The Mayor of London, for the common good

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Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington and His Cat

‘The destruction of commons was essential for the industrial revolution, to provide a supply of natural resources for raw material to industry. A life-support system can be shared, it cannot be owned as private property or exploited for private profit. The commons, therefore, had to be privatized, and people’s sustenance base in these commons had to be appropriated, to feed the engine of industrial progress and capital accumulation’ – Vandana Shiva, Protect or Plunder: Understanding Intellectual Property Rights (New York: Zed Books, 2001).

In philosophyeconomics, and political science, the common good (also commonwealthcommon weal or general welfare) refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service

I am not a fan of the Capitalism / Socialism standoff. It maintains a stasis. And it has baggage, which gets in the way of progressive conversation and debate.

Although thinkers have differed significantly in their views of what the common good consists in, as well as over what the state should do to promote it, they nonetheless agreed that the common good is the end of government, that it is a good of all the citizens, and that no government should become the “perverted servant of special interests”.

Climate Emergency No.5: Downsizing

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In this blog, I want to take a more strategic look at our housing infrastructure and how we allocate space. I will touch on home efficiency but this is primarily about the need for shelter.

It will look at our housing infrastructure in a more holistic way. Do we need to build new homes at 50-100 tons of upfront embedded carbon. Or can we make better use of our current housing stock?

I will look at the embedded carbon of new homes and whether building new housing is affordable in a Climate Emergency? Are there quicker and less damaging ways to provide shelter for everyone? How can we make more economic use of the housing infrastructure we already have? And stop the unnecessary homelessness that blights our cities.

How can we stop sprawl, which has lead to ballooning car traffic on city streets. ‘In some California counties, two-thirds of emissions are from vehicles.’

And how can we stop green space (vital for carbon capture and biodiversity) becoming concreted over for new housing.

In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to solve the housing crisis

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Downsizing

Today’s children face lives with tiny carbon footprints. The next generation must keep their own carbon levels at a fraction of their grandparents’ in order to prevent catastrophe. To put that in perspective, an average European citizen current annual footprint of eight tons will be reduced to one ton. 

‘Fast, deep cuts in global emissions from energy, transport and food are needed to keep temperature rises in check and an analysis has shown this means the new generation will have lifetime carbon budgets almost 90% lower than someone born in 1950.’

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The average European today emits 8 tons of carbon annually. So what does this mean for a child born today?

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So what does this mean for housing strategy? Maria Saxton says When people move into tiny homes, they adopt greener lifestylesShe found that every major component of a downsizer’s lifestyle is influenced, including food, transportation, and consumption of goods and services. She says:

‘I found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the United States, ecological footprints were reduced by about 45 percent on average. Surprisingly, I found that downsizing can influence many parts of one’s lifestyle and reduce impacts on the environment in unexpected ways.’

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This concurs with my own experience of downsizing from a four bedroom house to a one bedroom flat in London (35 sq m) A timely revaluation of what is important, what to prioritise and how to live well in your new space changes lifestyle choices. I also became more aware of the quality of public space as my ‘outdoor living room’.

Single person households

A third of EU households are now composed of a single person, according to new figures.  Out of 220 million homes in the European Union, 33 percent were lived in by just one person. In Sweden that number was over half of households (52 percent), followed by Lithuania, Denmark and Finland.

There has also been a massive switch from family homes to single occupancy dwellings in the UK in the last 50 years. Partly as a result of divorce and single lifestyle choices. Often homes that would have accommodated a whole family are now occupied by a single person. This is clearly an inefficient use of the embedded carbon invested in our housing stock.

Some of our policies seem increasingly outdated in this context.For instance, currently one person living in a six bedroom home can receive a 25% single person discount on Council Tax. The rules just state that the property must be occupied by only one adult resident over 18 and it must also be that individual’s sole or main residence. This discount is awarded regardless of size of property or under-occupation.

If that person is in a one bedroom flat, this might seem like a sensible policy. But giving a discount to a single person occupying a 3 -6 bedroom dwelling or more, seems highly inappropriate when so many are homeless.

Take this example from the Daily Mail: ‘Jeannette Kupfermann has lived in her Home Counties house for 45 years. She says she is outraged by suggestions that she should downsize. She is proud to be a home blocker: and won’t move from her five-bed £850,000 house to make room for young families.’

Moving home and downsizing can be stressful. But ultimately liberating. This document describes how facilitating decision-making can help older downsizing homeowners.

‘Decision-making may be more stressful for some individuals than the actual move itself. We already know of some potential health and wellbeing benefits for older people receiving relocation support. Suitable support, advice and individualised personal facilitation sits alongside the current understanding of what is considered to be desirable and suitable accommodation for older people to move to.’

Under-Occupation

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Many people have  heard of the controversial Bedroom Tax. It is less well-known as the under-occupancy penalty.

However evidence for the Mayor’s Housing Strategy 2015 (Page 103) shows that under-occupation is far higher in private dwellings than it is in social housing. Approximately 1.2 million bedrooms are empty in London’s owner occupied housing, even allowing for a spare room.

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The broader picture in England is that in 2014 to 2017, around 8.3 million (36%) of the estimated 23 million households in England were under-occupied (that is, they had at least 2 bedrooms more than they needed)

Based on these figures, we could nearly rehouse the entire UK population again in the spare bedrooms in our current housing stock.

Homeless

A fifth of young people are homeless – you just can’t see them. People sleeping rough are vastly outnumbered by those whose homelessness we don’t see. 

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One in five young people in the UK have sofa-surfed in the past year and almost half of them have done so for more than a month. In London there are 13 times more hidden homeless people, than those who are sleeping rough

Demand for housing comes from the homeless but many young people are unable to leave their parents home. Or afford the high rents in cities like London.

More than a quarter of people aged 20 to 34 still living at home, new figures have revealed. Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the percentage of young adults living with their parents in the UK has risen from just over a fifth (21 per cent) in 1996 to 26 per cent in 2017, rising from 2.7 million to 3.4 million in the past two decades.

Squatting and Communes

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For many of us who lived in cities in the 1980s, this scene of young people squatting will be familiar. Much of our housing stock was in poor condition in the 1980s and young people made use of it. Empty properties found occupants. Standards of housing were lower, but at least there was a roof over one’s head.

The number of long-term vacant properties – those empty for at least six months – rose by 5.3% to 216,186 in the 12 months to October, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is the highest level since 2012, when 254,059 properties were unoccupied.

London has a total of 20,237 long-term vacant properties (2017). Many properties are bought by wealthy buyers who snap up homes as investments and leave them empty while waiting for the value to increase before selling them on. Tighter squatting laws have made it more difficult for local residents, and young people, to make use of empty properties. A friend has told me that a house next door to him in central London has been empty for over 8 years!

