29 December 2004

29/12. HIGHEST PRIORITY: Post-Tsunami rebuilding - the role of sustainable mobility proponents

Program: New Mobility Agenda
Note: click title above for support document

Dear World Wide Friends and Colleagues,

In the wake of the current tragic events in the regions affected by Tsunami, and once the terrible immediate health and basic needs of these areas and their people have started to be met, it is going to be time to take a number of decisions about rebuilding in all those impacted areas. And at the center of this rebuilding will be the transportation sector. Since this is the case, and since it opens up some unique opportunities in terms of sustainability, I invite us to think about it together.

My question to you all here is: might this be a unique opportunity for us to make the voice of sustainable transportation and social justice heard once and for all as it should be? There are at least three things about this approach that recommend it strongly in the immediate situation and the after-math. First, sustainability proponents are used to figuring out how to get the most mileage, the most sustainable mobility bang per buck, out of the infrastructure and related realties and constraints before them. Second, they are accustomed to dealing with the physical mobility issues and needs in a far more resource and environmentally efficient manner. And third, the sustainability approach to defining and meeting the needs of people is based on an active citizenry, surely a precondition of the rapid progress which is needed at this time. So for all these reasons, the sustainability approach should be at the center of the transport policy and practice debate and decisions that must now follow.

Here’s our bottom line: The proponents of sustainable development now have a unique opportunity to influence transportation decisions and the specific hands-on programs and measure that follow, not only in the affected tragic regions but also world wide – since anything of real value that is accomplished there is going to gain world wide attention.

But are we as yet geared up really to make our voices heard at this time? It is my view that despite the growing body of expertise and accomplishment, the proponents of sustainable transportation or new mobility are still very much a minority and until now not able to get in there and really change the problematique and the practices when it comes to investing money and making the big decisions which shape the system.

In this context, I would like to propose here that those of you who have not as yet had an opportunity to look over our proposal for sustainable transportation as a “Third Voice” in the coming high profile international project, might wish to check out the latest draft of the proposal in process at http://www.ecoplan.org/library/Emergency-initiative.pdf – with a view to seeing if anything here can be used or built on to create the higher profile ‘voice’ that is going to be needed in the months and several years immediately ahead to make the wise decisions that are going to be essential if the rebuilding efforts are to be accomplished with maximum speed and best overall fit into the communities and people directly affected.

To conclude: It may well be that my proposal that follows here is not the best way for us to join voices to see what can be done now to influence these important decisions that are going to be make in our beloved sector. No problem. Toss it out the window, and come in here with your suggestions. The issues are so very important, the opportunity so unique, and the decision window likely to be open for such a short period, that we really need to seize this opportunity to be every bit as smart and responsible as we can be.

I hope that this will set off better thoughts and a course of action that mobilizes as many of us as possible.

Eric Britton

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