Actor Matthew Modine may be best known for his performances in movies such as "Full Metal Jacket" and "Memphis Belle,"
but he's also an avid environmentalist and a life-long bicyclist. Combining these loves, Modine created the Bicycle for a Day
campaign, which aims to get urban Americans out of their cars and onto two wheels. At a recent benefit in Chicago where Modine was lending his support to the American Forest Foundation
and the TREE Fund's
Tour des Tree cycling event, he spoke with me about some of the issues that Americans face today.
"Obesity and heart disease are real dangers," Modine said. "Bicycling is something you can do that has an immediate impact on your health. And using a bike instead of a gas-powered vehicle is also an immediate positive solution to our environmental problems. Riding a bike is the best thing for you and for the environment."
Modine went on to explain why he thinks that small, proactive steps, like choosing to ride your bike to work, may have a greater impact on emissions than large scale efforts like carbon credits. "In a way, [carbon credits] are like green-washing. They don't really cut down on pollution; they just make polluters pay. But there's no point in complaining about something if you can't offer an alternative. Perhaps the best solution right now would be to tax polluters, but then there is the fear that the cost would ultimately just be passed down to consumers. So for me, the fastest, best way out of the problems we face is to encourage Americans to consume less."
Modine mentioned that the idea of super-sized consumption in America is a new phenomenon and not part of our cultural heritage. "This country was built by people who were very frugal. Think about Benjamin Franklin," he said. "Thrift was one of the moral strengths of his character; it was something which he felt to be very American. We have to reignite that kind of passion in America and get off this vicious cycle of consumerism because it just doesn't work."
In addition to curbing our consumption as individuals, Modine believes that environmental leaders also need to step up their game. He used the example of famed oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, to illustrate why criticism of environmental offenders is not enough. "The great thing about Jacques Cousteau is that he was able to recognize the environmental issues we face, and, instead of just pointing the finger at people, he always offered solutions. A part of his book, 'The Cousteau Almanac,' was dedicated to organizations which readers could go to and join up to put pressure on local governments so that they can make the world a better, safer place."
Matthew continues his efforts to promote both bicycling and clean air. Through his Bicycle for a Day
campaign, he is encouraging Americans across the nation to stop driving and start biking. He's also involved with Do-One
, a global campaign designed to harness the power of individual change to create a large-scale reduction in carbon emissions. Thanks very much to Matthew Modine for sharing his views with MNN readers.
Photo: david shankbone/Flickr