In Barcelona, Mayor Ada Colau has ‘declared war’ on ‘vulture funds’ who leave buildings vacant, even as housing has become scarce in the city. Fines of €2.8 million, were levied against two investment funds that each own an unoccupied building in Barcelona’s centre.

I  believe opening up empty properties to be official communes would be a wise strategy.

Gold Bricks

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has attacked foreign investors for using homes in the capital as “gold bricks for investment” following a Guardian investigation that revealed the UK’s tallest residential skyscraper is now more than 60% foreign-owned and is under-occupied. Building thousands of new homes a year in London will not solve the housing crisis  if “they are all bought by investors in the Middle East and Asia for use as second homes or they sit empty”.

‘More than £100bn of property in England and Wales is secretly owned, new analysis suggests. More than 87,000 properties are owned by anonymous companies registered in tax havens, Global Witness reveals.

The analysis reveals that 40% of the properties are in London. Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge, where the average property costs £3m, hosts at least 134 secretly owned properties. Buckingham Palace Road is also home to a large number, with a combined estimated value of £350m.

Global Witness says its investigations have shown how criminals and corrupt politicians use the UK property market to hide or clean dirty cash, and to secure safe havens for themselves and their families.’

New data shows London’s property boom is a money laundering horror

The shadow housing minister, John Healey, said the building had become “a symbol of the housing crisis” in which new homes are sold abroad as investments and left largely empty while fewer and fewer young people can afford to buy or rent in the city. He said that it “fuels people’s anger and sense of injustice”.

We now have a new ‘symbol of the housing crisis’ in the form of the Tulip Tower. It is like the Hunger Games on speed. Our limited Embedded carbon budget squeezed into gold bricks, whilst so many are homeless? Dystopian doesn’t cover it.

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2nd Homes

One in 10 UK adults, or 5.2 million people, own a second home, while four in 10 adults own no property at all, according to new research that highlights the stark divide in wealth that Britain now faces.

‘The analysis of data from sources including the Office for National Statistics found that half of these second homes are owned by wealthy baby boomers – defined in the research as those born between 1946 and 1965 – most of whom live in southern England. Another quarter are owned by the generation after them, those born between 1966 and 1980, who are known as Generation X. Millennials – those born since 1981 – own just 3% of second properties, the research found.’

Norway and Denmark limit second-home ownership, and in 2012 the Swiss voted to restrict second homes in places where they were most common. Australia has also clamped down on foreign purchases of residential property. In St Ives in Cornwall, where a quarter of houses are second homes or holiday lets, they have decided that newly built homes should be off-limits to non-residents.

In Berlin, residents are seeking to keep rent prices down with another strategy: by starting a formal petition calling for the city to break up rental companies that own more than 3,000 flats. (One company, Deutsche Wohnen, owns approximately 115,000 across the city.)

The carbon emissions of new homes

It takes over 50 tonnes CO2 to build an average UK house

Upfront Carbon Emissions, or UCE are released in the making of materials, moving them and turning them into stuff. Given that, according to the IPCC, we have to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, it is important that we measure and account for these Upfront Carbon Emissions in everything we do.

What your house is built from also has a huge effect on its carbon footprint. Most houses in the UK are built out of brick, with a concrete foundation. It takes a quarter of a tonne of CO2 to create a tonne of brick, and even more for steel and other house elements. 50 to 80 tons for the average home. Of course executive home will be far higher and a 2 bed flat lower.

‘To put that in context, the average person in the UK has a carbon footprint of five tonnes of CO2 per year- so building just one new house emits as much CO2 as someone living an average lifestyle does over a decade!

The current theory is that the solution is to build new houses with materials that store carbon, rather than require carbon to produce.

“Timber does exactly this, and is also an excellent insulator, conducting far less heat than brick or steel. That means building new timber houses emits only a small fraction of the CO2 generated by building traditional masonry houses.”

However here seems to be a lack of consensus on whether timber is actually a climate solution?

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Location and density

If your home is in a city centre location (near your work) then your carbon footprint from transport will fall considerably, potentially more than halving your carbon footprint because of the home you’ve chosen.

This is why reducing under-occupation and unoccupied buildings in cities and densely populated areas is crucial. We need key workers living near their work. Not commuting for miles to their place of employment.

Green Belt

In British town planning, the green belt is a policy for controlling urban growth. The idea is for a ring of countryside where urbanisation will be resisted for the foreseeable future, maintaining an area where agriculture, forestry and outdoor leisure can be expected to prevail. The fundamental aim of green belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, and consequently the most important attribute of green belts is their openness.

Meanwhile the call from property magnates and housebuilders to build on the green belt gets louder and more aggressive. Loss of biodiversity at a time of ecological collapse would be suicidal. Loss of carbon capture from fertile soil? Loss of food security and the potential for reforestation?

Scientists say half the planet should be set aside for wildlife – to save ourselves

If we want to avoid mass extinctions and preserve the ecosystems all plants and animals depend on, governments should protect a third of the oceans and land by 2030 and half by 2050, with a focus on areas of high biodiversity.

We need to protect more land from development

Tiny homes that increase sprawl will not address this issue.

Efficiency

2.7 tonnes of CO2 is emitted every year from heating your average home. So by switching to a highly efficient home where all of your heating needs can be provided by renewable electricity, your carbon footprint will be reduced dramatically. The current thinking is that we need to build ‘efficient homes’ but refurbishment can be more efficient.

Take these London examples in Southwark inner city :

‘Heygate apartments were structurally sound and enough investment in maintenance and some enhancement to energy efficiency would have made them splendid homes for the community that was rubbing along despite some hiccups’

‘yep – same re Aylesbury Estate – council admitted it could be refurbished for £250m’

Can we afford the high embedded carbon of new ‘efficient’ homes or is retrofitting the way forward?

Conclusions

  • All housing infrastructure is embedded carbon

  • Wasteful use of that embedded carbon is not aligned with a sustainable low-carbon future

  • Current policy to keep building new homes is not sustainable. Upfront Carbon Emissions are too high

  • We need to tax space in privately owned dwellings

  • We need to apply a bedroom tax to under-occupied private dwellings

  • We must give clear tax advantages (or even pay people) to have lodgers

  • We must facilitate decision-making that can help the older homeowner downsize

  • We must create squatting laws / legal communes that give people immediate access to unoccupied dwellings (in a suitable legal framework)

  • We must ban second home ownership

  • We must fine unoccupied home owners

  • Keep homes for residents 

  • Encourage and reward communal living

  • Cap rents

Climate Emergency Measure No.4: Reclaim Space

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In my blog Climate Emergency Measure No.1, we removed all fossil fuel cars from towns, cities and villages. We reclaimed the embodied steel and recycled it into cargo bikes.

