A Review of
Power to the Pedals,
a documentary by Bob Nesson
By George Harvey , staff
Bob Nesson’s Power to the Pedals is a thirty-minute documentary video that functions on many levels. Each of them has its own merits and its own power.
It is an inspirational the story about Wenzday Jane, a young woman who grew up in poverty in Boston. As a child, her parents collected bottles and cans to get money, and she was teased because of it. Later, she had very different learning moments, including one she calls an epiphany. It came because she learned how to weld. She suddenly realized that she could take two pieces of metal and unite them to form a single object of her own design. Eventually, this led to building pedal-powered trucks and a business called Metro Pedal Power. Now she employs a number of other people, using pedal-powered trucks to provide pickup, delivery, and other services.
Anyone interested in starting a small business might do well to study this story. It tells of a small business finding its niche, dealing with much larger businesses by being competitive. Without the costs of purchasing, fueling, and maintaining heavy equipment, the human-powered venture is able to function at an attractive cost. Instead of an expensive dump truck running on fossil fuels, Metro Pedal Power has a larger number of small, very light vehicles, powered by human beings, carrying loads up to five hundred pounds each. When the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts asked for bids for the contract to collect material in recycling bins in public places, it was Metro Pedal Power that won.
It is a story about ecology and environmental practice. One lesson of that is that fossil fuels can be replaced, even in a modern urban setting, by employing more human beings. But the lessons go beyond that. Metro Pedal Power reduces carbon emissions by providing a place where farms can deliver goods for community-supported agriculture. Some customers come by to pick up the goods, but others get them delivered by pedal-powered trucks. Metro Pedal Power also collects food waste for composting, sometimes to returning it as compost it to the same people whose waste was picked up.
It is a story about social leadership. It is about Wenzday Jane’s homegrown philosophy of how community and commerce can be reconciled into a new and healthier culture, in which human beings have great value and nature is respected. It is about a culture capable of undergoing change for the better. And it is a story about hope – a very believable hope, because it is clearly manifesting now, in the real world.
Power to the Pedals can produce many hours of productive discussion. It is simple enough to be understood by school students, deep enough to get to a lengthy discussion in public meetings, and inspirational enough to be preached. It is a video for all of us.