Better ideas do not by themselves change the world.

If the developing world has to resolve the paradox of extreme poverty amidst high economic growth, they will have to adopt an alternative framework to promote inclusive   development where principles of universal access to basic needs and social wage are given prominence.

“Better ideas do not by themselves change the world. The suffocation of a certain hqdefaultbalance of social forces precludes alternative ideas from being taken seriously. There are hundreds of designs in engineering labs for smoke-less chimneys and water-less toilets, but their existence has not meant that they have been adopted for mass usage. It will require a shift in social power to allow new ideas and new technologies to become acceptable in our times. In absence of such a change, an “alternative” will simply mean a solution of a practical nature that is not capable of being fully embraced.”

Continue reading

The Unexpected Renaissance

Haentjens - book coverThere I was in Paris last week,  pretty much minding my own business ,which for the most part consisted of leading a last-semester international  MBA class into the wilds of Sustainable Development, Economy and Society, and my eye fell on a little blue book in the reception area. The title, “Crises: La Solution des Villes” was close enough to the topics that occupy our attention here, that I opened it and started to read. And what I found in the very first chapter was a highly engaging account of how a certain number of European cities, who back in the sixties and seventies were in deep pain mainly as a result of the entirely unanticipated process of deindustrialization, decided to react and turn their desperate situations around. And in the process, separately and together, began to reinvent the paradigm of the 21st century city.

Continue reading

Equity: A muddled discussion awaiting its first theory

Nothing is more attractive to me than a muddled discussion awaiting its first theory.

- E. O. Wilson, Biophilia, Harvard University Press, 1984

polar bears on ice floatAnd if ever there were a “muddled discussion” in the domain of public policy, just about everything we have heard and seen over the last decades under the heading  of “sustainable development” and “sustainable transportation” has to be placed firmly in this category.  Hopes, rhetoric and promises have run higher than high, while concrete achievements and realities have been tragically few and far between.  We are grievously losing the war of sustainability on just about every front you can imagine.  Something has to be very wrong, something fundamental, something structural and something which apparently is not getting the attention it requires.

Continue reading

Tribune: John Whitelegg on Planetary Boundaries

Planetary Boundaries

This is an unusual editorial.  It is entirely concerned with one book published in 2012 called “The Human Quest

To say this book is important is an understatement.  It is hugely important because it shows that the current trajectory of the human species on this planet is on automatic pilot with the self-destruct option initiated.   This may sound rather dramatic but the book is based on a very traditional scientific analysis and a strong evidence based logic rooted in the best scientific tradition and especially Swedish scientific traditions.  It is a solid, objective, scientific analysis.

Continue reading

World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 19, No. 1. January 2013

water animal wtpp

In this issue of World Transport we once again fo­cus on intelligent solutions to future trans­port that have the potential to shift us into a way of thinking and doing that avoids transgressing planetary boundaries. To­mas Björnsson draws attention to the ur­gent need for improved cycling facilities in southern Sweden that cost a small frac­tion of what is spent on highways. Martin Schiefelbusch shows how rural transport problems can be solved by community transport initiatives. Stephen Knight-Lenihan reveals the extent to which de­sirable sustainability objectives can be undermined by a lack of will at national level. His account of the situation in New Zealand will resonate strongly with the situation in many other countries. The ar­ticle by Serena Kang describes a “flexible bus utility model” that has the potential to more closely match the supply of bus services with the demand for those serv­ices and thereby increase levels of use of public transport.

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

Achieving the goals of the EC White Paper on Transport: How civil society can help with delivery

The European Economic and Social Committee is organizing a conference on “Achieving the goals of the White Paper on Transport: how civil society can help with delivery”. This one day conference will take place at the Committee’s premises on 7 December. The principal document under discussion is entitled “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource-efficient transport system”. It is available here . We are inviting comments on this document since it is at the core of the meeting. But first some background: Continue reading