Now it is time to reclaim our public space. Regenerate our agricultural land and break up our dead concrete car parks. We must plant trees and vegetation to increase biodiversity. Restore soil fertility and restabilise the climate with natural carbon capture. And ensure resilient food supply chains.

Freeing up more space for eco-systems will help us recover and thrive. From parking lots to paradise – free your soil!

How much tarmac can we remove in 2019?

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Carfree Champs Elysees, Paris

Once the cars are gone, it is really surprising how much public space we have in cities. The Champs Elysees in Paris would normally be home to eight lanes of roaring traffic. But on carfree day, the rolling landscape reveals a vista of abundant possibilities. And the potential for far greener pastures, in the heart of Paris.

For me, the blank concrete canvas opens up a Smörgåsbord of delightful options. But this is a Climate Emergency, so I will keep (for the moment) to our most pressing needs.

Food Security

 

There are many advantages to being a city dweller but it is disconcerting to compute that we only have 3 days worth of food on the shelves. These second world war posters are just as relevant today but for different reasons. Our food security is not at risk from war, but from unsustainable food systems. As Extinction Rebellion says: No food on a dead planet.

We are heavily dependent on food being flown, shipped, driven or rail freighted into our city. Aviation, shipping and road transport are primarily dependent on fossil fuels. To break this dangerous dependency, we must relocalise food production.

We import 90% of fruit and vegetables in the UK (Ireland imports 98% of it’s fruit and vegetables) Unbelievably we even import onions from Australia?? (Waitrose shallots to be precise)

This is a strategic failure in a Climate Emergency.

Market gardening (a techniquie imported from the Dutch) gave us ways to intensify food production in London to address this food security issue. In the 17th and 18th centuries, market gardens surrounded London and provided the fruit and vegetables on which the city’s inhabitants thrived. Meanwhile in inner London, Neat Gardens in Hackney and Pimlico supplied us with fresh local produce, using readily available horse manure to intensify production.

Neat House became one of London’s principal sources of supply for cauliflowers, cabbage, artichokes and asparagus, with early beans and cash crops of spinach and radishes. Low-lying, with a high wafer table, the land finely balanced drainage and irrigation, and was supplied with copious quantities of manure from London’s laystalls to maintain fertility and fuel the hot-beds under glass that were the secret of early and unseasonal crops.’

I recently asked Pedalmeapp (cargo bike logistics) to pick up 10- bags of animal manure from my local city farm, Freightliners, to experiment with the market gardening technique. For this experiment, I am using terracotta pots. At the bottom of the pot are a few stones (for drainage) and then I layer in some animal manure from the city farm.  The microbes in the manure will both heat up the soil and provide nutrients. Next is a layer of compost, ready to sow the seeds. I have used rocket seeds and am amazed when they germinate within a few days!

The fertile clay soil in Hackney also had a previous incarnation as fruit orchards. In London Fields, my former neighbours harvested apples, pears, grapes, quince, plums, apricots, kiwi, peaches, fig and mulberry. 
Fruit and nut trees are also an essential part of being self-sufficient. I believe we don’t plant enough nut trees!
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Market Gardening on Kingsland Road, Hackney

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Pimlico Neat Gardens

The 10x Greener Project by Friends of the Earth in Hackney encourages local residents to dig up concrete and replace with trees, climbing plants and flowers. Communal composts in City farms or (sitting in reclaimed parking spaces) provide localised fertile organic matter to increase productivity.

Parklets or ‘Resident Allotment prrmits’ replace Resident parking permits.

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Hackney resident parking space becomes a  ‘resident allotment space’’

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Releasing the soil from its concrete tomb

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New York Community compost

Fertile cities

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I recently asked (on twitter) for tips on opening up the earth from its concrete grave. An amazing assortment of natural techniques flooded in from around the world. There was a real surge of interest. Here are some of the suggestions:

Plants need a flow of oxygen to their roots as much as water and nutrients. So reconditioning compacted soils and clay from under paving is an important part of the remediation process. Potatoes and sunflowers can be grown to loosen up compacted soil. And pioneer ‘Specials’ such as Sunflowers and Corn accumulate any nasties in the soil. (just don’t eat or compost after growing for bioremediation)

Nicotine (Nicotiana) plants can be used to mop up heavy metal (just don’t smoke it!) A Cheap soil meter can test the quality of the existing soil. But if you know your area was a former industrial site, best to seek professional advice on soil toxicity.  Green manures such as Phacelia and Clover will  help restore fertility. Clover fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into their roots, helping capture carbon. 

Reducing heat and flooding

As well as supplying opportunities for biodiversity, greening, food growing and tree cover, removing concrete reduces the heat island effect in cities and decreases the risk of flash flooding. Overheating and flood risk in Cities are major threats. Rewilding, reforesting and regreening are both mitigation and adaptation climate actions. Opening up the earth also opens up the opportunity for carbon capture.

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Providing shade and shelter

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A naturally rewilded road

The City reclaims its wild nature

The more roads that remain on the landscape, the less wild the forest! Removing tarmac can help the city reclaim its wild character as well as help restore the creatures that rely on these landscapes. Daniel Raven-Ellison will see his vision of London as the first National Park City come to fruition in 2019. It is an incredibly bold and inspiring vision:

‘We want more bird song, ultimate frisbee, hill-rolling, tree climbing, cycling, hedgehogs, volunteering, sharing, outdoor play, kayaking, clean air, otters, greener streets, outdoor learning, ball games, outdoor art and hilltop dancing in the city. Why not?’

 

This will reconnect genetically isolated cells of wildlife via green corridors. And by reconnecting Citizens with nature, it will allow us all to heal.

Think this is impossible? Then take a look at this already re-wilded road in London,:

In 2016, I stumbled on Cantrell Road, whilst on a foraging walk at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It was a revelation; a road that had been reclaimed by nature,  in the heart of London.  I photographed teasels and briar rose and was amazed at how much it looked like the South Downs in Sussex. We picked wild rocket and I made a rocket rissotto. Here is Cantrell Road, on the map in Tower Hamlets, and as I photographed it in Spring 2017.

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Small holdings /Allotments

Today, golf courses cover ten times more land than local authority allotments. Instead much of the previous food growing land has been sold off to provide things that can be made to pay, such as shopping centres or car parks. Meanwhile industrial farming has created desert landscapes, devoid of trees, hedgerows, meadows and scrubland heath. Loss of these habitats has caused insect and bird species collapse. The use of pesticides on an industrial scale has wiped out pollinators and much of the delicate ecosystem on which we rely for clean air, clean water and healthy soil.

Small scale farming has proven to be far more productive than industrial farming. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield. Permaculture is more sensitive and in tune with the natural world.

We must reclaim the cash cow desert plains that have devastated our wildlife. Parts of East Anglia farmland are shockingly devoid of a single tree. It makes me weep.

Breaking up industrial fields of despair into small scale farming ‘allotments’ will reap far greater rewards.

