and  the ‘goat making cheese.’ Insert fingers scooping up imaginary food.

I like it because it does bring to the forefront the slow food movement and emphasises that food doesn’t simply show up on grocery chain store shelves.There is a celebration linking people with their food (for example: here, here and here). Local is good but local doesn’t necessarily mean family-owned farms or organic. Although I am a bit weary of how local food has somehow transformed itself into ‘artisanal’. When has grown local, invest in farmers, no mangoes don’t grow year round become cult? It should be the norm and not in the hands of the elite. I refer the non-anklebiters to be inspired by David Mas Masumoto (who I heard speak so eloquently in Las Vegas of all things). Knowing where our food originates and eating with the seasons nourishes our own bodies and sustains local livelihoods. Just for awhile, farmers of green things, I’ve supporting the other colours.

[Sources: top, Getty Images, below, To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure]

Spring is a buzzing

Oh, I wish it were true.

But it’s cold here.

To think of springy blossoms and a dawning warmness, I thought I’d share some honeybee love. Honeybees are everything good in this world: honey, pollen, almonds, cherries and a mesmerising hum. Whether, a high five,  FlowHive or BeeBrick, it’s time we give back and provide some symbiotic consideration.

Source: Green&Blue | bee brick – Green&Blue