Earth, receive an honoured guest. In Memory of Albert O. Hirschman

Lyon. 12 December 2012. A personal tribute for my friends and family.

Albert HirschmanThe news came in the middle of the night in the cold winter of Lyon. My professor and life example Albert Hirschman has left us. And I am finally very glad, because those last few years of illness were far too harsh for any man or woman to bear.

I have a hard time in organizing my thoughts this cold morning, but two things I do know and would like to share with you. The first being that Albert Hirschman was a great man and a huge influence in the field that he had chosen for his own, economics in the broadest sweep of the term.  And well beyond that. Continue reading

Editorial: World Streets Profile Guidelines for Contributors

Preparing a World Streets Profile
(Program, Project, Event, Tool)

World Streets welcomes well written articles that report in a balanced manner to our international readers on the work and accomplishments, and hopes and plans, of outstanding groups, projects and programs in various corners of the world leading the way in face of the tough challenges in our chosen sector — looking for exemplary approaches and tools that have potential for very broad, hopefully universal application. Continue reading

Profile: Robin Carlisle in South Africa. "A helluva lot of people don’t have cars. I have to look after them"

To move from the unfair and hopelessly inefficient deadlock that is old mobility toward sustainable transport and sustainable cities, we need concepts, dialogues, demonstrations, projects and programs. But none of this is going to happen if we don’t have the people: the warm, surely fallible but somehow thoughtful, daring and courageous human beings who are needed to bring all this about.We need more heroes, wouldn’t you agree? Our Profiles here on World Streets are intended to remind the world that whenever something good happens, it is because there are real live people behind it. Let’s take Robin Carlisle who is working for change in Capetown South Africa for example. Continue reading

Lester Brown: "International agreements take too long. We only have months, not years, to save civilisation"

World Streets is not the only one deeply apprehensive about the outcome of COP15. Lester Brown, Founder and President of the Earth Policy Institute, and a friend and colleague of many years, was interviewed by the Guardian yesterday, and since he cuts so close to the chase on the climate emergency issues which provide the metric for our high concern about immediate-term transportation reform, we reproduce it here in full.

Source: Countdown to Copenhagen. The Guardian. 3 Nov. 2009

We only have months, not years, to save civilisation from climate change

International agreements take too long, we need a swift mobilisation not seen since the second world war

For those concerned about global warming, all eyes are on December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. The stakes could not be higher. Almost every new report shows that the climate is changing even faster than the most dire projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 2007 report.

Yet from my vantage point, internationally negotiated climate agreements are fast becoming obsolete for two reasons. First, since no government wants to concede too much compared with other governments, the negotiated goals for cutting carbon emissions will almost certainly be minimalist, not remotely approaching the bold cuts that are needed.

And second, since it takes years to negotiate and ratify these agreements, we may simply run out of time. This is not to say that we should not participate in the negotiations and work hard to get the best possible result. But we should not rely on these agreements to save civilisation.

Saving civilisation is going to require an enormous effort to cut carbon emissions. The good news is that we can do this with current technologies, which I detail in my book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

Plan B aims to stabilise climate, stabilise population, eradicate poverty, and restore the economy’s natural support systems. It prescribes a worldwide cut in net carbon emissions of 80% by 2020, thus keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations from exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) in an attempt to hold temperature rise to a minimum. The eventual plan would be to return concentrations to 350 ppm, as agreed by the top US climate scientist at Nasa, James Hansen, and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC.

In setting this goal we did not ask what would be politically popular, but rather what it would take to have a decent shot at saving the Greenland ice sheet and at least the larger glaciers in the mountains of Asia. By default, this is a question of food security for us all.

Fortunately for us, renewable energy is expanding at a rate and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago. In the United States, a powerful grassroots movement opposing new coal-fired power plants has led to a de facto moratorium on their construction. This movement was not directly concerned with international negotiations. At no point did the leaders of this movement say that they wanted to ban new coal-fired power plants only if Europe does, if China does, or if the rest of the world does. They moved ahead unilaterally knowing that if the United States does not quickly cut carbon emissions, the world will be in trouble.