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Building connections with farms outside London

An essential part of re-aligning ourselves with our natural world is restoring and establishing vital connections with our local countryside. This will help

  • Food security
  • Learning sustainable food growing skills like permaculture
  • Encouraging local Agri-tourism (accessed by walking cycling and public transport)

Knepp is one of the largest rewilding projects in lowland Europe. You can camp out or stay in tree houses and shepherd huts You will encounter herds of wild ponies, cattle, deer and pigs as they roam 3,500 acres of Sussex, driving the forces of habitat regeneration.

We all like to break out of the city walls, from time to time. Let’s make trips to the local seaside and countryside by walking ,cycling and public transport, accessible to all.  Then  we can go on holiday, without contributing to the ecocidal horrors of aviation and carmaggedon.

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Car-based transportation is inherently anti-ecological

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Andy Singer is well known as a professional cartoonist and illustrator. His article Driverless Cars and the Cult of Technology caused uproar in the tech community, when it was published last year.

Here he comments on the reaction to his article originally published in Street.mn 

‘You can see from the past comments on the piece how it aggravated the fervent technology worshippers. It’s like I questioned their god or their religious faith.
This partly explains the auto industry’s behaviour. It is very difficult for the public and our capitalist business structure to confront climate change and the impending environmental collapse.
We see symptoms of this collapse every day– species die offs, melting glaciers, stronger hurricanes, ever-larger wildfires and heatwaves, vast areas of ocean plastic contamination and oceanic dead-zones often caused by agricultural run-off and other pollution.

To truly confront this would require that we stop building cars, highways and get away from automobile based transportation and land use (as well as many other major lifestyle and reproductive changes). Doing this would mean the eventual decline of the auto industry, which scares them and their unions.

They know that Millennials are already buying fewer cars than the previous generations and they’re seeing the rise of bike/walk/public-transport movements in many countries.

So they need to counter the narrative that car based transportation is inherently anti-ecological.

The myth that we’ll all be using driverless electric vehicles very soon is the perfect way to do that. It’s a technological fantasy that appeals to people’s fear of more drastic lifestyle and economic change …and allows the industry to keep selling cars and highways with the promise that “SOME DAY” they will be “smarter” or more ecological.
Companies are not investing THAT much money into driverless technology on a per company basis. Waymo is only a division of Alphabet. They are just one of the company’s research and development projects and not an actual automobile manufacturer. I don’t think Alphabet really cares whether they make a profit because it has so many other promising technological business subsidiary projects.
Auto companies throw some money into their own internal research and development projects and they may get some automated features out of driverless car research (like emergency braking sensors or parallel parking features) but I think the real reason they like it is because it maintains the idea of “CARS” as the dominant mode of transportation and gives them something to show off at car shows for the next decade or two. It’s just marketing– like Elon Musk launching a car into space.
How Addicts Talk

Any Singer cartoon – Two drug addicts talk about the future as contrasted with two car drivers talking about the future

The idea of widespread driverless car use is a crack dream, peddled by modern-day, utopian technologists, even as our environment and the human race sides into oblivion. These are deluded people peddling delusion.

Don’t underestimate the amount of cultural brainwashing going on when it comes to cars. The things that Cambridge Analytica and political manipulators have done recently (helping to put right-wing, pro-business lunatics into power), they learned from the private sector– from Exxon, Enbridge, and the auto industry.’
Happiness,
Andy S.

Climate Emergency Measure No.3: Rationing

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  • My last blog was Solar Power for the People (Renewable energy supply increased)
  • This blog addresses the other side of the equation: Rationing (energy demand decreased)

Why have we failed to do the obvious?

We have failed in our main task to cut energy use to meet renewables. Instead, as renewables have increased, so energy demand has also increased. This means we continue to burn fossil fuel to fill that gap.

Global energy demand rose by 2.1% in 2017, more than twice the previous year’s rate. Over 70% of global energy demand growth was met by oil, natural gas and coal.

In this blog, I set out why I believe we have failed to cut energy demand. And how rationing might be the only rational and realistic pathway to keeping under 1.5C global warming.

 

Why has energy use continually risen, even as energy efficiency is applied?

Jevons Paradox is the phenomenon of making something more efficient and then using more of it. In economics, the Jevons Paradox occurs when technological progress or government policy increases the efficiency with which a resource is used but the rate of consumption of that resource rises due to increasing demand.

This rebound effect of efficiency must be acknowledged and value must be put on all energy use, regardless of efficiency.

Contrary to common intuition, technological progress cannot be relied upon to reduce energy consumption. And can actually have the opposite effect.

Messed up priorities

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Little Mermaid, Copenhagen backed by polluting coal, biomass and waste incineration to heat homes

Renewable energy from Government funded wind farms in Scandinavia is being sold off to Tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, when resident heating has yet to be electrified.

The problem is that Denmark’s green energy has its limits. There is no way that existing renewable facilities could hope to meet the prospective demand from data centers AND decarbonise heating.

That means the country will have to generate power using more conventional, polluting sources, including coal.

Although it aims to phase them out by 2030, Denmark in fact retains three coal-fired power stations, which growing energy demand will make it harder to dispense with. Just as the country has succeeded in reducing its emissions, it now looks set to push them up again.’

Redirection of publicly funded renewables to profligate corporations, shows a disregard for a hierarchy of renewable energy for the common good.

We must decide what is essential and what is not. And prioritise accordingly. Essential heating must be very high on the hierarchy

Many consumers falsely believe that electricity is ‘clean’. And in abundant supply.

This misunderstanding has been fostered by corporations who refer to products such as electric cars as ‘zero emission’. The reality is that electricity used to fuel the electric vehicle is often partly or majority coal and gas generated. The Advertising Standards Agency has ruled against claims of ‘zero emission’, However misselling continues and Electric vehicles are still promoted as ‘clean’.

Car makers are also very shy about revealing the embedded carbon emitted in the manufacture of cars. This is usually between 6-40 tons of upfront carbon for cars, depending on size, weight and other attributes. The calculation will include the extraction of raw materials, as well as the energy mix used to transport and to manufacture the components. It is a complicated calculation. But it needs to come as standard to inform consumers on all consumables, including cars.

Poor understanding of the electric grid mix leads to profligate use of ‘free energy’. There is no such thing as ‘free energy’. Even renewables have an embedded carbon footprint.

We must learn to value all energy use. And become more aware of the embedded carbon in products and services

Cooking the books – carbon accounting ‘omissions’

One way of attributing greenhouse gas emissions is to measure the embedded emissions of goods that are being consumed. 

But the United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC) measures emissions according to production, rather than consumption. Consequently, embedded emissions on imported goods are attributed to the exporting, rather than the importing, country. This essentially means that embedded carbon emissions are being ‘outsourced’ by rich countries to rising economies or developing countries.

