Dutch Carshare Operators in 2014

More than three quarters of the municipalities in the Netherlands are currently netherlands witkar smallserved by carshare operators (as opposed to 11% in 2002). The following listing has been compiled with the help of several friends and colleagues in the Netherlands, helping us  to identify all of the carshare operators currently offering “traditional”, P2P or one-way services. This listing is part of the in-process “Going Dutch” project which got underway in December 2013 and  has been introduced here on World Streets.

Continue reading

Does carsharing promote balanced, sustainable economic growth?

carshare invis1ble parked car

Before digging into the details, the important mechanics of carsharing[1], it is important for policy makers to ask these deeper questions if we are ever to be able to shift gears into sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.

This is an extremely important foundation question to which the short answer is: yes definitely. But let us dig deeper.

Continue reading

Bicycling to Solve Traffic Congestion in Penang

BICYCLING WITHIN A COMPREHENSIVE TRANSPORT PLAN,
TO SOLVING TRAFFIC CONGESTION

Dr Lim Mah Hui, Address to MPPP Council Meeting, October 25, 2013

malaysia penang  cycle picWe must start to draw up a bicycle strategy, policy and plan and this must be integrated into town planning. It should be coherent, not piece-meal and ad hoc. It must be bottom-up and not just top-down, i.e., the bicyclists must be intimately involved in the planning. The plan must include a budget

Continue reading

Planetary Boundaries and Low Carbon Urban Mobility

Useful presentation and overview of the issues and trends by  Professor David Banister (University of Oxford) in a three part series “The Future of Sustainable Mobility”.  The following introduces his presentation but for the full text please click here.

How much is enough book cover Continue reading

The xCar Landscape: New Ways of Owning and Using Cars in the 21st Century

This is a collaborative thinking exercise addressing essentially a single question. But one of many parts. What is the “modern motor car” going to look like in the decade immediately ahead?  Will it be  more of the same?  Or will it mutate into a very different form of mobility?  Who is going to own it?  And how is it going to be used? Where will it be driven (and eventually parked)?  Will it be piloted by a warm sapient human being, or will it be driverless? Will it still have wheels, doors and tires? What will be its impact on the environment?  And what will be the impact of the “environment” on it? On public safety? On quality of life for all.  Will it be efficient, economic and equitable? Who will make them and where?  Is it going to create or destroy jobs? And how fast is all of this going to occur?  . . . Continue reading

Thinking about Equity-Based Transport Systems: Get Ready to Embrace Complexity (or Get Off the Bridge)

As is or at least should by now be well known, a transportation “system” is well more than a collection of largely free-standing bits of infrastructure, modes, links, agencies, institutions, operators and more, concerning which decision scan be taken on a piecemeal basis. .  It is in fact a textbook example of a disorganized complex system, or more specifically a vast, chaotic but ultimately manageable ecosystem.  And if it is our ambition — which it should be — to construct, or rather reconstruct, our city transport systems into functional high-performing sustainable ecosystems. it can help to build up our understanding of the process in steps. Continue reading

Book report: Sustainable Transportation Planning

Michael Alba reports from Boston on this new guide for transport planners:

Sustainable Transportation Planning seeks to tackle the greatest social and environmental concerns of the 21st century, focusing on the role of transportation in creating more sustainable communities. It is a how-to guide for anyone interested in the economic, social and ecological health of cities. Continue reading

What about using our heads (for a change)?

At the end of the day our transport sector, no matter where it is, is shaped by the perceptions of the main players, the opportunists, planners, decision makers and the public of what is there and what is it that people want and need. And if it is a mess in your country or city,well that’s because these perceptions are simply not clear enough. Read what Nate Sliver of the New York Times has to say when there is a collision between the experts and common sense on one much discussed transportation topic. Interesting things happen when smart people from the outside poke their noses into the transportation box. As we say: “you never know where the next good idea is going to come from”. Continue reading

Sustainable Transport and the Importance of Pattern Recognition

In order to turn around a very big boat that is moving in the wrong direction – think global warming or any of the other wrong-way trips that we are currently locked into when it comes to transport in cities – it helps to be smart, studious and work very hard. But it is if anything even more important to have a feel for what is really going on. And this is where the fine art of pattern recognition comes in. Pattern recognition: all too often the empty chair when it comes to understanding and decision making in the field of transport policy and practice. No wonder we are doing so poorly. Continue reading

Testimony: Science and Technology Select Committee, UK House of Lords

In the last weeks I was asked to provide written testimony and evidence in answer to a “Call for Evidence” for the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on the subject of “Behaviour Change —Travel-Mode Choice Interventions to Reduce Car Use in Towns and Cities”. As can happen in these things, in my remarks I moved away from the chosen topic (instruments for behaviour change),  on the grounds that there are other more fundamental issues that need to be tackled first. In the following you will find my submittal of last Monday to the committee, whom I thank for giving me this opportunity to share my views.
Continue reading

Delhi Metro – A Transport Planner’s Perspective

Associate editor Faizan Jawed reports from Delhi:  At a time when the Delhi Government, politicos, media and the middle-class is raving about Metro Rail as a panacea to all traffic woes in Delhi (traffic congestion included), an objective assessment of its performance and appropriateness is highly warranted. Built at a cost that could provide free bus-based public transport and high quality non-motorized transport facilities for years, or feed millions of destitute malnourished Indian citizens, the Delhi Metro, now in operations since 2002, seems to not be living up to its promise. Ravi Gadepalli brings us a unique insight in to the planning and workings of the Delhi Metro. [* * * See Comments here.] Continue reading

Transport, environment and public policy in hard times

We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think.
- Ernest Rutherford, on taking over the Caversham Laboratory in 1919

On 2 December the managing editor of World Streets, Eric Britton, was invited by the organizers of the National Autumn Conference of ACT TravelWise to present the keynote address, following an opening presentation by Norman Baker, MP and Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport of the just-elected UK coalition government. The theme of the conference was “The Right to Travel – Getting more for less” — and Britton was asked to bring in some international perspectives and possibly some less familiar ideas for the largely British audience after the Minister’s presentation. Continue reading

