The Streets of Delhi

After checking out the Delhi metro, we wanted to see what life was like above ground. The best way to get around, we were told, was by "Auto" - the ubiquitous green and yellow auto-rickshaws. (I was told NOT to call them 'tuk-tuks' - evidently only foreigners do that. I got the impression it was a colonial thing.)

 Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

The government required, many years ago, that the autos run on compressed natural gas - replacing the ultra-polluting two-stroke engines of the past. I was deeply grateful - Delhi's air is so bad (it now holds the dubious honor of most polluted city in the world), I can't even imagine what it would be like without the CNG 'autos'. 

 Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

There are also auto-rickshaw-buses - basically three-wheeled CNG-powered collective taxis. We took this one on a day trip to Noida:

 Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Another cause for gratitude is the city's amazing greenery - utterly incongruent with the super dirty air. The greenery is actually lush and diverse enough (at least in the neighborhood we stayed in) to support whole troupes of monkeys. 

 Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

 A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

The streets are also filled with bicycles - many of which appear to be working vehicles.

 Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

There is no bicycle infrastructure, however. Bikes just use whatever space they can find. (I even saw bikes on the freeways.)

 Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

 Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Parking is similarly haphazard. We noticed that many of the parked vehicles did double-duty as a bed for the driver.

 Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

An Indian friend told me that John Kenneth Galbraith once described India as 'functioning anarchy' - and I'd have to agree. 

 Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

 Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Despite the chaos, safety doesn't seem to be much of an issue. We didn't see too many helmets. Some motorcycle riders wore helmets - but we never saw a bike helmet. And although maybe half of the motorcyle riders wore helmets, and plenty of them had children on board, we never saw a single child wearing a helmet. We began to wonder if children's helmets were even available in India. (Though it appears that they are available.)

 Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.

Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.

Screening at CMS Vatavaran

 Elliot and Naveen head into the 2015 CMS Vatavaran Festival at the New Delhi Convention Centre

Elliot and Naveen head into the 2015 CMS Vatavaran Festival at the New Delhi Convention Centre

CMS India is a non-profit think tank that runs the annual CMS Vatavaran Festival. They invited us to India to screen Worse Than Poop! at the festival, which was held in the New Delhi Convention Centre. We were put up a block away at the YMCA Tourist Hotel.

India is 11.5 time zones away from California - about as far away as you can get. As long as we spent time outside, we were ok - but on the day of our screening we spent most of our time inside darkened rooms watching movies. I don't recommend this approach to getting over jet-lag, or to enjoying an otherwise lovely film festival. 

Other than the terrible jet-lag, we had a great time. The film was well received, and Elliot is getting very good at public speaking. (We even avoided getting Delhi-belly!) 

 

 Trying to stay warm in the super-chilly screening room at CMS Vatavaran

Trying to stay warm in the super-chilly screening room at CMS Vatavaran

 Elliot answers a question at the CMS Vatavaran screening of Worse Than Poop!

Elliot answers a question at the CMS Vatavaran screening of Worse Than Poop!

Riding the Delhi Metro

Whatever city we visit, Elliot insists on riding the metro. Delhi was no exception - and in fact, New Delhi's underground transit was by far the newest and nicest infrastructure we enjoyed during our entire stay in India.

 Elliot on the metro platform in New Delhi. Clean, shiny & air-conditioned!

Elliot on the metro platform in New Delhi. Clean, shiny & air-conditioned!

That being said - like everything in India, it's different. And crowded. First, you need to buy a token to get on the train - and you can only get a token from a person in a booth at the station from which you are departing. You can't buy a return token - just one-way. So there are long lines to buy tokens at every station. Then, there is another long line to get through the security screen. Or actually, two lines: one for men, and one for women and children.

 Lines to get on the New Delhi metro, stretching into the distance.

Lines to get on the New Delhi metro, stretching into the distance.

 Womens' and mens' security lines for the New Delhi metro.

Womens' and mens' security lines for the New Delhi metro.

