Monday, January 17, 2011

Toward a sustainable Queensland - A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Dear Australian friends and colleagues,

We all know this old saw but this is a time and place where it is, I believe, truly worth thinking about. In this context I have three immediate questions for you:

1. Is it possible that the tragic events of the last weeks could now be turned into an opportunity to develop a new and far more sustainable pattern of mobility (and location) in Queensland?

2. Is it possible – and I certainly hope that it is the case – that a group of highly talented, highly committed Australians are already working to mobilize a collaborative effort to create a world-class strategic frame for rebuilding, redeploying and reorganizing the state's transport and mobility system, according to a new set of advanced and ambitious sustainability principles. Because even as the waters descend now is the time. Later will almost surely be too late.

3. If you have already created or are working on creating a working group on this, may I take part? And what if anything can I do to help?

As we have seen in almost all cases after such devastation strikes, the immediate gut reaction of a community or nation under these circumstances is to find, to rebuild what they had before. A combination of understandable but not, I think, acceptable nostalgia which is almost always a very big mistake. Nostalgia is not much of a path to a better future. What was there before certainly had its interests and charm, but whatever it turned out to be it was not created on purpose. It was the result of an unplanned, largely chaotic and unthoughtout, time-lagged, largely reactive process, which yielded results that were costly to the citizens, to the government, to the environment and to the planet. Queensland and Australia can do far better.

What's the hurry? Well, it's like we say in France about safe cycling on the street – the goal has to be to "occuper le terrain" (occupy the space). Because other players with other interests and ethics will get started on this soon enough, and it is not sure that all of them will be aiming to put sustainability, efficiency and equity at the top of their priorities.

There is a new generation of talented people across Australia who are world level in their thinking and work on this topic. And on top of that you have a very large group of pretty well networked international colleagues who will be eager to contribute if ways can be worked out to integrate them creatively into the process.

So when do we start? Where do we start?

Kind regards from Paris,

Eric Britton

PS. If you consider that there is any merit at all in this proposal, I invite you to share it with your colleagues and lists.

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