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  • Changing Habits

    Changing Habits

    Caio Guatelli for Folha de S. Paulo

    Despite intense protests to steer the course of climate policies, the resolution achieved by negotiators at COP26, which ended last Saturday, to limit global warming was below target. 

    The hindrance for global cooperation around climate goals was the lack of capacity to finance the renewal of environmental preservation policies of poorer nations. Increased flexibility in the carbon market and the setback in plans to reset fossil fuels subsidies show how government actions continue to be insufficient in order to mitigate the impact of human interference in the environment’s stability. 

    Preserve forests, stabilize human consumption and decrease the emission of pollutants – crucial actions to interrupt global warming – are goals for all of us, citizens that rely on the clean water and the clean air that are still left in this world. 

    It is not necessary – nor is there time to – await international or State agreements for the restoration of our environment to occur. The change of habits by society could be the big leap needed to correct the course of our planet, avoiding a state of intense social and economic crisis caused by a severe environmental imbalance.

    As cycling activist and documentary filmmaker, Renata Falzoni stated: “we are still ashamed to sweat, to arrive places on a bike” – a reflection of the perverse investments from the industrial sector that, for decades, dictated “developed” social habits; habits that almost always relied on excessive consumption of natural resources. 

    To push for a reverse path, where society imposes standards to the industry, through a collective movement of changing habits, is vital for the shift in climate policies that governments have not been able to achieve. 

    For various reasons, not everyone can immediately embark on new ecological habits. To eat organic food or reset personal carbon emissions from night to day is practically impossible for the majority of humans. Yet, to those who can, swapping the car for the bike, the elevator for the stairs, or at least avoiding as much as possible everything that moves the oil, mining and pesticide industries is already an remarkable effort to help restore the environment and force governments and industrial sectors to reassess their interests. 

    Choosing electric vehicles (EVs) is an option that can make a difference and it should be a decision made with care. To follow this path with a “clean” environmental conscious, two basic questions should be aligned with the concepts of sustainability. 

    1- Where does the energy that moves the electric motor come from?

    In Brazil, the energy matrix is in its majority renewable, and a bulk of the energy is produced in power plants (this isn’t necessarily a good thing as forest flooding occurs during this process). Moreover, production in thermal plants continues to be high, especially during dry seasons. The most sustainable alternative today would be wind and solar power plants. 

    The safest way to guarantee the supply of clean energy is to have your own generating plant to fuel your vehicle. To the sceptics I say: this is not a utopic idea! There are people paying “zero” to fuel all types of EVs. Installing solar panels on their homes or businesses to charge their electric bikes (or cars) with clean energy is an investment that can pay off in less than 5 years according to 77Sol, a company that offers such services and equipment. 

    For those who prefer to test before buying, ZMatch is a pioneer company that offers the service of sharing EVs that are fuelled exclusively by solar panels. For now, the vehicles are offered only to those that buy investment quotas, but the plan is to have, in as early as 2022, publicly shared electric bike stations – as well as stations of other types of EVs – in strategic locations in some capitals of the country. 

    2- Where does the battery of this EV come from and where does it go?

    For David Noronha, CEO of Energy Source, the only company that recycles lithium ion batteries in Brazil, guaranteeing minimum mining – and maximum reuse and recycle – of metals and battery components is the great challenge for the future of transport and electricity. David conveys that, besides being a pioneer in recycling, Energy Source also holds the patent for the recycling process with zero carbon emission, developed in partnership with UNESP, CNPQ, UFSC and Uni Maringá.


    Technological resources are abundantly available to put our planet back on track. The big question is our willingness (and the willingness of brave companies, like the ones mentioned above) to change our hazardous habits. To quote a group of scientists concerned with the faulty policies from COP26: “Our greatest challenges are not technical; they are social, economic, political and behavioural”. 

    São Paulo, BRASIL . November, 11 of 2021: A man searches for pieces of metal, such as copper and aluminum, at a clandestine landfill. The findings can be sold to the recycling industry. Photo: Caio Guatelli

  • Under Taliban threat, Afghan women cyclists burn their history

    Under Taliban threat, Afghan women cyclists burn their history

    Caio Guatelli for Folha de S. Paulo

    With the fundamentalist group Taliban’s return to power 20 years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, women cyclists eliminate their historical records of the sport. Fearing severe punishment of the Islamic religious law Sharia, which includes death by stoning, the cyclists burned photographs, diplomas, trophies and all their cycling equipment soon after American troops withdrew from the country, less than a month ago. 

    The brutal takeover of Kabul by Taliban rebels on August 15th and the closure of the city’s international airport left cyclist and other athletes, as well as musicians and artists that do not fit the Sharia doctrine, in a vulnerable state. To burn their history and submit to the regime was the only option for those who could not board the chaotic American withdrawal“.

    “Cycling is over in Afghanistan”, mourns a member of the Afghan Cycling Federation. For him, the ban of women in the sport and the restrictions to men – the Taliban prohibited tight clothes and shorts by all individuals – hinders the future of the sport in the country.American activist Shannon Galpin, who works with humanitarian support to Afghan women cyclists for more than a decade andwho, amongst other activities, has obtained sponsorships for the national women cycling team and produced the documentary “Afghan Cycles”, laments the current situation: “these are the first women in this country’s history to ride bikes as a sport and to claim their space in society. Today these young women can no longer identify themselves as cyclists or athletes; otherwise, they become a target of the Taliban regime”.

    Barbarian records against the Afghan people are centuries old. History describes the first ideological slaughters against Afghan tribes during the 13th century by Mongol groups guided by Emperor Genghis Khan. “Genghis Khan notoriously left behind pyramids of human heads during his conquests throughout Afghanistan”, describes Afghan anthropologist Amineh Ahmed in an article for the Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. Since then, atrocities against the Afghan people have not ceased.