The Road Transport/Energy Challenge in India

Environment vs. Mobility? (Image source: Times of India)

“A few weeks ago, we (India Streets) had reported about India’s plans to reduce the climate change impact from its transportation sector. However, we saw that India’s plan, like many other plans out there, attempts to tackle the problem almost entirely by improving vehicle and fuel technology without adequately dealing with the most important factor – the number of vehicle-kilometers travelled. In the article below, we will read Prof. Madhav Badami of McGill University argue that “[fuel economy improvements will do little to mitigate [climate] impacts, and might even exacerbate them to the extent that the improvements increase motor vehicle activity by reducing the costs of driving… On the other hand, measures to curb vehicle-kilometers can provide major “co-benefits” by helping control energy consumption and related emissions, as well as other transport impacts.” Continue reading

Victoria Transport Policy Institute Summer 2010 Newsletter

This carefully compiled seasonal report from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a fine tool and up to date source guide for researchers and policy makers worldwide. We are pleased to present it in its entirety here, together with references you will find handy to take these entries further. Thanks for your continuing fine work Todd.


Continue reading

Parking slots are like . . . toilets?

This is supposed to be the fatal ten day stretch during which your valiant editor has promised to be out there pounding the pavement to secure sources of finance so that we can keep World Streets going. But every day interesting ideas and proposals for projects keep slipping in over the transom, some of which just too hard to resist. Here is today’s slip in his otherwise firm resolve. Sorry. Simply irresistible.
Continue reading

The New Mobility Strategy

Step 1: Say good-bye to Old Mobility:

“Plan Zero” – also known as “old mobility” – with its stress on supply, more vehicles  and more infrastructure as the knee-jerk answer to our mobility problems, has been the favored path for decision-making and investment in the sector over the last 70 years. It is well-known and easy to see where it is leading. Aggressing the planet, costing us a bundle, draining the world’s petroleum reserves, and delivering poor service for the majority . . . Plan Zero is a clear failure. It’s time for Plan A : The fifteen steady steps to sustainable transport and a sustainable city. Continue reading

World Streets: The voice of the New Mobility Agenda

World Streets is the daily reporting arm of the New Mobility Agenda. Its content derives from adherence to a consistent set of overall program goals, mediated by a network of collaborative relationships that have been built up over the last two decades, which involve on the order of two thousand collaborating expert colleagues and friends of sustainable transport worldwide. The goal: sustainable transport policy and practice. Continue reading

What was wrong with "Old Mobility"

In order what needs to be done to create a healthier and better performing set of transportation arrangements, World Streets make a consistent distinction between what we call “old mobility” and “new mobility.” The difference between the two is quite simple. And substantial.

Old mobility was the form of transportation policy, practice and thinking that took its full shape and momentum starting in the mid twentieth century, at a time when we all lived in a universe that was, or at least seemed to be, free of constraints. It served us well in many ways at the time, albeit with exceptions, though we were blind to most of them most of the time. It was a very different world back them. But that world is over. And it will never come back.

Continue reading

Density without tears: Singapore’s Transportation Secrets

Density. Sprawl. Car-dependence as a result of car use’s gradual reshaping of our cities. The unintended consequences of a no-policy transport and land use policy can be catastrophic for many, in many ways. And once the damage has been done(see the map of last week’s piece contrasting two cities of the same population size: Atlanta and Barcelona)it is not easy task to get the toothpaste back into the tube. But let’s get to that another day. Today let’s listen to Christopher Tan on Singapore’s no tears transport policy.

Continue reading

A Manifesto for Sustainable Transport

Sustainable Transportation, New Mobility, Access, Green Transport and the long list of good and great names go on, but upon inspection they have three important things in common. They are all extremely well-intentioned; each is trying to get at a largely shared agenda; and, by whatever name, they are thus far losing the battle against the established interests and old and often quite bad ways of doing things in our sector. However that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. The proponents of sustainable transport and sustainable cities are making real progress on the ground, and we are starting to network worldwide for success. We are ready to build on what we have thus far learned and achieved. So let’s have a look through the eyes of Sudhir Chella Rajan to get a better idea of our common challenge.
Continue reading

Don’t count on "alternative fuels" to save the world? (Dark bet on a pessimistic, high tech future)

Here we have an unusually perceptive piece from a specialist in chaos theory who helps us make sense of the “alternative fuels” proposals and claims. It is good to have his hardheaded expert view on the potential of alternative fuels in our future transportation arrangements. But it is important too that we reflect on his dark bet on a pessimistic, high-technology future: in which he sees us as stumbling from crisis to crisis, in response to which we manage each time to come up with last-minute ad hoc “solutions” which leave us as still basically operational, but not all that much more. That I am afraid is the bleak face of the future, unless we are able to find the vision and leadership to do otherwise.

The Methadone Economy

– Tom Konrad, 27 April 2010.

Peak Oil Investments I’m Putting My Money On:
If the measure of success for alternative fuels is the ability to continue to live in suburbs and commute in multi-ton boxes of metal on congested freeways for hours each day, then alternative fuels will fail. No alternative fuel has the existing infrastructure, supply potential, energy density, and low environmental impact that we would need to replace oil without changing our unsustainable lifestyle.

Peak oil may mean the end of bigger and bigger cars driven farther and farther on more and more congested roads. Peak oil may mean the end of suburban life as we know it. Yet life as we don’t know it does need not be a vision out of Mad Max. Peak oil will mean changes, some for the better, some for the worse.

The surest change peak oil will bring is less driving, in fewer vehicles that are filled closer to capacity. Those vehicles will use less oil (or alternative fuels) per person-mile. We’ll also find ways to satisfy the desires and needs that we currently satisfy with travel without traveling.

