Interview with Marina Kelava: On transformational potential of bicycles

Marina Kelava is a respectful journalist, environmental activist, photographer and above all a passionate cyclist. She is the co-founder of web portal H-alter, regularly writes articles on Shareable and has so far received numerous recognitions and awards in photography and journalism. Marina is one the most recognizable individuals of the community of bycicle geeks gathered around the community of Biciklopopravljaona – BicPop – a space with tools and enthusiasts willing to give advice on how to repair a bicycle to anyone who wants it. Exactly for that reason we decided to ask Marina few questions on building communities nowadays and why they really matter.

Photo: BicPop (cc)

1. Why community building matters?

We might have wondered off in the last decades thinking that money, power or stuff give us a sense of security, something that humans are always looking for. But I feel we are finishing this circle and going back to the community, because the only security we can feel will always come from the strength of our community, not from any of the things mentioned above, and not even from our own individual strengths. With climate change challenges it is going to be crucial for quality of life and maybe survival in some parts of the world or in our part of the world in some years, whether we have a community or not. Not to mention that humans need connection, this is one of our core needs, same as food, air or sun.

2. What is your opinion on skill share and exchange among citizens?

I feel skill share and exchange empower us as citizens, it gives us an insight into needs of the society and it also promotes empathy among people. It is also an opportunity to meet people outside our social bubble we often get stuck in without noticing. Through skill sharing I spend time with much younger and much older people, with people from different countries, refugees from all around the world, homeless people and well off people, etc. At the end of the road the point is, we are all the same. We all have something to give and we all need something to receive. And it doesn’t have to be a material thing.

Photo: BicPop (cc)

3. What is your favorite community building project abroad?

There are many great project we can find inspiration in. Since I really love transformational potential of bicycles, I often notice bicycle related project, like Bikeygees collective in Berlin, where women teach women refugees hot to ride a bicycle. Also, I love Repair Cafes since it is such a multilevel impact initiative. In this places you often see people of all generations sharing knowledge and it is also a way to fight against consumerism and planned obsolesce of the products and it is dealing with waste issues, a huge environmental problem of today. Also, is saves money and for some people it can really mean a great difference in the quality of life. Energy cooperatives I also find exciting. When people take in their own hands production of energy they really change the world, because big energy industry is such an example of what went wrong with the climate, economy and society and how we can bring it back to a more sustainable track.

Photo: BicPop (cc)

4. What are the tools citizens can use for mitigation climate changes?

I guess the questions is about the mitigation of impacts? As Richard Heinberg wrote some years ago, localization is one powerful tool to mitigate the challenges climate change is bringing. And localization of production of food, energy and stuff we need, will include the need to develop strong community ties. If we are able to produce our food and energy locally, we are much less vulnerable to global insecurities. Also, we are not going to be able to produce all the material things we use today only from local resources, but if we get back to the repair skills we can make them last much longer. We can also reuse stuff and use old materials to make new stuff. This gives us power and resilience. And to do that we need knowledge and experiences from all generations, we need to communicate, we need emotions, we need to care. In the end, I feel our emotions, intuition, bodies, are our most important tools, we need to take care of it much more than we do today, when we mostly focus ourselves in overworking both our bodies and our emotional worlds in the name of profit or bare survival. If our bodies and emotions are taken care of, we will naturally be more open to connection, and we might find some new ways to deal with challenges ahead of us.