Op-Ed: True Democracy is actually ‘The’ Delivery System of Human Rights

Dear Capitalism its not you - large

Democracy was born at the local level, and that is where we can win it back. (Barcelone en Comú)

Human rights violations are not an unfortunate stain on an otherwise clean democracy. It is terribly normal

Human rights: Food for a thought to be delivered – Human Rights Reader 455

1. Democracy does not mean that the majority is right, but instead it means that it gives the majority the right to govern. (Umberto Eco) This is why elections are eventually important episodes. But democracy additionally requires that, in the exercise of its mandate, the government can be controlled (i):

The power of the state cannot be at the whim of the governors even if duly elected. (Arturo Illia) Why? Because in our fiduciary democracies elections are equivalent to the selling and buying that goes on in supermarkets in which candidates offer all kinds of products to their clients in exchange for them buying their promises and showing up at poling day.(ii) (Rafael Gumucio) This is also why, furthermore, we ought to fear as much those from outside who want to ‘buy us’, as fear those from inside who want to ‘sell us’. (A. Illia )

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‘We’re doomed’ . . . Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention

China Mekong Basin desertification AFP Huang Dinh Nab Le Monde

Let’s see what Dr. Mayer Hillman —  eminent architect, town planner and Senior Fellow Emeritus since 1992 at the Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster where he worked for at least thirty years —   had to offer in an interview that appeared in The Guardian last week.  By Patrick Barkham   Full text with illustrations  at https://bit.ly/2FjpEbI

W’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a  beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

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The rough road to Sustainable Mobility: Values, priorities, behavior, choices, . . and ultimately, understanding people

indonesia-jakarta-traffic-on-following-monday

WHY ARE THEY THERE? NOW? (Work trip in Jakarta on one more busy morning)  Each person behind a wheel there made a choice.  How can we give them Better Choices? That’s the rub.

What many people call “transportation” . .  is at its very essence not about roads or bridges, nor vehicles or technology, and not even about money.  Above all it is about people, their needs, fears, desires and  ultimately the decisions they make. And the backdrop — real and mental — against which they make those decision. The planner and decision maker needs to know more them and take this knowledge into the center of the planning and policy process. What makes them tick, individually and collectively.  What do they want and what they are likely to resist. And people, as we all know, are intensely complicated, personal and generally change-resistant. . But if we take the time and care we can start to understand them, at least a bit better. Which is a start.

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ABOUT THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY: Peer review request and first response

Dear Eric,

Surprise! I am at my desk and your email asking me about an eventual independent “peer review” on the current state of science and accomplishment under the heading of Circular Economy arrived moments ago and is staring at me. In fact I was at a conference on just this topic in another country, which was OK, except that I could have given virtually all the talks myself.

I didn’t learn very much, which was disappointing. Waste of time, except it got me thinking more about one aspect of the circularity problem. In brief, most of the elements in the periodic table are now “in play”, and most of them are really “hitch-hikers” obtained from the ores of major industrial metals (copper, zinc, aluminum etc.).

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The 2018-2020 World Climate Emergency . . . and the Legend of the Hummingbird

India Assam rice farmers working in intense hear

One day, a very long time ago and in a faraway place you have probably never heard of, or so the legend goes, a huge forest fire was raging all around the countryside. All the animals were terrified, running around in circles, crying and helplessly watching the impending disaster.

But there in the middle of the flames, and above all the cowering animals, was one tiny hummingbird busy flying from a small pond to the fire, each time fetching a few drops with its beak to throw on the flames. And then again/ And then again. And yet again.

After a certain time, an old grouchy armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous useless agitation on the part of the hummingbird, cried out: “Tiny bird! Don’t be a fool. It is not with those minuscule drops of water one after the other that you are going to put out the fire and save us all! ”

To which the hummingbird replied, “Could be.  But I’m still going to do my bit”.

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Visiting Lecturer: Jason Hickel on our addiction to economic groowth

Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.

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The New Circular Economy: Peer review request and first response

Dear Eric,

Surprise! I am at my desk and your email asking me about an eventual independent “peer review” on the current state of science and accomplishment under the heading of Circular Economy arrived moments ago and is staring at me. In fact I was at a conference on just this topic in another country, which was OK, except that I could have given virtually all the talks myself.

I didn’t learn very much, which was disappointing. Waste of time, except it got me thinking more about one aspect of the circularity problem. In brief, most of the elements in the periodic table are now “in play”, and most of them are really “hitch-hikers” obtained from the ores of major industrial metals (copper, zinc, aluminum etc.).

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ACCELERATING A CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN TAIWAN

Although they’re located on opposite sides of the planet and have very different cultures and customs, the Netherlands and Taiwan have plenty in common. Both are roughly the same size, are densely populated, and see the Circular Economy as an emergent guiding light for economic and environmental policy.
Both the Netherlands and Taiwan are fortunate to have the resources to make big steps. The Netherlands’ environmental efforts have been recognized as being more successful thus far, ranking 36th in the 2016 Yale University Environmental Performance Index (EPI), compared with Taiwan’s 60th. But the EPI primarily measures how a country is doing on environmental metrics like air quality, forest management, etc., and doesn’t account for things like the activities of companies or the “resource footprint” of cities, which are equally significant.
Both countries are taking a leading role on circularity domestically, with numerous initiatives from government and the private sector aimed at encouraging circular urban planning, reducing and reusing waste flows, and stimulating green energy.

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TAIWAN – GREENING THE ECONOMY

circular economy Taipei Taiwan waitig for garbge truck

Taiwan has limited space to bury its garbage, so recycling is critical. The island recycled about 58 percent of its household waste in 2016, up from 55 percent the year before, according to the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

While the zero waste circular economy is still a distant goal, the concept got a welcome boost from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address last May. She said Taiwan would strictly monitor and control all sources of pollution, adding that the island could not afford to endlessly expend natural resources. “We will bring Taiwan into an age of circular economy, turning waste into renewable resources.”

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The Troubled Economic Context of the Circular Economy

Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut

Instead of growth at all costs, a new economic model allows us to thrive while saving the planet.

So what are we going to do about it? This is the only question worth asking. But the answers appear elusive. Faced with a multifaceted crisis – the capture of governments by billionaires and their lobbyists, extreme inequality, the rise of demagogues, above all the collapse of the living world – those to whom we look for leadership appear stunned, voiceless, clueless. Even if they had the courage to act, they have no idea what to do.

The most they tend to offer is more economic growth: the fairy dust supposed to make all the bad stuff disappear. Never mind that it drives ecological destruction; that it has failed to relieve structural unemployment or soaring inequality; that, in some recent years, almost all the increment in incomes has been harvested by the top 1%. As values, principles and moral purpose are lost, the promise of growth is all that’s left.

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Sustainable Transport: Declaration of Dependence

Out there in the real world life is a complex interactive system in which things do not exist in isolation but depend heavily on each other.  As Miller and Scott put it: “A complex adaptive system is a system in which a perfect understanding of the individual parts does not automatically convey a perfect understanding of the whole system’s behavior”.  Which means that if our goal is to create a strong and wise policy for sustainable transport in and around our cities we need to change our tools and perspective  as well as our behaviour.  As the Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future” told us already a full generation ago . . .

The following is taken from the peer review  edition of the forthcoming book “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City“. For a copy drop a line to betterchoices@ecoplan,org.

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