Alternative Fuels

The first eight parts of this series looked into alternative fuels. I concluded that no alternative fuel listed could replace oil as we use it today fast enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Conventional biofuels cannot be produced in enough quantity, and making hydrogen is an inefficient use of electricity or natural gas. Electric vehicles are too expensive or have too little range. There is not enough natural gas and there is too little fueling infrastructure to make natural gas vehicles practical on a large scale. Gas-to-liquids makes sense for stranded natural gas, but there are too many other high value uses for natural gas to make a large dent in declining oil supplies. Coal to liquids does too much environmental harm, and algae needs too much more technological development to achieve its promise in time.

The biggest problem with alternative fueled vehicles, however, is not the alternative fuels, the problem is the vehicles and how we use them.

Oil was a one-time bonanza of a readily available, easily transportable, durable, energy-dense liquid. With oil, humanity won a natural resources lottery ticket. Like a lottery winner who blows cash that could have lasted a lifetime in a few months, we now need to realize that we’ve spent most of our winnings. It’s unreasonable to expect that we’re going to win another such jackpot before we have to start watching our fuel budget again. The main question is how soon and how deliberately we will make the necessary adjustment. Will we act like the lottery winner who uses his last hundred thousand to tide him over while he looks for a job? Will we keep partying to the bitter end, until one day we wake up, hung over in the gutter? Will it be something in between?

The Methadone Economy

Switching to a drug analogy, most alternative fuels are the methadone to treat our petroleum / heroin addiction. Methadone is given to heroin addicts in treatment because it mitigates withdrawal symptoms and can block the euphoric effects of heroin, morphine, and similar drugs, reducing the urge to use.

Alternative fuels can be sufficient to allow our society to function, but we’re not going to feel the highs we felt when the oil was flowing freely. Alternative fuels cannot take us back to a “normal” pre-peak oil state because our use of petroleum over the last few decades as been far from “normal:” it has been one long, fossil-fueled high. We will eventually kick the petroleum habit with the help of alternative fuels not because alternative fuels are better than petroleum and can bring us something that petroleum cannot, but because our supplier will be getting smaller shipments over time, while the number of fellow junkies knocking on his door will keep going up with big increases in petroleum demand from emerging economies.

There are several competing visions of a future powered by alternative fuels, ranging from wildly optimistic to gloom-and-doom, with variations depending on how effectively the prognosticator thinks we can replace fossil fuels with alternatives.

A high-technology optimistic vision includes smoothly running efficient pods in mass transit systems powered by renewable energy. High speed bullet trains network the land, making overland air travel unnecessary. The low-technology optimistic vision involves a peaceful return to local economies where food is grown locally, and increasing local interdependence fosters strong local community ties, and people grow happier as they become more connected to the land and each other. The low-technology pessimistic vision is a free-for-all scramble for dwindling resources like the vision out of Mad Max referenced above.

I’m long on optimism about technology, but short on optimism about our will to make the necessary sacrifices to implement that technology quickly or efficiently. I’m betting on a pessimistic, high-technology future. In this future, we manage to cobble together a hodge-podge of last-minute, jerry-rigged solutions to keep the economy functioning at a basic level, but not at all smoothly or evenly. In it, we lurch from a crisis caused by financial melt-down, to a crisis caused by peak-oil to one caused by climate change. We’ll tackle each crisis with incredible ingenuity, staving off total chaos, but at the cost of mis-allocated resources and a deteriorating standard of living. We hold out in the belief that after just this one more fix, the world will be back to normal and we can stop worrying. But that day will never come.

Forward thinking planners in some municipalities and communities will work on implementing true, long-term solutions. But they will not have enough money or resources to do more than ameliorate the next crisis. The large-scale, system wide solutions of better mass transit, algae biofuels, and continent-wide electricity transmission of the high-technology optimistic vision will be implemented too slowly, on too small a scale to achieve the economic stability the techno-optimists hope for. But these half-built systems will still bring considerable benefit, and keep the succession of crises from being the complete disaster that would come with a complete lack of planning.

This is the Methadone Economy. Alternative-fuel oil replacement therapy is necessary because oil supply will not keep pace with demand; we must replace oil or do without. But alternative fuels are not oil, and will require more effort devoted to energy production to produce the same effect. The Methadone economy will function, but it won’t give us the highs we got from the cheap, concentrated, easily accessible energy of oil.

A future characterized by thoughtful, long-range planning seems unlikely to arise from the same political class and voting public that has not meaningfully prepared for anything but good times in decades. The first IPCC report was released in 1990, and it made clear that human activities were substantially increasing levels of greenhouse gasses which would warm the planet. Two decades later, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. We had the first warnings about peak oil in the 1970s oil crises, but only now are we starting to put serious political and economic capital into searching for solutions. When the pre-2008 global debt bubble was on, NINJA (No Income No Job no Assets) loans were welcomed by politicians praising financial innovation and its ability to bring home ownership to people who could not previously afford it.

The Methadone Economy may sound gloomy, but I see it as the most optimistic vision possible given the political reality we see around us. More pessimistic visions abound, but if you expect them, you’re probably better off investing in guns and physical gold than you are investing in the stock market.

Conclusion

I see three major investment themes in the Methadone Economy.

First, there is the knowledge that long-term solutions will be implemented, although not completely and at insufficient scale. Investors in contractors who specialize in mass transit and high-speed rail should do well, as should the longer-term alternative fuel solutions discussed in earlier articles of this series. Vehicle efficiency improvements will find rapidly growing markets as fuel becomes more expensive.

Second, band-aid solutions will thrive. Bike lanes, electric scooters, buses, and any other transportation solution which can be implemented with only small changes to existing infrastructure. Road pricing schemes and the software technology to help people coordinate ride sharing. The clever use of a few resources will always win over grand schemes when there are few resources to spare.

Finally, the Methadone Economy is an economy where we cannot expect long term growth. More likely, we will see periods of anemic (and occasionally robust) growth punctuated by periodic crisis-driven declines. This will be mirrored in the stock market, and so investors in the above two solutions should do well to hedge their overall exposure to the market.