Once you are through security and into the station, the platforms are clean and air-conditioned and rival (or beat) anything we have here in the US. The trains are smooth and quiet and air-conditioned. Sometimes, they're not even crowded.

 Elliot makes two new friends on the New Delhi metro.

Elliot makes two new friends on the New Delhi metro.

After one good experience, we decided to ride it again - but this time it happened to be rush hour. And the trains were packed. I mean, really packed.

 Our friend Naveen asking if we're sure we want to do this?

Our friend Naveen asking if we're sure we want to do this?

 Elliot squeezed into a packed car on the New Delhi metro.

Elliot squeezed into a packed car on the New Delhi metro.

I've been riding public transit my whole life and I think this was honestly the most packed in I've ever been. But like most experiences we had in India, the people were quite gracious about it.

 Friendly stranger on the packed New Delhi metro.

Friendly stranger on the packed New Delhi metro.

Next Stop: India

Elliot and I leave Wednesday morning for New Delhi, where Worse Than Poop! will be screening as part of the CMS Vatavaran Festival

It's particularly exciting to be heading to India this week, as the Indian government just released the exciting news of its climate pledges in advance of the COP21 summit. India, the third-largest emitter of CO2, has promised to produce 40% of its energy from renewables, and to reduce its carbon intensity by a third, by 2030.  Which is *really* good news for the planet - and for the people of India.

Since our flights to India will generate approximately 34,000 pounds of CO2, I am looking for an organization working on renewable energy projects in India that can provide an offset. (I will be paying double the rate published by TerraPass). If you know of an organization we should consider, please let me know!

I've wanted to go to India for many, many years, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to do this with Elliot. But I have to admit to being somewhat apprehensive, as there is a phrase that comes up with alarming regularity whenever I speak with someone who has been to India. They tell me that India is "an assault on the senses," and that we will "almost certainly get Delhi belly" (i.e. stomach upset due to any one of a number of probable causes). Maybe it's because I'm a mom - or maybe I'm just getting old - but the thought of being assaulted and getting sick has put something of a damper on my enthusiasm. 

However, an Indian friend will be traveling with us, which is very reassuring. And Elliot is excited at the prospect of seeing elephants and monkeys, and riding the Delhi subway. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, where I will be posting photos from our adventures while we are in India. I'll also post more here once we return.

 

Film festivals galore...

The festival season is heating up. Worse Than Poop! is an official selection at eight film festivals, on every continent except Australia/Oceania, and is under consideration by several more. The next screening will be in New Delhi, at the CMS Vatavaran Environmental Festival - and Elliot and I are going to be there!

Last night I participated in a televised group interview with Jasmina Bojic of the United Nations Association Film Festival and three other participating filmmakers. (My segment on the show starts about 18 minutes in.)

UNA Forum, hosted by Jasmina Bojic, Film Critic/UNAFF Festival Director (seated at right) with (l to r): ADAM SCHELLENBERG/Far From Home ABBY GINZBERG/Soft Vengeance, CHRISTOPHER BEAVER/Racing to Zero, VANESSA WARHEIT/Worse Than Poop! 

Worse Than Poop! will be screening on closing night of the 2015 UNAFF, October 25, and I will be participating in a panel discussion afterwards on climate change. Elliot will also be there to answer questions. 

Also scheduled for October is a screening at Planet in Focus in Toronto. So I made up some movie posters! This is what they look like:


Amsterdam: One Last Train Ride

In addition to cycle paths and canals, Amsterdam boasts an impressive public transit system. Elliot insisted that we try both the trams and the underground metro.

 Elliot waits for a tram in Amsterdam

Elliot waits for a tram in Amsterdam

 Elliot and his dad on the back of a tram in Amsterdam.

Elliot and his dad on the back of a tram in Amsterdam.

 Elliot and his dad enjoy another tram ride in Amsterdam. Note the on-board ticket booth in the back. Trams have both a driver and a separate ticket vendor.

Elliot and his dad enjoy another tram ride in Amsterdam. Note the on-board ticket booth in the back. Trams have both a driver and a separate ticket vendor.