Outsourcing of emissions comes in the form of electronic devices such as smartphones, cars, cheap clothes and other goods manufactured in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe. Aviation, shipping and data are also often outsourced.

Datacentre web servers, such as those used by Google and Facebook are to blame for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions (about the same as air travel). A recent Freedom of Information request to Transport for London, showed that  TFL have no idea how much energy is used in outsourced data centres (for transportation and services). They cannot therefore account for outsourced data energy use. This is also the case for Government, Commercial and individual users of data. We must have clear and accessible way of accounting for this energy use.

Although the UK has met its Kyoto obligations, this has been achieved largely by outsourcing production and relying on importing consumer products from abroad to meet growing consumer demand. As UK consumer demand has continued to grow, so have the GHG emissions embedded in imported goods.

We must fully acknowledge, own and take responsibility for our consumer carbon footprint

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How many private jets does it take to talk about climate change?

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‘The last 25 years has seen more carbon emitted than in all of the rest of time’ – Alice Bell

Please pause and take a minute to absorb that information. Despite the yearly United Nations Climate Change Conferences (begun in 1995) we have knowingly emitted more greenhouse emissions in those last 25 years, than in all of the rest of time.

The ‘glitterati’ of Climate Change jet from conference to conference, fuelled by fossil fuels.

Lobbying by wealthy corporations and individuals has created a convoluted, ineffective and incoherent climate strategy.

Consume less or perish

Professor Kevin Anderson says: ‘Like it or not, climate mitigation is ultimately a rationing issue.’

We need to quickly consume less or perish. Consuming less is an easy win and has majority support from the people. Consuming less can be done relatively quickly by those who consume beyond their actual need.

We must recognise mistakes and move on:

  • Transition technology like diesel, hybrid, gas boilers, biomass, biodiesel (palm oil) has been a strategic failure.
  • Outsourcing of emissions is confusing and not owning our true carbon footprint
  • Innovation can be a scam (we must scrutinise more carefully and be aware of vested interests)
  • Data processing and storage is an ‘invisible’ energy use
  • Embedded carbon in raw material extraction, manufacture and transportation is often overlooked
  • Energy efficiency does not necessarily translate into energy demand reduction
  • We must establish a hierarchy of energy use for the common good (where essential heating and cooking come higher in priority than cars, data proliferation and unneccessary luxury imported goods)
  • We need a ‘Hut 11’ to quickly crack decarbonisation of heating, and energy storage

Carbon cold turkey

Hazel Healy sketches out a radical scenario of carbon cold-turkey and suggests that:

‘Perhaps a more vertiginous transition would help focus the mind of world leaders: what if we aimed to cut absolute carbon emissions to zero by 2025? There are only two ways to go about this: ramping up clean energy generation via renewable power, while simultaneously massively reducing the energy we use. And as extreme as carbon cold-turkey may sound, it beats our current trajectory to a 3-4 degree Celsius planet.’

This seems to align more closely to the IPCC report on ‘rapid and far-reaching transitions’ than the current ‘market forces’ approach.

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Frugality

BBC research has  shown that the word frugality (characterised by or reflecting economy in the use of resources) is acceptable across a range of ages and across the political spectrum. Going mainstream is important, so let’s use the word frugality.

The word Frugal has the root ‘fruit’, ‘value’ and even ‘enjoy’. How do we restore ‘value’ in a world where reckless over-consumption has become an accepted and even desirable lifestyle choice?

Frugality seems to be capturing the public mood; a recent poll by YouGov shows a majority public support for a reduction in consumption in combatting climate change

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So what does frugality look like?

In an ideal world self-rationing or self-restraint would automatically ensue, as humans live more mindfully with the biosphere.

Many indigenous people still live in alignment with the earth. But I believe there is an untapped desire to live more sustainably, even amongst city dwellers, if systems enable this transition:

  • Relocalise
  • 3-4 day working week
  • Inclusive Protected Cycle lanes and Cycle Only Streets
  • Quality Public Realm
  • Walking networks
  • Resident allotment permits (rather than resident parking permits)
  • Communal gardens
  • Communal composts
  • Permaculture
  • Circular economy
  • Public Transport
  • Community food growing
  • Residential Street Broderies (car boot without the car)
  • Communal Solar
  • National Park City / biodiversity
  • Parklets
  • No more hoarding of wealth and goods
  • Steady State economy
  • Locally based labour intensive services like therapy, massage, music, poetry, storytelling, dance and art classes
  • Empower women to depopulate
  • Balance
  • Gratitude
  • Universal Basic Services
  • Universal basic income

Rationing Versus Carbon Price

As well as this progressive self-regulating approach, I also propose carbon, energy and data allowances be applied.
Whilst carbon taxes and a carbon price are the preferred option of many economists, carbon taxes and pricing are set at ‘politically acceptable’ levels rather than what is urgently needed. As Alex Steffen points out
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David Wallace-Wells interprets the IPCC report as setting carbon as high as $5,500 per ton, to stabilise the climate below two degrees. Professor Julia Steinberger has said ‘carbon pricing of £2,000 per ton of carbon would ground flights’. Unless carbon is priced at these levels, I cannot see this pathway working.

I start from the premise that we have NO carbon budget. We are in damage limitation territory. Carbon Pricing at the lower IPCC estimate of $135 would be a licence to fry the planet. Rationing is far more equitable. And in line with the Precautionary Principle

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What is sustainable consumption?

When we overshoot on consumption, we encounter the deadly environmental impacts of ecological collapse, pollution and rapid climate breakdown etc. Conversely when there are  shortfalls in basic consumption because of poverty, human survival is difficult. The safe space for humanity is within the Green Doughnut. This is a sustainable lifestyle.

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Who is consuming what?

it is the wealthiest 10% who are consuming 50% of greenhouse emissions, whilst the poorest half of the global population account for only 10% of yearly global greenhouse emissions. In the UK, per capita emissions of the wealthiest 10% are up to five times higher than the those in the bottom half of income.

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‘Carbon inequality means we can’t [practically] squeeze carbon emissions out of those who don’t emit’ says Alice Bell. The lower income 50% could not offer up much in reductions in greenhouse emissions, because their consumption is already in shortfall. But the wealthy have plenty of extra flab to lose. And slimming would help bring value, fruit and even restore enjoyment lost to meaningless over-consumption.

Professor Kevin Anderson believes if the global wealthy 10% cut their annual carbon emissions down to the average EU citizen 8 tons of carbon, we would cut global carbon emissions by a third.

What are the big-ticket items?

  • Large homes and
  • Large cars
  • Multiple flights and car journeys to access
  • More than one home
  • Jet set lifestyle and
  • Imported luxury consumables

Equality of sacrifice

When David Milliband was Environment Secretary, he said

“imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency. We carry bank cards that store both pounds and carbon points. When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points as well as pounds.”