# # #
About the author:
Tom Konrad, PhD., CFA is a regulatory consultant and financial analyst specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In his consulting role, he testifies on behalf of clients before public utilities commissions and state legislatures to promote clean energy. In addition to AltEnergyStocks.com, he writes about clean energy and economics as a freelancer. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Purdue University, where he wrote his thesis on Complex Dynamics, a branch of chaos theory. His study of chaos theory led to his conviction that knowing the limits of our ability to predict is much more important than predictions themselves.

This article originally appeared http://seekingalpha.com/ on 27 April 2010 and can be seen here. Kind thanks for the author for permission to reprint in these pages.

Vancouver Olympics – Lessons For Transport Planners

Every once in a while sustainable transport and sustainable city planners get a break. Some of these are immediately recognizable as such, for example when your city has decided to host some important international event such as the Olympic Games, a World Expo, or some kind of international athletic, cultural or political event, all of which occasions which may provide the funding and vision of the city which is simply not there in the ordinary hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.

But these “opportunities” may also take a far less rosy form, such as a crippling transit strike or even a natural disaster which may temporarily or permanently wipe out some part of the city’s normal transportation arrangements. In this article, our friend and colleague Todd Litman reports from Canada on one of the more happy occasions for transition and innovation. But at the end of the day there is always the question: “what is the legacy of all this?”

Way-To-Go Vancouver Olympics – Lessons For Transport Planners

- Todd Litman, Executive director, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Victoria BC

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and Paralympics are over now. City Planner Brent Toderian described in a recent Planetizen blog how the event showcased Vancouver’s Urbanism, including the quality of its neighborhoods, streets and public transit system, and the delight of a shared community experience.

There are other important lessons for planners from this event. Let me share some observations about the Olympic Transportation Plan.

Overall, it was successful. With just a few exceptions, everybody got where they needed to go on time, with reasonable comfort. This success resulted from excellent planning by many people representing various organizations: Olympic committees, cities, regional agencies, provincial and federal governments, and various service providers.

Let me share some thoughts based on my experience having helped in a small way develop the plan. It was a very fun planning exercise. Basically, this was a huge party attracting many honored guests. Our job was to insure it went smoothly and everybody had a great time. This is logistical science at its best. We needed to insure that tens of thousands of people could travel reliably between numerous diverse venues, including about 30,000 people from Vancouver up to Whistler and back every day for more than two weeks. We had tremendous resources available: if it required six hundred extra buses with 1,800 extra drivers, or total control of a highway or traffic lanes, we got them.

Oh, did I mention that this all takes place during the middle of winter, and much of the travel involves mountain roads? Did I mention that schedules were subject to change at any time due to weather or other unexpected events? And did I mention that security trumps everything else, so each component of the plan needed security review?

No problem – we are planners! Making all of this work simply required applying basic transport management:

* Encourage use of efficient modes. Improve and promote walking, cycling, ridesharing and public transit.
* Discourage unnecessary automobile travel. Discourage driving, and limit vehicle traffic and parking in key areas such as downtown.
* Give priority to more valuable trips and the more efficient modes. Expand sidewalks and bike lanes, and bus lanes.
* Provide clear information to users. Use websites, maps, brochures, signs, volunteers and news releases to let visitors and residents know how to travel and what to expect.

To accomplish this we identified and prioritized the various categories of trips: competitors, coaches, officials, media, visitors, various staff, and freight deliveries. We estimated volumes of each group, prioritized them, and determined how best to transport them taking into account each groups requirements: some need to stay together, some required extra equipment (clothing, skis, guns, etc.) and some (particularly paralympic participants) used mobility devices.

Although this may sound like a big event, it is really just a blip in regular travel volumes. The Vancouver region has about two million residents. Adding 100,000 visitors is just a 5% increase. Experience with such events indicates that given suitable services and incentives, residents can reduce their driving so total vehicle travel is below normal levels. The key is to improve efficient alternatives and frighten residents just enough that they minimize driving.


Vancouver’s Olympic transportation plan included the following features:

* Completion of the Canada Line heavy rail transit from the airport to downtown Vancouver.
* Additional bus service, including some dedicated bus lanes.
* Parking restrictions downtown and around many venues.
* Lots of user information concerning how to get around.
* Preparation for large pedestrian crowds.

Projects like this give me great respect for coach buses, the large buses used for long-haul passenger transport. They are key to Special Event and Emergency Response transportation management. To appreciate the efficiency of a fleet of such buses, let’s do a little math. Under favorable conditions, a single highway lane can carry up to 2,200 automobiles, or about 6,600 passengers at three passengers per vehicle. The same lane can carry about 1,000 buses, or about 50,000 passengers per lane-hour at 50 passengers per bus.

Coach buses have other attributes that make them particularly useful for such circumstances:

* They have professional drivers who are (generally) well trained and responsible.
* They have good communications systems that allow operators to communicate with dispatchers, police, and other drivers.
* They can carry lots of baggage.
* They are designed for long-distance highway travel (local transit buses are not and may overheat on long climbs).
* They can contain washrooms and other amenities such as padded and adjustable seats, televisions, wireless Internet access, and even bar services.

These features are very important. The availability of real-time information, comfortable seats, and clean toilets can make a huge difference in the overall enjoyment of a trip. Whenever you need to transport tens-of-thousands of people, call in the coach buses!

However, large buses have constraints that must be considered in planning. They are difficult to maneuver and take time to load, and so require large staging areas to insure that everybody knows exactly where and when to board. Staging areas require good access (parking, public transit access, taxi stands, etc.), guidance (wayfinding signage and people who can answer questions), washrooms, refreshments and (if possible) entertainment.

Despite a few minor problems (a bus broke down and a few drivers got lost) the Vancouver Olympic’s transportation program went very well. Everybody involved in planning and running the event should feel proud. It displayed Vancouver at its best and demonstrated the value of high quality public transportation, effective transport management and an attractive public realm. Many residents who previously relied on automobile travel began using public transportation during the Olympics and now continue.

The limited legacy

My biggest disappointment is the limited legacy. Although Vancouver got a new rail line between downtown and the airport, other public transit services reverted to previous levels. Buses are once again crowded and stuck in traffic. In contrast, South Africa implemented wonderful new Bus Rapid Transit systems for the 2010 World Soccer Cup, which will provide durable benefits to residents and visitors into the future.

