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 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/nov/03/lester-brown-copenhagen

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 epi@earthpolicy.org.

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 – http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ecomayor8-2009aug08,0,7556202.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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Shoup. So now you know what you have to do.

Solidarność

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