 Elliot was thrilled to find out the city had an underground metro.

Elliot was thrilled to find out the city had an underground metro.

 The train arrives to take us to Schiphol airport - and home.

The train arrives to take us to Schiphol airport - and home.

The Netherlands: Bicycle Mecca

The last stop on our mega-tour of northern Europe was the Netherlands. I'd heard all about the bicycle culture of the Netherlands - but actually experiencing it was something else.

 Bicycle street scene in Deventer, the Netherlands

Bicycle street scene in Deventer, the Netherlands

We visited Amsterdam, and stayed with friends in Deventer  (population 100k, a town that few tourists ever see). In both places, it was clear that bicycles weren't just accepted, or liked- they were the norm. Streets in the Netherlands are, simply put, made for bicycles. There was even one street in Deventer with signs that said, "Bike street. Cars are guests."

 Cycling in Deventer, the Netherlands. Note the complete absence of helmets.

Cycling in Deventer, the Netherlands. Note the complete absence of helmets.

 Deventer "bike street". Sign reads "autos are guests".

Deventer "bike street". Sign reads "autos are guests".

 Bike underpass, Deventer, Netherlands

Bike underpass, Deventer, Netherlands

The Dutch people are incredibly calm, and relaxed - and we started to think it might be because most of them get around by bicycle. After all, when I ride my bike, I feel good. And when I ride my bike in a place where I'm not scared of getting hit by cars, I feel even better. My blood pressure goes down, my endorphins go up, oxygen goes to my brain. I'm smarter, and I'm calmer. 

 Taking a ferry - crowded with bikes!

Taking a ferry - crowded with bikes!

Interestingly, it seems the Dutch haven't always been cycle-centric. A friend forwarded me this short film about how the Dutch actually got their cycle paths:

How did the Dutch get this network of bicycle paths? Read more: http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/how-the-dutch-got-their-cycling-infrastructure/ Click CC for subtitles in Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish or Turkish.

Today, everyone rides in the Netherlands - not just young people. The entire country seems to fully embody the 8-to-80 principle: everyone from the age of 8 to 80 can get around safely and enjoyably. The Netherlands also has a lot of electric bikes. We borrowed some e-bikes from our friends' parents, and they were fantastic.

 A music event in the park, Deventer, Netherlands. Average age of attendees: approx. 60

A music event in the park, Deventer, Netherlands. Average age of attendees: approx. 60

Our friends took Elliot to the town square one day, where a local group was sharing old-fashioned Dutch toys with local children. Elliot particularly enjoyed the tiny bike.

 Elliot rides a tiny bike. Deventer, Netherlands.

Elliot rides a tiny bike. Deventer, Netherlands.

 Traditional dutch toys delivered to the Deventer town square... via bicycle wagon, naturally.

Traditional dutch toys delivered to the Deventer town square... via bicycle wagon, naturally.

Our friends live about a mile and half from the center of town, and all our trips were made by bicycle. In the downtown, on the pedestrian streets, you aren't allowed to bring bikes - because, um, they would be too congested. With bikes. So they've built a bike station nearby, with two attendants.

 Bike station, Deventer, Netherlands

Bike station, Deventer, Netherlands

Every train station we passed in the Netherlands had a double decker bike rack.

 Double decker bike storage at a Dutch train station. 

Double decker bike storage at a Dutch train station. 

In Amsterdam, we learned that 15,000 bikes need to be fished out of the canals every year.

 Bike parking along canals, Amsteradm

Bike parking along canals, Amsteradm

 Cycle commuter, Amsterdam

Cycle commuter, Amsterdam

Elliot decided that the Netherlands was his favorite place in Europe. He wants to move to Amsterdam.

Rush hour in Amsterdam

Cologne: Multi-Modal Transport

Our next stop was Cologne, to visit my old friend Claudia and her mom. Cologne, too, had gotten a new underground metro since my last visit. Plus a whole lot of other ways to get around.