# # #

About the author:

Todd Litman is founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation techniques, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. He can be reached at: 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada. Email: litman@vtpi.org. Phone & Fax: +1 250-360-1560

This article originally appeared in Planetizen on Monday, 5 April at http://www.planetizen.com/node/43644. And if you have a bit of time when you visit World Streets, you may find it useful to have a look at the latest on Planetizen and a baker’s dozen of other closely related publications and programs which you will find conveniently summarized just to your left here under the rubric: Latest from the world’s streets.

Musing: Thoughts on Communicating Science Losing the battle for hearts and minds

Food for thought as we try to turn our great ideas into reality (at which most of us are not so hot. Present company included I am afraid.) Here is a think piece musing on our communications skills by our long-time colleague Keith Sutter from Australia. He takes us into “minds”, “hearts”, “gut”, and then, since it is the weekend and we can deal with it, “reproductive organs”. His source argues that that these are the four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards the base. Oops.

COMMUNICATING SCIENCE

Introduction

On February 3 2010, while being the Crawford Miller (Oxford-Australia) Visiting Research Fellow at St Cross College University of Oxford, I was able to attend the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management (CPTM) Smart Partners Hub meeting in London.

The meeting was on “Smart Partnership, Climate Change and Science”. I was asked to say a few words on the state of the Australian debate. That statement was based on a short aide memoire I had prepared for The Club of Rome. (This will published in due course by the European Support Centre of The Club of Rome: www.clubofrome.at) A summary of the total meeting has published by CPTM. (http://www.cptm.org)

The purpose of this note is to amplify a few comments I made in the context of reporting on the Australian climate change debate: the problem of communicating science.

Science and the Media

I am not a scientist and so I look at the science profession from the outside – that of being, among other things, a foreign affairs presenter on Australian television and radio. It is evident that the science profession is losing the battle for hearts and minds when it comes to the climate change debate.

Welsh physicist Sir John Houghton has been quoted as saying something similar. He told BBC Wales on February 12 2010 that most scientists were now in a “PR war” with [climate change] sceptics: “We are in a way and we’re losing that war because we’re not good at PR. Your average scientist is not a good PR person because he wants to get on with his science”. (“Climate Change Scientists Losing ‘PR War’ to Vested Interests”, reprinted: Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/print/52766)

This is not necessarily a new issue. Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine, has produced a large biography of Albert Einstein. (Walter Isaacson Einstein: His Life and Universe, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, p 269.) After his work on Relativity, Einstein became a very famous scientist. He became a trend-setter: “In the current celebrity-soaked age, it is hard to recall the extent to which, a century ago, proper people recoiled from publicity and disdained those who garnered it. Especially in the realm of science, focussing on the personal seemed discordant” . He became the world’s most famous scientist – but his fame got him into trouble with other scientists!

In May 1959 another dispute erupted: CP Snow (1905-80), a celebrated novelist with a science background from Cambridge, spoke about “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” (annual Rede Lecture, University of Cambridge) . He argued that there was then a gap between scientists and “literary intellectuals”: scientists didn’t read Charles Dickens and humanities professors didn’t know the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Snow warned that many key decisions in public life were being made by people without much knowledge of science. The situation probably has not improved in the past half century. (Robert Whelan “Fifty years on, CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures” are United in Desperation” The Daily Telegraph (London), May 5 2009)

Communicating Science

One of the best books I have encountered recently on this problem of how to communicate science is by Randy Olson Don’t be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (Washington DC: Island Press, 2009). Olson was a science academic who changed life in mid-career and went to California to learn movie-making (he now specializes in science and environmental movies). One of his theatre lecturers told him “not to be such a scientist” and the reprimand stayed with him.

I have found his book helpful to understand, how in effect the Australian Labor Party Government headed by Kevin Rudd could move from winning an election in November 2007 partly on the climate change issue, to losing the public debate over climate change in two years (with the then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, losing his own position to a rebellion within his own party and for him to become the world’s first party leader to lose his position because he was supporter of taking action against climate change; he has been replaced by a climate change “sceptic”)

Olson argues that there are four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards to the base.

1. At the top of the pyramid is the “mind” – which is where most scientists spend most of their time. They communicate learnedly with each other in a careful, heavily foot-noted style.

2. The next layer down is the “heart”: the locus of love.

3. The third layer is the “gut”: locus of fear.

4. The base of the pyramid are the “reproductive organs”, which is why so many people, companies and organizations use romance etc for marketing – it is the easiest way to reach the broadest number of people whatever is being sold: cars, chocolate, clothes etc.

Applying the top three layers of the Olson model to the Australian climate change debate, we can see how the model helps explain the change within Australia.

In the years 1996-2007, the Australian Prime Minister was the conservative John Howard. Australia had been committed to the Kyoto Protocol process and for a while it seemed that the incoming Howard Government would continue that process. But then, under pressure from US President George W Bush, Howard suddenly announced that Australia would not proceed with the Kyoto Protocol. The US and Australia were the two developed countries to stand outside the process.

Howard was lobbied by some of his more moderate colleagues, such as his eventual (albeit temporary) successor Malcolm Turnbull, to accept the Protocol and so negate the support going to the Opposition Labor Party headed by Kevin Rudd. Howard remained stubborn to the end and he lost the November 2007 election (and even his own seat – only the second time since federation in 1901 that a prime minister had been rejected by his own constituency).

Rudd’s Labor Party had campaigned on many issues. The climate change one had struck a chord with most of the electorate (including moderate Liberals). Rudd (in Olson’s model) reminded Australians of their love of the Great Barrier Reef (the “”world largest living object”) – the “heart” – and the fear of the risk that it could be destroyed by climate change – the “gut”.

Rudd argued that Australia should act to protect the Great Barrier Reef. This was rather misleading because Australians account for only 1 or 2 per cent of the total global emissions and so no matter how good Australia’s climate change record might be, Australian actions alone could not save the reef. However, this was overlooked by commentators in the interests of securing the dramatic Labor victory in November 2007.

