The latest edition of the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) rolled through St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 2.
It was the first year for the Gateway City to join the fun that’s been happening around the world since the summer of 2004. There wasn’t a whole lot of nudity, though, at least not by comparison to many of the WNBR rides which have taken place in several dozen cities in 20 countries on six continents.
But such is the evolution of a protest movement. St. Louisans were testing the water – and law enforcement – with the ride. Next year? I’m guessing it will grow, assuming the event coordinators make it a recurring ride.
In other places, hundreds of full-on nekkid riders rail against the machine. They paint their bodies with artistic musings and general messages of protest, not unlike one St. Louisan who’s back was painted in vivid green lettering, saying: My clothing $ went for fuel.
The Idea Behind World Naked Bike Ride
The point of it all, based on the WNBR Web site is to say: Stop the indecent exposure of human beings to automotive emissions; stop the oil dependency.
The ride also voices solidarity among cyclists, who ride city streets clogged with vehicles emitting nauseating toxins, standing up and saying “We’re here, and deserve to be. Share the road; share the air.”
As a bike commuter, I dig that a statement is being made. As an observer of society, here are my questions:
Can this naked statement – the larger WNBR movement – make a positive impact? Can something this sensational close the gap between so-called “liberal, bleeding-heart, do-nothing hippies” and so-called “self-absorbed, mind-on-my-money and hand-on-my-bible conservatives” and effect real change?
History shows that protests seem to be easily written off by the powers that be, and by status-quo society. Protesters are often deemed crazies not to be taken seriously – mere noisy nuisances — and their messages fall on ears distracted by the rustle of cash bound for profiteers’ pockets.
ExxonMobil and Oil Companies Reap Record Profits
Last week ExxonMobil reported a record-setting $11.7B in second-quarter profits, which was less than the oil company had estimated, according to Bloomberg.com. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil producer, reached $11.6B in 2Q profit. All while consumers suffer record prices for fuel at the pump – and the domino effect the price of oil has on other costs of living.
The same Aug. 1 Bloomberg article cited ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as saying ExxonMobil spends $52 million a day to search for new oil fields to drill.
So, back to the questions: Can naked bike riding be the statement the Earth needs to stop the current push for off-shore oil drilling and the like, and close the gap between the opposing viewpoints on these issues?
Or is naked bike riding just another bold cry that will be lost on those voting citizens who prefer to fill 15-miles-per-gallon SUVs while blindly reciting the mantra “America is the best country on Earth, America is the best country on Earth, America is the best country on Earth…” while clicking their heels together, trying to dream themselves back to the safe, fuzzy-warm humanity of Dorothy’s Kansas of perfection?
Actions are necessary, no doubt, as dreaming accomplishes little. But how much is accomplished if the opposing ends of the spectrum refuse to communicate understandable terms that draw us all — with solutions — into common ground?
If conservatives are unlikely to respect and appreciate the collective perspective of clothes-free cyclists, then is anything gained by protesting oil dependency in the buff?
Photo caption: World Naked Bike Ride in London (2007 )