For clean and abundant wind power, the US state of Texas (long the country’s leading oil producer) now has 8,000MW of wind generating capacity in operation, 1,000MW under construction, and a huge amount in development that together will give it more than 50,000MWof wind generating capacity (think 50 coal-fired power plants). This will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 24 million people.

And though many are quick to point a finger at China for building a new coal-fired power plant every week or so, it is working on six wind farm mega-complexes with a total generating capacity of 105,000 megawatts. This is in addition to the many average-sized wind farms already in operation and under construction.

Solar is now the fastest growing source of energy. A consortium of European corporations and investment banks has announced a proposal to develop a massive amount of solar thermal generating capacity in north Africa, much of it for export to Europe. In total, it could economically supply half of Europe’s electricity.

We could cite many more examples. The main point is that the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is moving much faster than most people realise, and it can be accelerated.

The challenge is how to do it quickly. The answer is a wartime mobilisation, not unlike the US effort on the country’s entry into the second world war, when it restructured its industrial economy not in a matter of decades or years, but in a matter of months. We don’t know exactly how much time remains for such an effort, but we do know that time is running out. Nature is the timekeeper but we cannot see the clock.

# # #

You may find some interest in the comments which follow his piece which you can call up at the end of the Guardian pieces at

Lester R Brown is president of Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. He can be contacted at

Editor’s note:

While the focus and approach of World Streets and the New Mobility/Climate Emergency Project behind it, is quite different from the views set out above, we certainly do share Mr. Brown’s sense of high urgency. And some considerable despondence concerning what is likely to come out of Copenhagen.

Not that there are not going to be many people and groups working very hard to secure come kind of reasonable outcomes, but as we tried to point out in our editorial on this of 26 October, “Winning the World Climate Game: Brainwork challenge“, this is clearly a situation in which the ball (that is our planetary problem) is bigger than the court (our problem-solving mechanism, frame). So somebody better get out there and start to redraw the lines. (Stay tuned.)

Leading by example: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates

This “Leading by example” report is the first in what we hope will be a long series on how mayors and other of our elected representatives around the world are showing the way by their actions. Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley California decided to sell his last car earlier this year and since has been getting around exclusively by a combine new mobility package based on walking, public transport and carsharing. He likes it.

For the full story of a mayor who has through his new mobility diet lost 20 pounds since the beginning of this year, click here to Maria L. La Ganga’s article in today’s Los Angeles Times –,0,7556202.story?page=1

Here are some excerpts to tempt you to do just that:

” . . . if he doesn’t hurry, he’ll miss his BART train and be late to the first meeting in a long and busy day as mayor of this Left Coast city.

Four months ago, the silver-haired septuagenarian sold his beloved Volvo S80 T6 sedan — his 26th car — and set off on a new adventure: shrinking his already tiny carbon footprint.

Bates has been eco-minded as long as his two grown sons can remember, separating and recycling garbage before cities began curbside collection. These days, he feels an urgency to bring others along with him, although his style is less taskmaster than Tom Sawyer (“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little”). “When you reach my age, you think about how you want to spend your time,” he says. “You only have so much left on the planet. I want to do what I can for climate change and global warming.”

Before the year is out, he wants to issue a friendly challenge to his fellow eco-minded mayors: Do a personal green inventory and go public with the results. His hope is to convince indifferent consumers that they really can help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Do one person’s actions make a difference? Probably not,” he says. “But if, out of the 6 billion people on the planet, 1 billion take action, that makes a difference. ‘Try to be the change you seek.’ Didn’t Gandhi say something like that?”


Now, write us and tell us about your mayor or elected representative who is walking the walk. The world needs to know. We need some real real-world heroes.

Wikipedia Alert – Donald Shoup "may not meet the notability guideline for academics"?

Like it or not Wikipedia is now on the first line of references for not only journalists but also scholars, policy makers and many others. We treat it with a certain reserve, at times suspicion, and rightly so. But we treat it and treat it often, so that’s why it’s a resource we do well to keep an eye on. And tend to when useful. Now is one of those times.

Here is a case in point for lovers of cities and sustainable lives that I invite those of you who care about these things to jump in and do what you have to do.