But then Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister moved up Olson’s model. He left the “heart” and “gut” and he started to read out speeches written in the “head” style by public servants. He – and his colleagues – failed to communicate with the same skill they had had before the election to the “heart” and “gut”.

Meanwhile, the conservative Opposition initially disowned the Howard climate change policy and endorsed the Rudd Government’s December 2007 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – the first time that the first action of a new Australian Government was to ratify a treaty.

But the climate change sceptics then got to work – as per Olson’s model – on the “heart” and “gut”. They argued that the proposed Rudd emissions trading system (ETS) would really be an “extra tax system” (appealing to the “gut” and fear of a new tax). They warned that climate change policies would cost jobs (“heart” and the love of being employed). In late 2009, the sceptics within the conservative Opposition party rebelled against their moderate leader Malcolm Turnbull and replaced him with one of their own (Tony Abbott).

As at early 2010, the Rudd Government has no new emission trading system, little chance of securing any ambitious climate change measures, and a declining popular interest in the subject of climate change. It is unlikely on current showing that Rudd will make as much fuss of climate change in the 2010 election as he did in 2007.

New Thinking on Communication

Being smart is not much use if that cannot be communicated. The lesson of the Olson book is that much more attention needs to be given to the basics of communication.

A good lesson here is from the oil industry. The industry distinguishes between “upstream” and “downstream” activities. The upstream activities relate to finding oil and drilling for it. The downstream activities relate to the distribution out to the consumers. Science needs to pay more attention to the “downstream” activities. The Olson book provides some ideas.

Another good example comes from nurse Georgia Sadler. (See: Malcolm Caldwell The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, London: Abacus, 2000, pp 253-55.) She wanted to educate women on certain health issues. She did the right thing – speaking at religious institutions, community organizations etc. But the women who came to hear her were already aware of the issues. How could she reach the women who were not coming to her presentations?

Sadler used creative thinking. An American woman has a more intimate relationship with her hair stylist than with virtually anyone else. She realized that a hairdressing salon would provide women with a relaxed atmosphere in which to hear new ideas. She sought advice on how to educate hairdressers on how they could in turn inform their clients about the health issues. She then created a highly successful education programme.

Conclusion

The conclusion is, then, we need to find more innovative ways of communicating science to the general public. There are certainly plenty of “lateral thinking” ideas available on communication. It just needs a more innovative mobilization of those techniques. Perhaps this could be a CPTM “Smart Partnership” project?

# # #

About the author

Keith Suter is a futurist and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. His first doctorate was in the international law of guerrilla warfare and his second in the economic and social consequences of the arms race. He is a member of the Club of Rome, President of the United Nations Association (NSW) and President of the Society for International Development (Sydney Chapter). He lives in Sydney Australia and can be via webeditor@keithsuter.com. .

World Streets / Haitian Streets. Part II. To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature

This special series sets out to tap the considerable competence of people and groups working the leading edge of the field of sustainable transport worldwide, to invite them to provide their best independent strategic counsel for the decision- makers who eventually are going to have to figure out what to do to provide and improve mobility arrangements of Haitians in their daily lives. But before digging into the transport specifics, let’s step back to share an article from today’s International Herald Tribune in which Mark Danner in a few telling pages helps us better understand the extent to which the future of Haiti will not, must not resemble its past.

To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature

- By Mark Danner, New York Times, Published: January 21, 2010. Copyright

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22danner.html
Fair use on World Streets: http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2009/03/fair-use-and-world-streets.html

HAITI is everybody’s cherished tragedy. Long before the great earthquake struck the country like a vengeful god, the outside world, and Americans especially, described, defined, marked Haiti most of all by its suffering. Epithets of misery clatter after its name like a ball and chain: Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. One of the poorest on earth. For decades Haiti’s formidable immiseration has made it among outsiders an object of fascination, wonder and awe. Sometimes the pity that is attached to the land — and we see this increasingly in the news coverage this past week — attains a tone almost sacred, as if Haiti has taken its place as a kind of sacrificial victim among nations, nailed in its bloody suffering to the cross of unending destitution.

And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti’s pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.

In 1804 the free Republic of Haiti was declared in almost unimaginable triumph: hard to exaggerate the glory of that birth. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans had labored to make Saint-Domingue, as Haiti was then known, the richest colony on earth, a vastly productive slave-powered factory producing tons upon tons of sugar cane, the 18th-century’s great cash crop. For pre-Revolutionary France, Haiti was an inexhaustible cash cow, floating much of its economy. Generation after generation, the second sons of the great French families took ship for Saint-Domingue to preside over the sugar plantations, enjoy the favors of enslaved African women and make their fortunes.

Even by the standards of the day, conditions in Saint-Domingue’s cane fields were grisly and brutal; slaves died young, and in droves; they had few children. As exports of sugar and coffee boomed, imports of fresh Africans boomed with them. So by the time the slaves launched their great revolt in 1791, most of those half-million blacks had been born in Africa, spoke African languages, worshipped African gods.

In an immensely complex decade-long conflict, these African slave-soldiers, commanded by legendary leaders like Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated three Western armies, including the unstoppable superpower of the day, Napoleonic France. In an increasingly savage war — “Burn houses! Cut off heads!” was the slogan of Dessalines — the slaves murdered their white masters, or drove them from the land.

On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines created the Haitian flag by tearing the white middle from the French tricolor, he achieved what even Spartacus could not: he had led to triumph the only successful slave revolt in history. Haiti became the world’s first independent black republic and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Alas, the first such republic, the United States, despite its revolutionary creed that “all men are created equal,” looked upon these self-freed men with shock, contempt and fear. Indeed, to all the great Western trading powers of the day — much of whose wealth was built on the labor of enslaved Africans — Haiti stood as a frightful example of freedom carried too far. American slaveholders desperately feared that Haiti’s fires of revolt would overleap those few hundred miles of sea and inflame their own human chattel.

