We’ve all seen the graph: a person hit by a car going 40 miles per hour (mph) has an 85% chance of being killed. Reducing the speed to 30 mph cuts the odds of death in half; reducing speed to 20 mph drops the fatality rate by an astounding 94%. Even more dramatically, at 5 mph cars (and very cautious trucks), bikes, and pedestrians can all safely share the same street space. According to the US Department of Transportation, about 33% of vehicle-related deaths are speeding-related. Of those, around 40% occur in urban areas.
Solstice. New Years. The annual Janus; looking both forward and backward at another year of transitions and challenges.Read more
There are situations where the danger is so great, the potential damage so devastating, the outrage to decency so powerful that you feel that immediate, radical change becomes an emotional and moral imperative. And you do everything you can to advocate, to make the world take notice, to make people in power take action. Right now.
But, with few exceptions, change happens slowly. Creating change requires getting decision-makers to act, attracting the support of powerful interests, or mobilizing important enough segments of the media and/or the public – none of which usually happens quickly. And then implementing significant change requires transforming systems, which almost always have enormous inertial drag towards the status quo. And having an impact requires the changed processes and outcomes to replace current conditions, which can be incremental and uncertain.Read more
Genie’s are, by mythological definition, very powerful. They can open cave walls, turn dirt into gold, and make carpets fly. They are also devious, granting wishes in ways that turn benefits into burdens – an autonomous force from whom, in exchange for letting them out of the lamp, we can demand short-term assistance but whose ultimate actions and effect are beyond our control.Read more
A while ago, following the fatal collapse of some ceiling panels in the Big Dig tunnels, Commonwealth magazine published interviews with local pundits about what went wrong with the management and public relations aspects of the gargantuan, 30-year project. Some of the issues they raise include the need for:
- A strong leader and management team within the appropriate state agency with sufficient independence, power and talent to manage the contractor as well as keep the project from becoming a patronage dumping ground.
- Regular and honest outreach to keep the public informed and supportive as the project, and its budget, evolve.
- An exit strategy with the contractor if the work doesn’t meet expectations and a “succession” plan in place for others to finish the job if needed.
But there is another perspective that is equally important – at least to those of us who have spent our lives working for progressive social change. From that perspective, the key issue is not project management or contract oversight. The issue is how to maximize the project’s positive contribution to the livability and viability of our communities, the quality of our air and water, the sustainability of our resource use patterns, and the equitable distribution of the project’s costs and benefits.
THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT AND ADVOCACY: Movement Building, Institutional Reform, and Organizational Development (Part II)
In the two weeks since I posted Part I, discussing the role of mass movement in creating the political space for issue-oriented advocacy, some of the Occupy Wall Street groups have begun digging in for the long haul by setting up systems and expelling troublemakers (something the New Left should have done before the FBI infiltrators led the way into violence). At the same time, right wing commentators have begun trying to paint them as hooligans, if not agents of the devil. (As usual, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby places himself at the bottom of the pig pen by asserting both – see “A Sinful ‘Occupation’” from 11/2/11.)
But no matter what happens to the Occupiers – whether they dribble out over the winter or explode into civil disobedience demonstrations – they have opened the door for more. It may be less open-ended or idealistic, but the next phase will be translating the Occupy vision into a series of specific demands, then turning those into systemic reforms at both the policy and operational levels. And accomplishing that will require sustained, organized effort – meaning strong, sophisticated organizations.Read more
Staying Together: Group Ride Etiquette, Conspicuous Bicycle Consumption, Institutional Memory of Small Groups
here may be snow on the ground, and the roads may still be narrow due to the plow-push along the sides, but there are still lots of people on bicycles commuting to work, doing errands, enjoying the sunshine even on days when the temperature is below freezing.
Times are truly changing. And here are three short posts – the first two about bicycle culture and the last about the need for small groups to find ways to remember their own history so that they can build on past efforts.
Group Ride Etiquette
Conspicuous Bicycling Consumption
Institutional Memory of Small Groups
Culture is us. It surrounds us, shapes our perceptions and beliefs. And it is also our collective creation. Its impact comes from our core biology as much as our psychological make up. It is part of the tide that shapes policies and carries us through history. And yet we are not just passive responders. We have a role and therefore a responsibility. As another new year begins, perhaps one of our resolutions should focus on how we contribute to the bottom-up processes that culminate in culture. Culture is political! As two commentators recently said:
“[Culture] is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change. Or to put it another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred. Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Major League Baseball debut preceded Brown v. Board of Education by seven years. Ellen DeGeneres’ coming-out on her TV sitcom preceded the first favorable court ruling on same-sex marriage by eight years.” (“Culture Before Politics,” by Jeff Chang & Brian Komar, The American Prospect, Jan/Feb. 2011)Read more
Without a struggle, there can be no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. — Frederick Douglas
Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired manner. – Huey Newton
Thanksgiving can be just what its name describes: a moment to gather with loved ones to express thanks for the good in our lives. We may feel that our circumstances depend on our own efforts, or on our ability to stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us, or on the influence of whatever form of chance or higher power we may choose to believe in. Regardless, it is an opportunity to appreciate how much we have, whatever that is.Read more
Why don’t more people just leave their cars at home? Why do so many people eat such terrible food? I am frequently in conversations where someone asks these types of questions. Sometimes the speaker is just a snob, using the question to really announce their own sense of superiority. But sometimes it’s a sincere bewilderment. Why do people make choices that end up hurting not only themselves but our society in the long run? And how can we get them to change?
Few people are consciously self-destructive. The reason most Americans drive, just like the reason that so many Americans eat bad food, is because given the surrounding context it makes sense to do so. Our homes jobs, shopping centers, schools, and friends are often located far away from each other, extending across the metro region into the suburbs. Public transportation doesn’t typically connect scattered starting points with equally scattered destinations – assuming that’s its available at all. Cars are often a necessity.Read more