The current entry on Donald Shoup – a major international figure who has with his work and insights over the last generation guided and helped us to understand the role, potential and keys to parking in cities – is extremely slight. That’s not problem since it is accurate, and if you dig into the history section there you will see that someone has just taken a minute in June to open up an entry on him. That is standard WP procedure. No problem there.

But the problem is that one of the Wikipedia roaming rangers has, in all good faith, added a large qualifying tag on top of his entry which reads: “This article may not meet the notability guideline for academics. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged or deleted.” Oh dear.

The address of the reference is So now you know what you have to do.


Greening New York: Janette Sadik-Khan. Street Fighter


This quite long article is we believe worth a close read, because it provides us with one more example of the professional and leadership skills that are needed to lead the transition from old, in the case of New York from the very old to the New Mobility Agenda and the sustainable cities and sustainable lives that go with it. If there is one key phrase that caught this ear, it is her statement: “I’m radically pro-choice”. The Editor


Continue reading

Denis Baupin. A driving force to change Paris

A driving force to change Paris

Denis Baupin, deputy mayor for the environment, spearheaded the creation of the city’s bicycle-sharing program. (Pierre-Emmanuel Weck)

By Robert P. Walzer

For his efforts to reduce the privilege of car drivers in Paris, Denis Baupin has been saddled with nasty nicknames, including “Monsieur Embouteillages” (Mr. Traffic Jam), Khmer Vert and worse.

As the transportation chief of the French capital for seven years, Baupin, who has written a book called “All Cars, No Future,” was the force behind the development of Paris’s hugely successful bicycle-sharing program, Vélib’. He introduced a tramway, minibuses, rider subsidies, more bus lanes and faster bus speeds. He reduced auto speed limits to 30 kilometers an hour, or just under 19 miles an hour, from 50 kilometers an hour on 1,000 streets and closed many to cars altogether.

In short, Baupin has changed the face of mobility in Paris, making it, by most accounts, easier for users of public transportation, pedestrians and bikers, and less accessible to car drivers.

Since March 2008, the Green Party member has had a new but related charge: fighting climate change.

Under his plan, €2 billion, or $2.6 billion, of taxpayers’ money will go towards renovating a quarter of the city’s 220,000 subsidized apartments to receive better insulation and more efficient heating. The program would eventually extend to all of Paris’s 3,000 public and 100,000 private buildings, nearly half of them built before 1915.

Financing for the plan has not been set, though Baupin is in talks with the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, the French state-owned bank.

“The challenge is how we can devise a mechanism to finance this work using the energy economy of tomorrow with the money of today,” Baupin said.

Baupin is expanding the city’s car-sharing program, even as his boss, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, prepares a competing plan to place 2,000 electric cars throughout the city in 2010. Baupin happens to oppose the mayor’s AutoLib’ idea and fears its ease of use will prompt residents to abandon public transportation.

“The idea of car-sharing is you use it when you have no alternative,” Baupin said. “With Autolib’ the risk is people will use it every day.”

Baupin is also beseeching Parisians through educational campaigns to reduce the waste stream by, for example, halting the purchase of bottled water and using fewer plastic shopping bags.

For all his efforts, Baupin, 46, has become a pacesetter for urban environmental progressivism worldwide. He travels the globe meeting other urban planners and coordinating initiatives.

“You have to judge Denis in terms of what he’s done so far, which is to create a magnificent model of a city coming to grips with its mobility issues in a very interesting way,” said Eric Britton, the Paris-based managing director of New Mobility Partnerships, a nongovernment agency. “Yes, you can look at Copenhagen or Amsterdam and say they are better for bicyclists. But they’ve been doing it for 100 years. Paris, in short order, has become a model for other cities.”

At the end of 2008, Baupin was in New York to discuss Vélib’ with the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He also spoke in Tokyo at a meeting of the C40, a group of cities that lobbies to reduce carbon dioxide gases.

“Everybody came up to me and asked me about Vélib’,” Baupin said in a recent interview. “It shows that what we are doing in Paris is an example to the world.”

Baupin’s efforts come as climate-related ethos is ascendant. In 2007, the administration of President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to emissions-reducing targets as part of the so-called Environmental Grenelle, or roundtable. The French Senate is set to debate the measures this year.