For this reason, the United States refused for nearly six decades even to recognize Haiti. (Abraham Lincoln finally did so in 1862.) Along with the great colonial powers, America instead rewarded Haiti’s triumphant slaves with a suffocating trade embargo — and a demand that in exchange for peace the fledgling country pay enormous reparations to its former colonial overseer. Having won their freedom by force of arms, Haiti’s former slaves would be made to purchase it with treasure.

The new nation, its fields burned, its plantation manors pillaged, its towns devastated by apocalyptic war, was crushed by the burden of these astronomical reparations, payments that, in one form or another, strangled its economy for more than a century. It was in this dark aftermath of war, in the shadow of isolation and contempt, that Haiti’s peculiar political system took shape, mirroring in distorted form, like a wax model placed too close to the fire, the slave society of colonial times.

At its apex, the white colonists were supplanted by a new ruling class, made up largely of black and mulatto officers. Though these groups soon became bitter political rivals, they were as one in their determination to maintain in independent Haiti the cardinal principle of governance inherited from Saint-Domingue: the brutal predatory extraction of the country’s wealth by a chosen powerful few.

The whites on their plantations had done this directly, exploiting the land they owned with the forced labor of their slaves. But the slaves had become soldiers in a victorious revolution, and those who survived demanded as their reward a part of the rich land on which they had labored and suffered. Soon after independence most of the great plantations were broken up, given over to the former slaves, establishing Haiti as a nation of small landowners, one whose isolated countryside remained, in language, religion and culture, largely African.

Unable to replace the whites in their plantation manors, Haiti’s new elite moved from owning the land to fighting to control the one institution that could tax its products: the government. While the freed slaves worked their small fields, the powerful drew off the fruits of their labor through taxes. In this disfigured form the colonial philosophy endured: ruling had to do not with building or developing the country but with extracting its wealth. “Pluck the chicken,” proclaimed Dessalines — now Emperor Jacques I — “but don’t make it scream.”

In 1806, two years after independence, the emperor was bayoneted by a mostly mulatto cabal of officers. Haitian history became the immensely complex tale of factional struggles to control the state, with factions often defined by an intricate politics of skin color. There was no method of succession ultimately recognized as legitimate, no tradition of loyal opposition. Politics was murderous, operatic, improvisational. Instability alternated with autocracy. The state was battled over and won; Haiti’s wealth, once seized, purchased allegiance — but only for a time. Fragility of rule and uncertainty of tenure multiplied the imperative to plunder. Unseated rulers were sometimes killed, more often exiled, but always their wealth — that part of it not sent out of the country — was pillaged in its turn.

In 1915 the whites returned: the United States Marines disembarked to enforce continued repayment of the original debt and to put an end to an especially violent struggle for power that, in the shadow of World War I and German machinations in the Caribbean, suddenly seemed to threaten American interests. During their nearly two decades of rule, the Americans built roads and bridges, centralized the Haitian state — setting the stage for the vast conurbation of greater Port-au-Prince that we see today in all its devastation — and sent Haitians abroad to be educated as agronomists and doctors in the hope of building a more stable middle class.

Still, by the time they finally left, little in the original system had fundamentally changed. Haitian nationalism, piqued by the reappearance of white masters who had forced Haitians to work in road gangs, produced the noiriste movement that finally brought to power in 1957 François Duvalier, the most brilliant and bloody of Haiti’s dictators, who murdered tens of thousands while playing adroitly on cold-war America’s fear of communism to win American acceptance.

Duvalier’s epoch, which ended with the overthrow of his son Jean-Claude in 1986, ushered in Haiti’s latest era of instability, which has seen, in barely a quarter-century, several coups and revolutions, a handful of elections (aborted, rigged and, occasionally, fair), a second American occupation (whose accomplishments were even more ephemeral than the first) and, all told, a dozen Haitian rulers. Less and less money now comes from the land, for Haiti’s topsoil has grown enfeebled from overproduction and lack of investment. Aid from foreigners, nations or private organizations, has largely supplanted it: under the Duvaliers Haiti became the great petri dish of foreign aid. A handful of projects have done lasting good; many have been self-serving and even counterproductive. All have helped make it possible, by lifting basic burdens of governance from Haiti’s powerful, for the predatory state to endure.

The struggle for power has not ended. Nor has Haiti’s historic proclivity for drama and disaster. Undertaken in their wake, the world’s interventions — military and civilian, and accompanied as often as not by a grand missionary determination to “rebuild Haiti” — have had as their single unitary principle their failure to alter what is most basic in the country, the reality of a corrupt state and the role, inadvertent or not, of outsiders in collaborating with it.

The sound of Haiti’s suffering is deafening now but behind it one can hear already a familiar music begin to play. Haiti must be made new. This kind of suffering so close to American shores cannot be countenanced. The other evening I watched a television correspondent shake his head over what he movingly described as a “stupid death” — a death that, but for the right medical care, could have been prevented.

“It doesn’t have to happen,” he told viewers. “People died today who did not need to die.” He did not say what any Haitian could have told him: that the day before, and the day before that, Haiti had seen hundreds of such “stupid deaths,” and, over the centuries, thousands more. What has changed, once again, and only for a time, is the light shone on them, and the volume of the voices demanding that a “new Haiti” must now be built so they never happen again.

Whether they can read or not, Haiti’s people walk in history, and live in politics. They are independent, proud, fiercely aware of their own singularity. What distinguishes them is a tradition of heroism and a conviction that they are and will remain something distinct, apart — something you can hear in the Creole spoken in the countryside, or the voodoo practiced there, traces of the Africa that the first generation of revolutionaries brought with them on the middle passage.

Haitians have grown up in a certain kind of struggle for individuality and for power, and the country has proved itself able to absorb the ardent attentions of outsiders who, as often as not, remain blissfully unaware of their own contributions to what Haiti is. Like the ruined bridges strewn across the countryside — one of the few traces of the Marines and their occupation nearly a century ago — these attentions tend to begin in evangelical zeal and to leave little lasting behind.

