Shell Sustainable Transport Workshop - Pitching in via the virtual assembly and support group
- [NOTE: 4 DAYS REMAIN TO GET YOUR COMMENTS & RECOMMENDATIONS BEFORE THE
With the workshop a scant four days ahead, this is perhaps a good time to take
advantage of the considerable networking resources we have at our disposal in
order to help make sure that Shell is on the right track in defining their
terrific proposed Sustainable Transport Centre activities. But first a quick
look at our tools:
1. The basic toolkit for the accompanying virtual assembly and support group is
open to all at http://newmobility.org, with the workings of this support
activity clearly spelled out under the 7 June Workshop link on both menus.
2. It is perhaps worth noting that in addition to the three dozen or so select
experts who will be showing up in person on Friday here in Paris, we have now
made contact, direct and indirect, with thousands of our colleagues and
interested people around the world, many of whom are well placed to help the
organizers sort out their priorities and eventual programs. (I might note that
in the last days we are seeing visitors coming into the website at a tempo of
about one every five minutes, which strikes me as an interesting indication of
the reach and potential of this approach.)
3. Bearing in mind the potential of the Net to extend activities such as this in
many ways - over physical space, time, range of background, disciplines,
countries, et al - we have decided to continue to support the accompanying
e-conference here on @New Mobility for the entire month of June. This will give
us all ample time for study and reflection on these important issues, and time
to provide comments, materials and recommendations both before next Friday's
workshop and in the weeks immediately following it. In addition, this will give
us a chance to exchange ideas about the workshop Proceedings as soon as they are
placed on the Foundation's site (again that's http://www.shellfoundation.org/).
4. At the completion of the month's work, we intend to draw up a short
evaluation of the achievements and shortcomings of this attempt to mesh the
physical and virtual workshops. There will certainly be lessons to be drawn
from this experience.
BACKGROUND PAPER REVIEW;
This key background piece is of course posted on the site, and we very much hope
that you will take the time to review it and in turn to sharer you reactions,
comments and recommendations with at least the organizers and, if at all
possible and appropriate, with the group as a whole. At 23 pages, the
draft-for-comment is not a quick read, so perhaps it might be useful to try to
point you to what in our view are among the main pivot issues in which the
organizers can profit from the collective wisdom and experience of this network.
In addition to providing background on the issues of sustainable and
unsustainable transport, with particular emphasis on the energy/transport
interface, which makes sense given the sponsor's own backgrounds, the draft
challenges the reader with something on the order of fifty questions on quite a
wide range of topics. Bearing in mind that the workshop organizers may chose to
spend some time on these, I thought that it might be a useful starting point if
I were to try to come up with a single handful of central questions, the answers
to which might be directly useful to the Centre in the earliest planning stages.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE WORKSHOP:
1. "SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION"?
How can the Foundation ensure that their program gives fair and wise coverage
over the years to the _full range_ of issues that fall under the broad umbrella
of 'sustainable transportation'? (Examples: central role of job creation,
travel-reduction, rectifying the social injustices inherent in an auto-based
transportation system, inclusion of new and as yet largely unknown kinds of
transportation arrangements and purveyors, etc.)
2. IN OR OUT OF THE BOX?
Do we have a clear enough understanding of the difference between old mobility
and new mobility - on the grounds that the latter aims not at fixing problems
(that often as not past technology, planning, values and expertise have actually
created and then consistently and blindly exacerbated) but rather at creating a
radically different mental and physical "architecture" of transportation and all
that defines it?
3. DO IT OR LINK IT?
Is it the priority for the Shell Foundation Sustainable Transportation Centre to
have its own research program - or should the emphasis be on an explicit and
consistent philosophy, wise funding and creative networking?
4. EDIFICE COMPLEX?
Will the Centre be best served by having its own building, staff, and budget -
or will it be able to achieve its objectives better based on 21st century
communications and collaborative arrangements?
5. SOUTH/NORTH LEARNING?
Since it is a fair criticism to note that most of the mega-transport problems of
third world cities can be traced to the unthinking application of what can be
called the "northern model", might not the Centre do well give attention as well
to highlighting Third World problem solving and examples, not just for other
cities in less developed countries but also across the OECD region?
* * *
To close for the moment: This is a splendid and most timely initiative on the
part of the Foundation and I am sure that all of those who have been working in
our own various ways to advance the sustainability agenda over the last decades
are extremely gratified to learn that a significant new program along these
lines is about to be launched. The need for original thinking, new paths of
problem-solving in the sector, and the more effective highlighting of promising
new solution paths is enormous. And for once we have technology on our side.
With the Net, we will be able to create the networks and knowledge flows that
are going to be vital in collectively defining the new transportation paradigm
that is needed to move toward sustainability.
[Comments on the above will be posted on the site as received. They should be
addressed to email@example.com if you wish to share them with the group as
a whole, or to eric.britton@... if you wish to address the author
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