Battles of Ideas

complex systems networkThis section is intended as an international reference set to be useful for researchers, students, the media and for concerned citizens and activists on the lookout for ideas and strategies which can be put to work in their own cities.

The goal is to give our readers a chance to weigh and appreciate the very wide range of  ways of thinking, questioning, planning and executing when it comes to how transport in cities is being organized and delivered in different parts of the world.  The references you find here are  for the most part organized into countries, with the exception of the African continent which is included in its totality as a region that desperately requires more attention because the needs there are so enormous — and the fact that the fit with frugal, sustainable transport strategies simply could not be better.

The First Battlefields

At this point introductions are provided for the following countries, though it can be expected that others will be added as we and our readers pool our information, resources and intelligence in order to expand this initial listing:

  1. Africa
  2. Albania
  3. China
  4. Cuba
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. Greece
  8. India
  9. Iran
  10. Italy
  11. Malta
  12. Malaysia
  13. Netherlands
  14. Taiwan
  15. Vietnam

The list is  hugely varied, ranging from the world’s largest megacities to the smallest European capitals, Tallinn in Estonia with not quite half a million people and Valletta the capital city of Malta and home to not quite seven thousand Maltese. The selection  in this case is largely the result of past experience in working there and thus  being able to get an in-depth appreciation of what is going on in each case. In all cases we also are in contact with knowledgeable people and groups who are themselves working directly on these issues.

 

Just a start

We hope that the information presented in each of these initial profiles will be useful as a first reference tool, because one of the objectives of World Streets from the beginning has been to provide broad international perspectives on the many different ways that governments around the word are addressing the complex challenges of sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.

Our theory is that if those in cities who are presently facing great  difficulties and barriers are able to familiarize themselves  with and understand the full stories behind the progress which has been made with great originality and effort over the last decades in cities in countries like Finland, the Netherlands and more recently Taiwan, they will see  that none of this has been easy.  These are not countries which have somehow been favored by history and various advantages.  Each has had to find their own way and to fight, often against many pressures, to achieve their present level of strong performance.

But if you talk to the people who are most knowledgeable about what is going on in their cities and countries, you will find that they are their own most severe critics.  The lesson is that solutions are never achieved once and for all, that they require hard work to come to, and that it is only through eternal vigilance that they are able to improve on the levels of performance that they had thus far achieved.

How it works?

If you look at the menu items under each heading, the first simply calls up all articles that appeared in World Streets of the last six years on projects and programs in that country.  In about half of the cases you will see a report that we have prepared as a result of a recent advisory mission there. A number of the entries also have Facebook support and content.

A special wrinkle is the inclusion of the findings of our combined search engine, Knoogle, which searches close to 1000 sources specifically covering a broad range of transport-related issues in countries around the world.  You can find more on how that works in our section on Knoogle at https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/welcome-to-knoogle/.  For direct access so that you can start to use it yourself, http://goo.gl/OkjpOU .

 

# # #

In all cases these countries and cities desiring to make the breakthroughs are having to face daunting complex system challenges which require a  strong vision, deep commitment,  patient attention to detail and great mental flexibility (the greatest barrier of all) if they are to find the best way to proceed in each case.  Most of these topics and approaches are being hotly contested in most parts of the world.  They are literally battlegrounds of competing ideas.

Nobody ever said that the move to sustainable transport and sustainable cities was going to be simple.  Nor that good ideas sell themselves. In each case it is not enough to be right in terms of the basic principles. It is every bit as important to be able to communicate them and to convince the public, government and other key actors that these ideas and approaches are worth getting behind.

How is it going? (Recent visitor map of World Streets of 21 Feb. 2015)

WS reader map 16feb15

 

# # #

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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