What might, then? America could start by throwing open its markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, broadening and making permanent the provisions of a promising trade bill negotiated in 2008. Such a step would not be glamorous; it would not “remake Haiti.” But it would require a lasting commitment by American farmers and manufacturers and, as the country heals, it would actually bring permanent jobs, investment and income to Haiti.

Second, the United States and other donors could make a formal undertaking to ensure that the vast amounts that will soon pour into the country for reconstruction go not to foreigners but to Haitians — and not only to Haitian contractors and builders but to Haitian workers, at reasonable wages. This would put real money in the hands of many Haitians, not just a few, and begin to shift power away from both the rapacious government and the well-meaning and too often ineffectual charities that seek to circumvent it. The world’s greatest gift would be to make it possible, and necessary, for Haitians — all Haitians — to rebuild Haiti.

Putting money in people’s hands will not make Haiti’s predatory state disappear. But in time, with rising incomes and a concomitant decentralization of power, it might evolve. In coming days much grander ambitions are sure to be declared, just as more scenes of disaster and disorder will transfix us, more stunning and colorful images of irresistible calamity. We will see if the present catastrophe, on a scale that dwarfs all that have come before, can do anything truly to alter the reality of Haiti.

# # #

Mark Danner is a writer and reporter who for twenty-five years has written on politics and foreign affairs, focusing on war and conflict. He has covered, among many other stories, wars and political conflict in Central America, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq and the Middle East, and, most recently, the story of torture during the War on Terror. Danner is Professor of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics and the Humanities at Bard College.

World Streets / Haitian Streets: Part I. What to do once the emergency has been met.

No city, no place in the world can hope for a fair future if it does not have safe streets that work for people in their day to day lives. Streets are the circulatory systems of our towns and cities, They are not “roads” which tend to be treated as more or less isolated conduits down which we try to channel as many vehicles as fast as possible. No, streets are rather highly idiosyncratic, hugely varied human spaces in which people move and mill around but also do a lot of other things as well. Roads are for vehicles, streets are for people.

The strategic context of city transport policy and practice in Haiti:
A thinking exercise

Soon it will time to start to lay the base for transport policy and practice in post-trauma Haiti. In fact now is the time to start this rethink. Fully aware that others are getting to work on this, World Streets has decided to make its voice heard as well on this. The following posting is the first in a series, both by our editor and others who will surely be stepping forward, to develop a broader open discussion of how to build sustainable transportation into Haiti’s cities.

We start here by looking at what we believe to be the broader context within which the issues of transport, mobility and access need to be understood and sorted out.

The importance of safe streets: But in their rightful place: We all know the old one that to a man with a hammer all problems look like nails. So of course we have to make sure that all that we think is important is properly understood in the broader context of the needs and priorities of the people in that place. Alanna Hartzok of Earth Rights Institute sent us this morning their list of priorities for rebuilding Haiti. Putting on my hat as an development economist, let me share with you my own revised read of the situation.

The overall priorities as I see them then, in some kind of rough order . . .

1. Public safety
2. Potable water
3. Access to basic food supply
4. Sanitation
5. Habitat
6. Jobs, income opportunities
7. Appropriate transport (safe, affordable, clean, available to all, sustainable)
8. Low cost first-line health care
9. Public schools
10. Reforestation

And not even one nanometer behind these:

1. Land reform
2. Agricultural fields (rice and root crops) and appropriate technology
3. Transparent public finance
4. Wind and solar energy
5. Dairy farms (goats, cows)
6. Cotton and hemp fields for fabric and building material
7. Mangosteen, mango, pineapple, papaya, trees
8. Nut trees/ coconut trees, ground nuts (peanuts)
9. Cooperatives.
10. Small industries

.
Debt Forgiveness: A critical step to help Haitians build a better tomorrow will be to convince global creditors to cancel Haiti’s $890 million international debt. This I believe should extend to all debts held by the poor. After bailing out the biggest banks on the planet we are not talking about huge numbers here. Doing so will help make sure that every possible future dollar goes towards rebuilding a stronger Haiti, not to servicing old debts.

United Nations Trusteeship Council: To all of which I have to add a much stronger role on the part of the much-neglected Trusteeship Council which needs a far more aggressive mandate for overseeing the next ten or twenty years in democracy and peace. In many parts of the world we have for far too long been fooling ourselves about the importance of that trip to the polls as a guarantor of democracy. The facts speak for themselves. True democracy requires a full stomach and a safe walk to the polling place. And there are times in life when we all can use a little help from outside.

International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport: And in this, our partial bailiwick, I hope that our collaborators around the world will now turn their eyes and hearts toward Haiti, not only for a bit of help from our wallets today but more actively in the months and years ahead. Already and in part in reaction to the great chaos that soured COP15 in Copenhagen last month, a broad range of groups and programs are already beginning to get together lay the base for more effective international collaboration in our field, and World Streets is but one small example of this. The OECD’s International Transportation Forum is also an important force for international collaboration and support. The new International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport (http://slocat.net/) already groups brings together come fifty of the most active international, bi-laterals, NGOs and other actors in our field. Others are emerging and hopefully will be regularly introduced and tracked in the pages of World Streets.

So let’s all of us get together to work on the fair transport agenda for poor Haiti. Because if we do not do it, what will happen? More of the old mobility thinking and investments that are far from the most important priorities of the people on the street? We can’t let that happen. Can we?

Eric Britton

PS. I warmly recommend that you also read the following Comments just below. Very interesting and useful.

Haitian roads too: Which is not to suggest that roads and transport to and from cities and towns is not a significant economic and sustainability challenge in itself. In addition to the largest cities of Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Cap-Haitien, and Petionville, there are in Haiti a hundred smaller towns which, in this author’s view, require a consistent sustainable transport approach to their internal circulation challenges. But once you get beyond the limits of the central areas, a new transportation challenge takes over, one that is of great importance in Haiti where the links to the country side have greater economic and social significance . And while there too there is plenty of room for the values associated with sustainability, the basic strategic approach is very different. Another but related policy paradigm. But to each their métier.