The government would give everybody the same free points. Those who didn’t need them all, including the poor people who don’t drive or fly, could sell their surplus to people who wanted to run an SUV or jet to Spain every weekend.

The WW2 government considered such tradeable rations but ruled them out because they feared they would “undermine the moral basis of rationing: equality of sacrifice”

Stealing our children’s future

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Youth Climate Strike – Parliament Square, February 15th 2019

Last week, I looked into the eye of Climate Breakdown and Ecological collapse. I attended the Youth Climate Strike in Parliament Square .

It was overwhelming to look into the children’s eyes and see their fear and anger about their future being ripped away by greed and lack of coherent climate action.

We are living in a dystopian world where children are fighting for their lives whilst adults have ‘fun’ driving ridiculous cars and jetting around the world. We must stop this madness NOW

Climate Emergency measure No.2: Solar Power for the People

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This week, a new word Nepocide was coined to describe ‘the willingness of the current generation to sacrifice the well-being and even survival of future generations.’
Alex Steffen calls it ‘predatory delay’, because in a climate emergency ‘winning slowly is the same as losing outright’. 
 
At COP24, in December 2018, Greta Thunberg rightly told us to ‘start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible’. 
 
So let’s mobilise and get on with the job at hand and pin solar to every viable roof. 

Reclaiming Energy

When I travel on the Overground across London, I often scan the roofs, that are the defining feature of our city. They remain an obstinately underused and  undervalued resource. 
 
Whilst the Mayor of London can draw energy from the solar panels on the roof of City Hall, his citizens are cut off from sustainable energy in their communities, homes and businesses.
 
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Decarbonising and decentralising energy is essential for the deep transformation and rapid transition needed to avert the worst of Climate Breakdown. Energy democracy starts from the standpoint that energy is a common good.  
 
Ensuring solar is available to every Londoner, makes a just transition possible. Everyone must have access to a good quality of life in a sustainable world. And solar benefits everyone, reducing overall greenhouse emissions and air pollution.
 
Recently the Australian electric grid failed in a life threatening heatwave. Some energy users were cut off to ensure ‘system integrity’. This puts vulnerable people at risk. Just one of the many reasons localised energy security is vital. 
 

So why are we delaying?

Wriggling out of responsibility is not an option

In his Zero Carbon London – A 1.5C Combatible Plan, December 2018, Sadiq Khan says
 
‘Our research shows that to up the pace of action, the Mayor will need more powers and funding from national government. This is the only way to tackle this most urgent issue.’
 
Whilst having extra funding and powers from Central Government would be ideal, we cannot rely on this. And it is clearly not the ONLY option. 
 
 
Moody’s report “Local government heightened focus on mitigating climate risk is credit positive” sets out how failure to mitigate and adapt will affect city credit ratings.
 
No Mayor should put his/ her cities ability to obtain economically affordable credit at risk. 
 
Kicking the ball of responsibility back and forth between local government and central government is predatory delay
 
We must pin them both down. 

Fiddling while Rome burns

Money, time and energy is being whittled away on ‘innovation’, which is little more than novelty. Often it is just a marketing ploy based on the ‘hope of the company’ when there no viable, socially useful service or running product. Has City Hall been captured by the tech giants with their marketing gimmicks? I even hear government officials rolling out the marketing phrase ‘They are coming’. WTF.
 
 
And the trade group Business Europe (which includes Facebook and Google) ‘oppose’ EU climate efforts. A ‘leaked document details Business Europe’s campaign to undermine EU attempts to cut climate emissions’.
 
 
‘Most of the party’s prominent figures have opted for the second route: bullshitting. In some cases, it’s just an incoherent pastiche’.
 
I can confirm that Bulshitting /Incoherent pastiche is also the modus operandi of the ‘Innovation’ front in London.
 
We must learn to prioritise and create a hierarchy of energy use for the common good. Not act like a gullible trekkie, lured into a sci fi fantasy.

 We know how to do it

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Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have declined in cost by around 99 percent over recent decades. and future cost declines are most likely to be found in accelerated deployment.

The Mayor currently has a Solar Together offer for Londoners.  A friend, who has successfully gone through the process, says that is was relatively straightforward: A £150 refundable deposit, followed by a survey to assess the installation and scaffolding requirements, and then 3 months later the panels were installed. A 3.6kW array of 12 panels with all the associated gubbins – cabling, invertor, installation and scaffolding came to £4500.

But not everyone can afford such high costs, so I do wonder why we aren’t we offering rooftop solar for free to Londoners? 

And how can we speed up bureaucracy? Here is advice from Historic England on considerations for older buildings.

It is the logistics that are missing

Funding streams

  • Transport for London energy needs are the biggest in London. TFL could help fund solar on every viable roof and receive excess energy from Londoners.
  • Voluntary council tax contribution for Solar mobilisation.
  • Or Council Tax precept to fund solar. 
  • Levy on businesses, particularly those with the most environmental externalities.

Planning and overcoming bureaucracy

  • Finding a coherent balance between preserving the historic nature of London and our planetary survival
  • Speeding up assessment
  • Setting up training programmes
  • Developing scaleable solutions

Predatory Delay

In 2014 it was suggested that 10 million homes in the UK should have solar photovoltaic panels by 2020 – Imperial College London 

‘A third of households generating energy from the sun – would allow the UK to produce about 6% of its annual electricity needs from solar power, with as much as 40% coming from the panels on sunny days in summer, by 2020. These figures are comparable to those of Germany, which has made a major push on solar power in the last decade.’
 
In 2016, a study by consultancy Energy for London found that just 0.5% of London’s 3.4 million households have installed solar panels, less than any other city or region it analysed. What a failure. 
 

Power concedes nothing without a demand. We demand solar power for the people.



Climate Emergency Measure No.1: Remove all Fossil Fuel Cars from Cities

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The first climate emergency measure for London (and other cities) is to remove all fossil fuel cars.

Adding more petrol and diesel to the flames of rapid Global Warming is incendiary.

Mobilisation to remove all fossil fuel cars from cities and towns, requires National Governments to declare a Climate Emergency and enact climate emergency measures.

The imminent threat of runaway Climate Breakdown makes this an unprecedented emergency. Mobilisation is needed on the scale of World War 2.

What can we do with these redundant motor vehicles? What can be recycled from an ICE motor vehicle and how can it be re-used?

Old cars are almost entirely recycled for their steel content.

Primary new steel is responsible for 9% of global emissions. Recycled steel is therefore a vital resource to cut these emissions and stop the production of primary steel.

In a circular economy, demand for steel should equal supply of recycled steel.

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Meanwhile entire homes can be built with car tyres by ramming them full of earth and covering with concrete. These are known as earth ships.