Paris, with Baupin’s guidance, has set even more stringent targets, following an audit of carbon emissions from buildings, transportation and industry. The city plans to reduce its emissions 30 percent below 2004 levels by 2020.

Baupin, intense, driven, a workaholic, tends to be viewed by his critics as unyielding and radical. In reality, his views are more nuanced.

For example, he is opposed to imitating London’s congestion charge for drivers’ entering the city, because he feels it is unfair to low-income drivers, especially those who live outside Paris. But he favors highway tolls, including one for the Paris beltway, to shift more of the cost of polluting to drivers. Cars would be able to enter Paris without cost on slower routes.

“Our political positions have more to do with reducing pollution and getting people to use public transportation,” Baupin said. “London has instituted what they specifically call a congestion charge, not a pollution charge. So, people who can afford it can actually use their cars more easily than before. That’s not our objective.”


Source and fair use:

This article originally appeared in the New York Times of 22 January 2009 based on a series of interviews carried out in Paris by their reporter Bob Walzer. You can view the original at

Click here to view our policy on Fair Use. Comments welcome.

Op-Ed: Luud Schimmelpennink on: Sustainable transport innovation from sunny Amsterdam

A benevolent virus approach to transportation reform

Back in the 1960s, when I was young and I thought smart, the idea occurred to me and some of my friends that bicycles were surely the best way for people to get around cities. We could see that for ourselves every day on the streets of Amsterdam. However as we thought about it, it struck us that something was missing. So we came up with something we called the White Bicycle Plan.

It could not have been more simple. Basically all we did was get together with anyone who wanted to pitch in, collect a couple of dozen old bikes, paint them white, and then “park” them out on the street for anyone to pick up and use as they wish. The project was immediately a success (in over view) and attracted a lot of media attention, not all very kind to our idea. The success was that the bikes provided free, safe, zero-carbon public transport and were heavily used by citizens who simply wanted to get somewhere on their own personal timetable. That was great because that was our idea, our motivation for doing the whole thing.

However, the world being the kind of complicated place it is, and bicycles being such frail things out in public places on their own, it did not take all that long for most of the white bikes to disappear into places unknown, some ending up in our canals. At the same time, and somewhat surprisingly, the police decided that they were illegal because the law required that all bikes should be locked in public. And ours of course were not. It did not take very long for the newspapers and others to chime in with their opinions that this was a crazy idea that never should have been done in the first place. A failure.

But this little idea, this so-called failure, was maybe not quite as stupid as they were announcing. To the contrary, this little idea changed enough in at least some people’s heads that it eventually set off a series of free or almost free shared bike projects around the world, for many years modest and not well-known. But certainly as everyone reading these “messages” will know , within the last couple of years all of this has started to change. And ever since the day that the city of Paris had the “crazy” idea in 2007 of putting 20,000 shared public bicycles onto their streets, this little idea is starting to have some very significant impacts. Maybe it was not so stupid after all

Today, a full generation after those young people got together to paint all those white bikes in Amsterdam, a growing group of people are coming to share the belief that every city in the world should be looking carefully at the idea of creating a public bicycle project of their own. The world has had enough experience with them over the last decade that we know there are many different ways of going about it, not all of them necessarily exactly aping our original concept of painting them white and leaving them anywhere. And if you hear from time to time about this or that project running into this or that trouble, relax because the idea is so simple and so powerful that these difficulties are going to be overcome by all of those smart people in that place who really want it to work. A great idea engages, and engages widely.

But here in closing is my final, respectful and a bit less direct message which I should like to share with all of you in Washington who have been charged by President Obama with the responsibility of creating sustainable transportation projects, sustainable cities and sustainable lives for people of all economic and social classes across the United States. Do not shy away from an idea just because it may at first glance strike you as a bit crazy. Sometimes that is the way it is with a new idea that really could make a difference. So before automatically saying no, just because the idea strikes you at first as untenable, get comfortable, sit back and think it through from the beginning. You may find that within it are the germs of a great idea. A benevolent virus.


Luud Schimmelpennink
Y-tech Innovations Centre
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.