Climate Change 101: Thinking about Illich, Energy and Equity

ivan illich picIn the context of ongoing work on a new book, “Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities”, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the starting point for policy and political decisions in the field often described as “urban transport” absolutely has to open up with considerations not of vehicles and infrastructure, technology and entrepreneurship, nor even of people and cities, but on the very bottom line our starting place must be climate and GHG emissions. And the other half of the climate coin is energy, and in fact equity.

So may I suggest that this could be  a good time for us to have another look at Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”.  And I ask you, 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,  voter registration, 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 through the looking glass and into the future with Illich as our guide!)

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Climate Change. . .  and why we are not taking it seriously

open car open rooad closed mindLisa Bennett,  a writer and communications strategist focusing on climate change, has just published an article in Grist in which she picks out ten problems that we just about all have with our behaviour, our psychology and our attitude toward the future, and in particular the inevitably uncertain future of climate change. We have extracted the ten points she speaks to in this summary below. For the full article you will have to turn to Grist here –http://goo.gl/hO9E3E.

The bottom line has to be that to the extent all those concerned are until now unable to mobilize enough people on these issues to make a difference, we are simply going to have to be  far better in making our case — and making and making and making it — than we have been up to now. Hard work ahead. Brain work! Let’s listen to Lisa.

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Interview: World Streets editor interviews busy mayor on his sustainable transport strategy

Asking the mayor of Freedonia to walk the talk

groucho at deskFreedonia City Hall, 20 June 2015.09:00. The mayor is comfortably seated  at his  imposing desk, looking fondly at an unlit cigar.  After a lengthy wait and a nod from the imposing receptionist, the editor of World Streets knocks lightly and waits timidly at the door, entirely drenched and  more than a bit disheveled. Not a pretty sight.

The Mayor: Well sir, you are a fine mess. Careful there, you are dripping on my favorite chair. Continue reading

Energy and Transportation, 2015-2020: A Different Perspective

France IFP Schoool class

Working notes for June 5th Master Class presentation to the IFPEN-School Paris

Summary: The thesis of this presentation is (a) that the combinations of technologies, operations and institutional arrangements which today define the transport sector are so grossly inefficient, inappropriate and so thoroughly locked into the system, that only a major paradigm change will be capable of shaking them up.  Our unexpected good luck is (b) that such a tectonic pattern change is currently in full swing.  However, as often happens, they are not broadly spotted or understood.  And (c) this opens up an unexpected and most welcome opportunity.

There can be no doubt that (d) our uppermost public policy target today has to be the planetary emergency (global warming, resource depletion and species extinctions).  Tragically (e) the reality of present practices is that this message has still to get through. Under these circumstances the imperative first step is to become aware of it and then to seek its implications, which is in fact the goal of this presentation.

In the case of our sector, (f) the critical link between transport and climate is energy, and this from two strategic perspectives. First (g) the enormous and as yet largely untapped potential for major near-term advances, at relatively low cost.  Even more decisive is the enormous near-term potential of the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in the transport sector.  This is the lifeline of the future of our planet, no less.  And the message should be taken to the December UN COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris.

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Mobility/Convergence (2): The Energy Vector

The climate/transport link transits directly via the energy sector.  Conceptually the relationships are very simple.  Reality is of course quite another thing.

Our immediate emergency target (climate change, resource depletion, and species extinctions) is to find ways to combine technologies and procedures which will allow us to virtually eliminate carbon-based fuels and impacts in a necessary short amount of time.[1]

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Mobility/Convergence (1). The Climate Imperative

France Paris pollutoin alert - traffic 23mar15

Paris. Pollution alert emergency measures. 23 March 2015

We would be foolish, we would be irresponsible beyond pardon, if we do not start by understanding and accepting that the world climate emergency is the most important single policy issue  of our time.  All of our decisions and actions from this points on must be tempered by the planetary challenges that threaten us today: climate change, resource depletion, and species extinctions.

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Eleven Steps Toward a Brighter Future

Way to Go! 11 Reasons Why Trains, Buses, Bikes and Walking Move Us Toward a Brighter Future

– Guest editorial, by Jay Walljasper

According to the pundits and prophets who dominate the media, the future of transportation is all figured out for us.  Cheaper gas prices mean we can still count on our private cars to take us everywhere we want to go in the years to come. The only big change down the road will be driverless autos, which will make long hours behind the wheel less boring and more productive.

But this everything-stays-the-same vision ignores some significant social developments. Americans have actually been driving less per-capita for the past decade, bucking a century-long trend of ever-increasing dependence on automobiles.

velib-station1

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