 Elliot loved Cologne - and its protected bike lanes

Elliot loved Cologne - and its protected bike lanes

 Subway in Cologne

Subway in Cologne

 Signs in the Cologne metro, showing the Cologne "Dom" cathedral overwhelmed by climate chaos. The signs say: "What are you doing for the climate? Riding the bus & train more!"

Signs in the Cologne metro, showing the Cologne "Dom" cathedral overwhelmed by climate chaos. The signs say: "What are you doing for the climate? Riding the bus & train more!"

Rouen: Le TEOR (Bus Rapid Transit)

Way back in the early 1980's, I spent a year living with a family in Rouen, France. They taught me French, and how to drink wine mixed with water, and a thousand other things for which I will always remain deeply grateful. On this trip we made a point to visit my host family, and I got to introduce them to Elliot.

Since the last time I was in Rouen, a few things have changed. For one - they cleaned the cathedral. (It use to be black.)

 Rouen Cathedral - so spanky clean I hardly recognized it!

Rouen Cathedral - so spanky clean I hardly recognized it!

They also installed a metro, and a Bus Rapid Transit system called Le TEOR. We didn't get to ride the metro (Elliot was very disappointed), but we did get to ride the TEOR. 

 Waiting for le TEOR in Rouen with my host family

Waiting for le TEOR in Rouen with my host family

 Raised platforms means fast level boarding, even for my host mom (in her 70s, with a bad knee).

Raised platforms means fast level boarding, even for my host mom (in her 70s, with a bad knee).

 On board Le TEOR in Rouen

On board Le TEOR in Rouen

Le TEOR was awesome. Elliot totally approved.

 Elliot gives Rouen's TEOR Bus Rapid Transit the thumbs-up.

Elliot gives Rouen's TEOR Bus Rapid Transit the thumbs-up.

One thing I found interesting: the Rouen metropolitan area has a population density (940 people per square km) which is slightly lower than Palo Alto's. 

 Le TEOR in downtown Rouen

Le TEOR in downtown Rouen

Paris: City of Light, and Awesome Transport

Paris is really not at its best in the summer. It's hot, the Parisians are either on vacation or wishing they were on vacation, and the lines for every tourist attraction are insane. Plus it was grittier than I'd remembered. Truth be told, Elliot wasn't a total fan - but there were a few things he really liked. First, the metro:

 Elliot really loved the Paris Metro.

Elliot really loved the Paris Metro.

 He particularly loved the double-decker RER trains.

He particularly loved the double-decker RER trains.

We were also smitten with the ignognito but - once you figure out what to look for - totally ubiquitous "autolib" electric city cars. Located at curbside stations all over the city, every 100 meters or so. Silent, clean wheels when you want them. So cool.

 Autolib - all-electric city carshare, all over Paris. Elliot approved.

Autolib - all-electric city carshare, all over Paris. Elliot approved.

There were also some random cool things to see:

 Elliot spotted this Twingo, complete with wheelchair on the back

Elliot spotted this Twingo, complete with wheelchair on the back

And one day, we borrowed some bikes and took off for La Villette. 

Bike lanes! In Paris! It was awesome.

 Bike paths the whole way - and the light was incredible.

Bike paths the whole way - and the light was incredible.

At La Villette (the largest science museum in Europe) we visited a bunch of exhibits - including this one, about transportation. It was like instant animation for Worse Than Poop! - you walked up, took your photo, and a machine magically pasted your head onto a transportation device, which then floated by 30 seconds later on a series of screens. All they were missing was the CO2-poop.

 Elliot watches as my head floats by on a double-decker London bus.

Elliot watches as my head floats by on a double-decker London bus.