Further uses of tyres are discussed here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tire_recycling

What will replace these cars?

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The Victory Bike

In 1941 the Office for Emergency Management of the United States government commissioned Huffman and Westfield to make the Victory Bike as part of the war effort. The government department officially promoted bicycling as a more patriotic choice than motoring.

Oslo is currently setting the agenda for carfree cities, as set out in this article

https://www.fastcompany.com/90294948/what-happened-when-oslo-decided-to-make-its-downtown-basically-car-free

The embedded carbon of a mass switch to electric cars would blow the carbon budget and drain renewable resources needed for the switch to essential electric heating / cooling.

Yes we need to switch essential motor vehicles to electric (where no other viable alternative exists). But mass personal car journeys are not just unpatriotic but environmentally suicidal.

Utility cycling (in its many forms) would be transformational. Space saving, healthy and using minimal resources. Recycled steel is suitable for tough, industrial grade cycles; and has real cachet in certain cycling circles. Liberty Steel is piloting steel recycling, powered by renewable electric furnaces.

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Which World Government will grasp the nettle first? And stop the suicidal madness of carmaggedon.

Smorgasbord of Cargo Bikes for your delectation

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Docked Cargo Bike Hire in Vienna

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The Classic Rickshaw or Pedicab

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Pedalmeapp London

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Cargo Bike Amsterdam

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Cargo bike hire Groningen

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Plumber Copenhagen

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Royal Mail Solar powered Cargo Bike

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Hackney East London

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Hackney East London

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Copenhagen

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Toronto 

Transport for London in a Climate Emergency

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On 11th December 2018, Sadiq Khan declared a Climate Emergency in London. A week later he published the 1.5C Compatible Action Plan.

Additionally, on January 12th 2019, in light of the IPCC report, the Mayor updated London’s commitment to being a zero carbon city from 2050 down to 2030 . This sets a far tighter trajectory and we must all revise ambitions and strategy significantly, to match this new reality.

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The carbon crunch got a lot tighter

Reducing energy demand/ embedded carbon from  new infrastructure/ vehicles will mean tough choices have to be made

  • Cancelling Silvertown Tunnel and Crossrail 2 is inevitable (The high Embedded carbon of these infrastructure projects are not in line with a Climate Emergency. Cement and steel emissions would be far too high)
  • Mini -Holland for any borough that wants it. Transformational dense cycling networks with carfree town centres. (30 x 30 million ring fenced. Design standards must be at Waltham Forest mini Holland level or better)
  • Traffic-free efficient walking and cycling networks replacing some buses. Expanded Pedestrianised areas and wider pavements. Cycle only streets  (where alternative Underground/ Overground /Rail exist, for instance central London).
  • New Buses only pure electric (no hybrids locking us into fossil fuels)
  • Pedicabs and pedalmeapp replacing motorised Taxis and Cabs
  • Remaining Taxis / cabs only pure electric
  • Replacing motor vehicle delivery with last mile cargo bike delivery and cycling logistics
  • Replacing commercial and Government services (currently by motorised vehicles) to electric assist cycle / cargo bike
  • Remaining essential vehicles only pure electric.
  • Extending Congestion Charge hours to 24/7. Removing all exemptions. Raising price of charge.
  • Tightening ULEZ Ultra Low Emission Zone) to include all fossil fuel vehicles and extending across Greater London as quickly as possible.
  • Removing all street car parking from Central London, town centres, quietways and the strategic road network.
  • Carfree Fridays Combining with Work free Fridays for a 4 day working week. ( the connection between emissions and working hours)
  • Upgrading remaining railway lines in London to Transport for London Overground standards (capacity has increased x 5 on the Overground since lines have been run by TFL)
  • Data needs to be made more efficient and targeted. Low tech supercedes high energy data proliferation and ‘smart’ tech.

Transport for London Energy use

According to a recent article in Wired, dated 30th November 2018

Transport for London uses more electricity than anything else in the city. The Underground and Overground rail networks alone consume an astonishing 1.2 terawatt-hours each year, enough to power around 360,000 homes. Then there are buses, trams and an array of other infrastructure.

The TFL Health, Safety and Environment report 2016/17 says:

 Our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from the fuel used to run buses and other vehicles, electricity to power trains and trams, and the energy supplied to our buildings and equipment.

Electricity use in 2016/17 fell by 1.56 per cent to 1.69 terawatt hours. Within this overall result, there was an increase from running NightTube and more frequent services and a reduction from efficient street lighting.

Total CO2 emissions associated with our activities was 2.08 million tonnes compared with 2.17 million tonnes in 2015/16 – a 4.1 per cent decrease. The main factor has been the reduction in carbon intensity of our electricity supply from National Grid. Continued improvements in the energy efficiency of transport infrastructure and the carbon intensity of the grid are vital to reaching the Mayor’s long term goal of a zero carbon city.

Professor Tim Green and colleagues at Imperial College, London, have been advocates of the idea of trackside solar, and published a report, Riding Sunbeams, which found that solar arrays could meet up to six per cent of the Underground’s energy demands.

London’s rooftops (including commercial, domestic and Government) are also a very underused resource. Solar pinned to every viable roof in London would not only supply localised domestic and commercial needs but could potentially supply some of Transport for London needs too? Excess Solar energy fed into a 24 hr transport system?

Road transport

The annual road transport emissions for the Greater London Area (GLA) are projected to be 5,728,930t CO2 in 2030, (London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory 201330 data). According to Donnachadh McCarthy (Eco-auditor) that is about 1.4% of all UK current emissions . However in 2030 it would represent a far higher percentage of the total UK emissions, as other sectors are cut.

Reducing emissions from road transport down to zero net carbon (by at least 2030) will set the agenda for the next London Mayoral election.

The ambition of 80% of all personal journeys by walking, cycling and public transport will need to come much sooner than 2040. 2024 seems far more appropriate And  the ratio of walking and cycling trips to public transport trips will also need to be rebalanced, in favour of walking and cycling.

 

Intelligent Speed limiters, Automated Emergency Braking and other predatory delay tactics to stop safer streets

Dr34SjVWoAApTG_Unlike the European Transport safety Council, I do not believe Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems will make our streets safer. Rather they are predatory delay to redesigning our streets.

This approach is regressively putting pedestrian and cyclist safety into the hands of the automobile manufacturers. By keeping pedestrians in a passive position, it merely aims to do ‘the wrong thing better’. This is a  dangerous distraction from the physical redesign and re-purposing of space. It is playing into the hands of the car lobby.

‘The truth is cities are not doing nearly enough to restore streets for pedestrian use, and its the pedestrians who should be furious.’ Opinion ‘The Pedestrian Strikes Back’ –  NY Times

Apportioning well-being and safety of pedestrians to car manufacturers does not work.  A  prime example of this is the dieselgate scandal , where car lobby claims of ‘clean diesel’ has lead to dangerous illegal emissions across Europe.

