“Quick Guides” for “Paradigm Shift”

The following vigorous exchange was set off by several postings that appeared today in the Sustran Global South discussion forum, subsequent to a ” UN Habitat Call for Expression of Interest for Cooperation Partners for Production of Quick Guides for Sustainable Urban Mobility” which you can access here – http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/11316_1_594501.pdf.  I would like to thank Morten Lange from Reykjavík for getting the ball rolling on this and sharing his unvarnished expert views with the group. It is my hope that this process will stimulate vigorous comments. We are not going to win the war of sustainable development and social justice by sleeping in our warm corner and leaving it to . . . whom?

These are the times that try men’s souls. – Tom Paine

UN Habitat Call for Expression of Interest for Cooperation Partners for Production of Quick Guides for Sustainable Urban Mobility

Inspect document here –http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/11316_1_594501.pdf

Letter to forum of 17 July 2012

Dear Lisa, Morten and All,

This is an excellent and timely exchange in this otherwise drab post Rio+20 world.  Instead of pussy footing around and playing nice as usual, Morten Lange steps forward and points up a typical turgid example of the reason why we are losing, and losing badly, the war of sustainability (and social justice).

The good news is that  he does not just sit there and applaud one more half-baked (if surely well-intentioned) idea. Instead he steps back, looks critically at the issues (about which he knows a lot) and sounds a challenge which really does need to be answered .

Morten characterizes this as, in his perfectly chosen words: an approach which is (a) “quite unambitious and bureaucratic”, then (b) “not a  very open, collaborative process”, followed by (c) “they do not seem to be wanting NGO’s on board at all”, all the way to his knockout blow (d) “instead of just regurgitating cautious adjustments to a perilous Business as Usual”.  He could have gone further and drawn our attention to the fact that this “call” — ” to promote a paradigm shift “, get it “paradigm shift”! — gives a grand total of two weeks in the sleepy (for many) mid-summer for anyone with an idea to get back to them with a first proposal.  There has to be a story behind this.

And there is more:  Can someone out there  kindly remind me what is a “quick guide” to sustainable urban mobility?  Did anyone mention to them that there are hundreds, thousands  of piles of paper out there along these lines (too many of which with my name on them as author or contributor), and that to change the game in terms of urban transport, ” to promote a paradigm shift “, it is not more  quick guides or more endless  repertories of “best practices” that are going to do the job.

Does anyone else think there is something badly wrong here?

Think of sustainable development as Syria, and the UN as . . . the UN. (Is this too cruel?)

Sustainable development and social justice cannot be passively administered by civil servants whose first priority is to hang on  to their jobs (sorry!). It is a war, a war we are losing, and one  that needs to be fought and won with brains, engagement, ideas, openness, experience, outreach,  inclusiveness,  communications, variety and risk taking.  We need to dare, to look the BAU team in the eye, to go for virile combat,  to understand that to win this one (urban mobility) we need to seize the public space (which a lot of people and established financial interests are not going to like), to make some big and creative mistakes, to learn from them, to do more . . . and to win.

And in all this a tip of the hat to Lisa for agreeing with the overall assessment. And then her hope “the hope, perhaps naive, that a Southern based Organisation would have the ability to be involved in a productive way”.   (If that quiet call does not break your heart then you know nothing .)

But finally, this is good news too because it is an informed, frank exchange with, I hope, a couple of hundred of us following it and trying to figure out how to avoid ” just regurgitating cautious adjustments to a perilous Business as usual”.

When will it be time to send in the A Team? (On which I definitely want Morten.)

Eric Britton

On Behalf Of Lisa Kane
Sent: Tuesday, 17 July, 2012 15:03
To: Morten Lange

Dear Morten,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I wish I could offer the response you look for, but I cannot. In fact, I agree with your overall assessment. My motivation in circulating this was the hope, perhaps naive, that a Southern based Organisation would have the ability to be involved in a productive way.

Regards

Lisa
Honorary Research Associate
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch 7701
+2721 6715404
+2772 7046605

——————————————–

On 17 Jul 2012, at 2:44 PM, Morten Lange <morten7an@yahoo.comwrote:

Thanks Lisa, for conveying this to the group.

However the content does not infuse me with optimism ..

I am sorry if I put this too bluntly, but the process around this project, seems quite unambitious and bureaucratic to me. And not a very open, collaborative process (?) Additionally they do not seem to be wanting NGO’s on board at all, only consultancies (?)

My final criticism is their wording in the only instance where active transport is specifically mentioned. It is to be “promoted”.What is needed is much more radical : reallocation of space in favour
of active transport modes. A redistribution of investments so, that (indirect) subsidies car users are reduced.  Especially if one takes the externalities of motorized transport into account : Barrier
effects (reducing public health and efficiency benefits achieved through active transport), pollution of at least five main types, land-use/sprawl, etc)

I know I am preaching to the choir, but perhaps some of you can offer consolation or hope that this exercise by UN Habitat will actually move things forwards, instead of just regurgitating cautious adjustments to a perilous Business as usual.

Regards / Kve ja / Hilsen
Morten Lange, Reykjav k

—————————

From: Lisa Kane <lisakane@iafrica.com>

Sent: Monday, 16 July 2012, 17:56

Subject: [sustran] UN HABITAT quick guides on sustainable mobility, call for interest. This call for interest looks like it could be of interest to list members:

http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/11316_1_594501.pdf

Regards

Lisa
Honorary Research Associate
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch 7701

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