Denmark is known to be one of the most environmentally friendly
Some of the first land based structures large enough to be clearly
discerned from a high altitude coming into
as our Scandinavian Airlines wide body Airbus A340-300 descends over
the Baltic sea to land at Copenhagen's Kastrup airport,
are the giant wind turbines which punctuate the landscape and the
Kattegat. They're using wind, a non-polluting, renewable
of energy to generate electricity. And later as we stroll around the
Vesterbro district, Copenhagen's historic area in which
and I are staying while she puts the finishing touches to her second
Masters degree with her deans at Roskilde universitet, we notice
something which at first is very unusual for a big city: the air smells
fresh and clean here.
It's quite obvious that with regard to being environmentally friendly,
Denmark has put its money where its mouth is - and it shows. I can tell
from the unusually quiet sounds the motors of the big city buses make
that they're not your typical gas or diesel guzzling polluters. My
guess is they're probably hybrids, or totally battery powered, or even
fueled by natural gas.
Then there are the bicycles. Hundreds of them.
Thousands of them. In Copenhagen the bicycle is an
enormously popular mode of transportation. Everyone rides a bike here.
We even spot a couple just leaving the theatre, he dressed in a tuxedo,
she in a floor length fur coat which she deftly keeps from becoming
entangled in her bike's chain (you can tell she's done this sort of
thing once or twice before ...).
There are bicycles everywhere. They're stacked on double decker
racks at the entrances to the train stations. They're leaning against
the walls of city buildings. They're parked outside stores and
apartments, slotted into curbside bike racks. Suddenly I notice
something else, something even more remarkable than the sheer volume of
people who use bicycles to get around in Copenhagen, additionally
sparing the air from the ravages of pollution.
What I notice is most of the bicycles aren't locked. And those
that are locked, have a simple clip around one wheel. That's all. In
any big city in the United States on the other hand, a long, stout
steel cable is threaded between the spokes of both wheels, then through
the frame of the bicycle, then around a nearby tree or a pole (if
there's no rack) or another bike, and then back around some
other part of the frame. That's because in any big city in the United
States, there's a (unfortunately arguably justified) paranoia that your
bike will get stolen (or worse, that it'll get
dismembered) if you take your eyes off it for one single
moment. Here in Copenhagen, you leave your bike at the side of the
street when you go to work or go shopping. You may lock
it, or you may not. Either way, there's not the slightest doubt
you can trust it will be exactly where you left it when you return to
Denmark, it would seem, has cleaned up the environment, the space in
which we live. That's for sure. The wind turbines which proliferate,
the hybrid buses, and the resulting clean, fresh smelling city air are
eloquent testimony to this, and that's totally awesome. I'm
in how the Danes accomplished this. But tell me: how on Earth did they
clean up the space in which we trust? That's what I
really want to know. That's what I really admire.