Conversely safer street design has consistently worked, prioritising pedestrians and cyclists, as seen in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm. Road safety has been achieved, not through questionable tech, but through putting time, money and resources into redesign of public space and reallocating quality space for walking and cycling.

Automation of logic has not been possible

Firstly I must place Intelligent speed Assistance and Automated Emergency Braking in the context of the desire to automate logic.

Professor Erol Gelenbe of Imperial College has told Christian Wolmar and myself that ‘Automation of logic has not been possible, complexity boundaries were reached.’

This means the tech is fundamentally flawed. It is algorithmically unaccountable and even the engineers can’t keep track of what is going on inside the black box. It is not fit for purpose.

Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)

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‘Intelligent speed assistance works by using traffic sign recognition and GPS map data to help drivers stick to the legal speed limit. The system can be overridden and the driver remains in control at all times.’

Passive systems simply warn the driver of travelling at excess speed. Meanwhile active systems intervene and automatically correct the vehicles speed. Although most systems allow the driver to override the ISA.

One of the major cases against this tech, is that drivers get confused and don’t know whether to be passive or active in their responsibility for a two ton metal box. KSIs (Killed and seriously injured numbers) have risen significantly since ISA and AEB have been more widespread in new cars, from 2015. One wonders if this driver confusion is one of the main causes?

Speed limiters can also be disabled, tuned, tampered with , hacked or just simply ignored. The limiters used in BMW and Mercedes cars, which can be removed by nearly anyone with a computer these days, as evidenced by the multitude of ads in the back of motoring magazines offering to do just that.

Another flaw is that sensors don’t work well in weather such as rain or snow. The tech is unreliable in ‘weather’.

Both active and passive ISA systems can serve as on board vehicle data recording, (this is possibly the real reason car manufacturers are so keen, more on this later)

Automated Emergency Braking (AEB)

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Autonomous emergency braking, known as AEB, is a collision avoidance system which engages the main braking system in automobiles when it detects an imminent collision

One of the most disturbing articles I have read on Automated Brakes is that the engineers ‘tuned’ the brakes, to make the ride in the car smoother, by ignoring pedestrian and cyclists.  Again automated brakes can be overridden, disabled, tuned and hacked.  And like dieselgate are algorithmically unaccountable.

Data Harvesting and Mass Surveillance

‘Ford’s CEO just said on NPR that the future of profitability for the company is all the data from its 100 million vehicles (and the people in them) they’ll be able to monetize. Capitalism & surveillance capitalism are becoming increasingly indistinguishable (and frightening)’  – Kevin Bankston Twitter

Welcome to The Age of surveillance Capitalism. Many believe this is the real reason for the push for ISA and AEB.

Mass surveillance by Governmental organisations are often carried out by corporations. It is the single, most indicative distinguishing feature of totalitarian regimes.

Energy vultures

Autonomous vehicles use terrific amounts of power to run their onboard sensors and do all the calculations needed to analyse the world and make driving decisions. The computer vision kit is a power sink.

There are 20-100 computers on one Autonomous Vehicle. And 20-60 computers in current cars with ISA and AEB, on our roads now. Add on radar, sensors, cameras and data processing and you have an energy vulture

The hidden energy consumed in externally hosted data centres is not available, but also adds to the high energy consumption.

We need to rapidly cut energy consumption to meet sustainable renewables. However total per capita energy demand is increasing faster than renewable energy sources are added. This hinders that vital transition to low energy low carbon transport.

Targeting walking and cycling advocates to legitimise tech

One of the tactics, used by the car lobby, is to co-opt charities and grass roots campaigners to neutralise any opposition. The car lobby specifically targets pedestrian, cycling or safety campaigns to legitimise tech.

The current AV marketing approach claims Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Vehicle inevitability. But we must be aware that ‘They are coming’ and ‘We can’t stop it’ are marketing techniques. They present an AI /AV bias that is not based on facts.

 

Rapid Change 2019

When I was a child, I was fascinated by Animals who had adapted to their environment, evolving slowly, over many years.

All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and thrive. Some adaptations are structural, like the hump on a camel or the white fur on a polar bear. Other adaptations are behavioral like the nightingale, who migrates to survive cold winters and hot summers.

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Nightingale to become extinct in Britain ‘within 30 years’

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C that makes it clear that we are now on course for Climate Catastrophe; where animals, plants and humans are unable to adapt quickly enough to global heating and therefore enter into mass extinction.

Unless we can make radical change, on an unprecedented scale and within a very tight window, we are toast. The IPCC report says:

“Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming,

Historically a large number of ancient mass extinction events have been strongly linked to global climate change. But because current human-induced climate change is so rapid, the way species typically adapt (eg – migration) is, in most cases, simply not be possible. Global change is simply too pervasive and occurring too rapidly. 

The IPCC storyline scenarios such as A1FI and A2 imply a rate of warming of 0.2 to 0.6°C per decade. By comparison, the average change from 15 to 7 thousand years ago was ~0.005°C per decade.

We have already tragically lost 60% of nature in my lifetime.

Humans may feel abstracted from nature in our concrete towns and cities. But we are totally dependent on the delicate web of ecosystems: Humans rely on natural ecosystems to provide many ‘ecosystem services’- such as pollination of crops, and cleaning air and water. Humans also rely on ecosystems to provide them with fertile soil, mineral nutrients, fish and game.

As an individual I have found that I have being slowly adapting, and more intensely over the last 5 years. I downsized to a bed sit, I removed a concrete patio in my shared garden, opening up the earth to plant climbers up the walls, fruit trees, shrubs and vegetables.

I shop nearly all locally sourced food and plastic free. I only buy new when there are no alternatives in 2nd hand.

I changed my lights to LED. My kettle to electric. I have decided not to fly.

I have invested in 2nd hand wool heritage jumpers, trousers and socks, so I can keep heating to a minimum. I swim and wash at the Lido.

I bought a bike and cycle and walk even more than I did before. I have never owned a car but I also now avoid taking taxis. I have been cutting down on meat. I am nearly vegetarian and on a pathway to nearly vegan.

But possibly my biggest adaptation has been to get very actively political. Putting my life on hold to dedicate myself to campaigning. When I started banprivatecarsinlondon.com it was on instinct. It surged into my consciousness and I couldn’t hold back my passion to speak the truth.

Two manifestos have emerged, in the last 4 years, out of research and networking. I have felt an  absolute imperative to create policy that is needed, not what is seen as politically ‘possible’. We need to be ahead of the curve and ready for fast moving change. This is a Climate Emergency.

I have now joined Extinction Rebellion. And I urge you to do the same. We are at the last chance saloon

I believe that

Every action matters

Every bit of warming matters

Every year matters

Every choice matters