    In modern age, bloody territory disputes passed through the hands of various tribal leaders of different wars, almost always financed by international interest – United Kingdom, Russia (and the Soviet Union), China, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia hold their culpability. The Unites States, last nation to abandon its war in Afghanistan, invaded the country in 2001 in search of Osama Bin Laden – leader of Al Qaeda and hidden by the then-recently created Taliban – soon after the 9/11 terror attacks. For 20 years, and throughout the presidency of four presidents (George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden), the US tried to implement democracy in Afghanistan and remove extremist leaders from power. Amidst political disarray and excessive corruption, the democratic regime brought significant behavioural changes, especially for women. The change in the mandatory use of burkas was followed by a series of freedoms, previously banned by Taliban’s Islamic extremism. 

    Access to education, art and sports was news for many afghan generations, and the only reality for the more recent ones born during the American occupation. This all ended in a hearbeat. “The dream ended. We regressed 20 years. As a woman, I do not have the right to leave my home, to study or to work. Women today are obligated to stay locked up in their house. Cycling is illegal under the Taliban regime”, said a cyclist that started in the sport in 2018 and was part of the afghan cycling squad. Another cyclist, who professionally joined the sport 2 years ago, said: “cycling had numerous effects in my lifestyle. It improved my body, my soul and my knowledge.” Her biggest dream, until Taliban’s return, was to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

    Galpin reports that the women cyclists that were able to escape during the US withdrawal had to leave everything behind and take only a handbag with them. “The ones that stayed were obligated to destroy all their history in the sport”. 


    The Afghan women highlighted in the article – and that had their identities preserved for security concerns – as well as all other women cyclists from that country, can benefit from humanitarian support projects, like the one mentioned by activist Shannon Galpin, the Evacuation of Afghan women cyclists.

    Afghan cyclists in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, on April 18, 2014. The place was attacked by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. In 2001, the Taliban blew up Buddha statues (Photo: Shannon Galpin)

  • Paris-Roubaix takes place this weekend and it finally includes women

    Paris-Roubaix takes place this weekend and it finally includes women

    Caio Guatelli for Folha de S. Paulo

    Every year, since 1896, the international cycling community drops everything to watch 150 men compete in the most extraordinary of the one-day “classics”, the French Paris-Roubaix. Known as “Hell from the North” – with its 257.7 km of muddy and cobblestone roads – the race awards the fastest cyclist who completes the stretch that leaves from the surroundings of Paris and arrives in the mythical velodrome of Roubaix.

    Almost the entire world learns, via TV, radio, newspaper or the internet, the name of the winner and the qualities of his pedigree. Normally this bloke will go on to have one of the best salaries – if he didn’t already – in the world of sports. Winners go down in history – Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx, Tom Boonen, Peter Sagan… Year after year, a new him, the man, the star, a godly man to be admired in the world of bicycles. 117 times, a man every single time. There have been 95 of them, and only now we will learn who the best woman is – and there are plenty! How could the world of cycling disdain the potential and gracious female spectacle? A tremendous feminist effort was needed, led by Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos (3x world champion and Olympic gold medallist), for the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes to take place. Different from the male version, the women will start further away from Paris and the total distance will be only 115.6 km. Only? Yes, only (what a sexist question!).  Only a masculinized society to let this happen – 125 years too late and 142 km less for female cyclists, the big stars of Paris-Roubaix 2021!

    Maybe it is because of oversights like this that, on social reflection, we see so many men not accepting to be defeated by women that many times are naturally more capable. Or maybe it turns certain unbelievable sexist abuses into reality, like it happened on September 28th with cyclist Andressa Lustosa, in Palmas (PR).

    Despite the growing enthusiasm of (part of) the public for female bike competition, the inequality between men and women in this sport is still insufferable, in all levels. Female road cycling races are not usually fully televised. Or at least they didn’t use to be – for the first time we will see here in Brazil a female race being transmitted live. Renan

    do Couto and Celso Anderson (yes, two men and no women!) will narrate the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes, that will start at 10h on Saturday on ESPN2. 

    For Nadine Gil, professional German cyclist, “the growth of female cycling has been uncontrollable in the last years, and it continues to gain support of big teams and brands that previously only financed men”. The athlete highlights that, despite the decrease in differences between men and women, it is still disappointing to have to compete shorter races when compared to male races. 

    Even with 142 km less, Paris-Roubaix Femmes promises strong emotions. There will be 17 cobblestone stretches, including the feared Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre, famous for having wrecked arms, backs, legs and wheels of the stallions that passed through there. Differently to the start (which will be in Denain), the finish line will be the same as for the men, at the Roubaix velodrome. 

    The list of favourite female winners is long, and is led by Marianne Vos – the Dutch is at her top physical form and nearly won her fourth road world gold last Saturday. As current world champion, the Italian Elisa Balsamo is a strong and firm contender. Another Italian, Elisa Longo Borghini, has a strong resume – she has won of a few classics, like Strade Bianche (2017). The experienced Annemiek van Vleuten could not be left aside; at the age of 38, the Dutch has won important classics this year, including Ronde van Vlaanderen.

    There is no cobblestone nor man that can hold these women. Bow down, the pathway is all theirs! 



    When: Saturday, October 2

    Distance: 115.6 kilometres

    Cobblestone stretches: 17

    Total length of cobblestone stretches: 29.2 kilometres

    On TV: ESPN2 at 10h


    Male race: Sunday, October 3

    On TV: ESPN2 at 10h