Europe, part 2: Climate Optimism & the London Transport Museum

 Elliot with Malachi Chadwick, Britain's cheeriest climate activist, in the 10:10 offices

Elliot with Malachi Chadwick, Britain's cheeriest climate activist, in the 10:10 offices

One of our many reasons for visiting London was to meet up with Malachi Chadwick, the Director of "Communications and Climate Optimism" for an NGO called 10:10. If you're not familiar with this cheeky band of earth-saving activists, you're in for a treat. Founded as a spin-off from the riveting docu-drama "The Age of Stupid", their tagline is "Climate Change Sucks - Do Something About It." They're all about solutions, and about engaging people through hope and empowerment, rather than fear. They rock.

We had a great time with Malachi, although we were both sad to have so little time and so much to talk about. Still, it's good to know that there are smart people like him working on the same issues, half a world away. And we'll always have the internet...

 The London Transport Museum - a mecca for transit enthusiasts.

The London Transport Museum - a mecca for transit enthusiasts.

We also visited the amazing London Transport Museum. Housed in the city's former flower market, the museum is a goldmine for transit junkies, packed with information and media materials, and dozens of the actual vehicles used to transport Londoners over the past 150 years. 

 The original omnibus - complete with horse poop!

The original omnibus - complete with horse poop!

We were particularly delighted at this display, which engages kids in figuring out how much horse poop was left on the streets of London before the days of internal combustion and electrification. (Answer: 1000 pounds of dung per day!)

What they didn't include was an assessment of how that relates to the amount of CO2 poop generated by car traffic today. I actually ran the calculations (for San Francisco, not for London), and the answers are pretty shocking. Look for those in a future blog post...

 

The museum did, however, include a plaque with this quotation:

 From the London Transport Museum

From the London Transport Museum


Europe, part 1: London

 Arriving into London

Arriving into London

Our family decided to take a holiday in Europe this summer - requiring a massive carbon splurge (30 tons' worth, in fact) which I double offset at Terrapass.com. The trip is also mitigated in part because Elliot and I are tagging along with his dad on his business trip, and we have limited our flights to the unavoidable transatlantic - all other travel will be by rail. We are visiting 5 countries and staying with friends and family all along the way.

We arrived in London on Friday, and we spent all weekend sightseeing in a frenzied attempt to get over our jetlag. Trains were our main mode of transport, and Elliot was delighted.

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On our way to visit the British Museum (we've been listening to A History of the World in 100 Objects, and reading The Red Pyramid), we got off at the Russell Square underground station, where we decided to exit via the stairs instead of the elevator. We had no idea what we were in for! Up and up we climbed, on an endless spiral staircase with no exits which seemed to go on forever. We were much relieved to emerge at last - and it occurred to me that this might have been one of the many Tube stations used as air raid shelters during the blitz.

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Our friends told us later that Russell Square Station is over 140 feet deep - meaning we had climbed the equivalent of 14 stories!

 Finally! Emerging at last from the ultra-deep Russell Square underground station in London.

Finally! Emerging at last from the ultra-deep Russell Square underground station in London.

In general, we are loving London - though we have been surprised at not seeing more bicycles. And so far only one electric car!

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 Elliot on his first ride aboard a double-decker English bus.

Elliot on his first ride aboard a double-decker English bus.

Local Screenings

Elliot and I recently showed Worse Than Poop! at the Green Kids Festival, and to our local chapter of the Electric Auto Association.

 Elliot receives an award from the Green Kids Conference for his role in Worse Than Poop!

Elliot receives an award from the Green Kids Conference for his role in Worse Than Poop!

The Green Kids Conference was really impressive - a massive undertaking, with two floors of information booths and activities on all things green and kid-friendly. Most impressive is the fact that the event is the brainchild of Pavan Raj Gowda, who founded Green Kids four years ago at the ripe old age of 12!

 Mountains of poop for the Silicon Valley Electric Auto Association!

Mountains of poop for the Silicon Valley Electric Auto Association!

We also received a warm welcome back from the Silicon Valley chapter of the Electric Auto Association. They hosted us during our Kickstarter campaign, which many of their members supported. It was satisfying to be back to share with them the completed film!

 Q&A with the EV driving crowd at SVEAA.

Q&A with the EV driving crowd at SVEAA.