Sharing: Humankind’s oldest technology is ready for a comeback

Long before automobiles and even science humankind discovered sharing tools, housing, roads, and wharfs, a natural way to reduce scarce labour and materials. And long before Adam Smith, we used the “profit” from such sharing to develop specialized skills and knowledge, both of which required sharing, and to build shared infrastructure. Now that we face rising prices for resources, thanks to looming shortages and better understanding of “externalities,” we need to face the prospect of putting on the brakes of our rush to individual consumption. Do we do without or do we share in ways that increase, rather than, reduce, our quality of life? Continue reading

Parks vs. Parking: What do Indian cities need?

Chennai had prepared a plan some years ago for a multi-storey parking deck  in T. Nagar where the Panagal Park now stands. T Nagar, once a quiet residential neighbourhood, is now the shopping centre for all of Chennai and has tremendous levels of congestion. The parking plan was called off due to protests by walkers and elderly citizens. I recently got the happy news that a revised plan to build an underground multi-storey parking facility below the Venkatanarayana Road playground also got struck down in the Madras High Court. The court reasoned that the city was lacking in open spaces – which are now considered an integral part of the constitutional right to life. The parcel under consideration is zoned as an open space and has been in use as a playground for more than 60 years. The court found that this activity cannot be disrupted for providing services to motorists who visit this central neighbourhood in the city for shopping. Continue reading

Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich.

Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende,  1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth,  etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies.  But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.

So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen.  So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading

On the road with one of Cairo’s first female taxi drivers

Source: BBC News, 27 Sept. 2010

Source: BBC News, 27 Sept. 2010

We cannot of course be sure if you are following all of our web of key themes that together create the bedrock of World Streets, but two of these that are most important to us are (a) the importance of “pattern change” and, of course our old friends will say, (b) the role of women as not just passive passengers in a system designed by and mainly for men, but also active drivers of the changes that we now need to put in place to have mobility systems which are both sustainable and just as well as efficient. With this in view, let’s share with you this morning  a very short video just in from the BBC in which one of Cairo’s new female taxi drivers shares with us some of her views on her job and the attitudes it evokes in the people around on the street. Continue reading

Sharing: Strategy for a Small Planet

– Keynote address by Eric Britton, Co-Chair of the World Share/Transport Forum, to the first international Share/Transport Conference. Kaohsiung. 16 Sept. 2010

I appreciate this opportunity to share with this distinguished international audience by way of introduction to the presentations and discussions that will now follow a few words on why I think that the concept of more and better sharing of scarce resources of all kinds is an important concept for quality of life for each of us on this small and shrinking planet. And to talk with you as well briefly on why I have come to the conclusion that the transport sector gives us a great place to start both to do a lot more sharing and to learn about why we human beings like, or don’t like, the idea of sharing things. Let’s start with . . . ourselves. Continue reading

Street Talk: Ivan Illich on Sharing in Transport

“The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport*. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man’s feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit  others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself. Left on his own, he feels immobile.”

Ivan Illich in Energy and Equity (Chapter: Speed-stunned imagination) Continue reading

Kaohsiung pause

Our esteemed editor in chief (also the only editor but happily not the only contributor) is tied up for this and most of next week in Kaohsiung for the first meeting of the World Share/Transport Forum.  He has taken the entire staff of World Streets with him, so it will be a bit lights-out on this street for the next few days. Our hope is that you will miss us and in the meantime be thinking about articles, authors, programs, problems, solutions, links and useful tools  that we can all share together in these and other good pages.  In the meantime come to Kaohsiung with us via   It will be well worth the trip.

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