More on Illich, Energy and Equity

Further to our recent posting on “Climate Change 101: Thinking about Illich, Energy and Equity” we have just received he following commentary from Chris Bradshaw (See author note below.)


Illich book covve - toward a history of needsI used your post to re-read — after, I estimate, 25 years — this delightful essay. I own two copies, one which is part of “Towards a History of Needs” published four years later in 1977).

In that volume, there is an introductory note, which might be useful to add (see end, along with the forward for the 1974 publication — Perennial Library — of this essay by itself). Two things come from these two extras: a) this essay first appeared in Le Monde (yes, probably in French), and b) his defined audience included, equally, the under-developed world.

He, of course, missed global warming as an issue that would fit nicely next to “energy crisis.”

I would add that he missed the link between high-speed and high-power and the formalities of control — rules, regulations, resources — that also disenfranchise those with less speed and power.

Peter D. Norton’s recent book, “Fighting Traffic” does a yeoman effort to show how the transition from “transit” to “transport” in North American cities took place 1915-1935.

I will continue to muse over Illich’s brilliant thinking.

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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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Who is reading World Streets where today?

ws reader map 22may15
* * Click map for higher definition version * *

The above map reports the locations of 451 readers checking into World Streets over the last two days. (Approximately 10% of our total registered readers as of this date.)

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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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Taiwan Mission Recommendations : 23–30 January 2014 (Peer Review and Commentary)

taiwan - taipei - scooters at stop light

 A morning like all others in Taipei traffic

Lyon, 3 February 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It had been a year and a half since I last worked in Taiwan, the longest separation since I started collaborating with colleagues there in 2009. During much of this interval, in addition to my teaching, editorial responsibilities and advisory work, I have been working on a most challenging new book under the title “General Theory of Transport in Cities”. The book aims to set out what I believe to be a much needed, consistent base for planning, policy and investment decisions in this important and fast changing field where ad hoc decision-making by unprepared politicians and ambitious interest groups has all too often prevailed.

This last year has been a period of deep reflection on my accumulated experience in the transport and sustainable development fields in cities around the world over more than four decades. As a result of this ongoing process, I find myself this time looking at the issues in Taiwan from this broader international perspective. My keynote address to the International Forum on Livable City & Eco-Mobility in Hsinchu on 29 January was the first in a series of international “road tests”, which are giving me a precious opportunity to present some of the main arguments from the book before expert audiences to test them and seek their critical comments and views.  The lively discussions that took place in Hsinchu during the forum and my four days there proved to be most valuable.

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