The media have been giving lots of attention to the situation in New York with Hurricane Sandy this week (notably more than Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti received, but that is another issue). In Workpackage 6 we are looking at what the concept and study of ‘Disruption’ might mean for the development of low carbon travel practices, and now in New York we have a world class example.
There is a proverbial saying that the Chinese word for opportunity is the same as their word for crisis. Whether this is actually true or not is not important, what it highlights is the potential to take an unavoidable bad situation and make the most of it. What we have found in the Disruption project so far that the reaction in disruptive situations is for policy and governmental actors to focus on ‘getting things back to normal’ as soon as possible.
When faced with a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% or more, in terms of sustainability, normality is no longer a credible option. The sort of change we need to bring about is unlikely to be achievable by a slow, gradual downsizing (we have probably left that too late now). What is needed is more like a step-change in the way we do things.
Disruptive events like Hurricane Sandy provide us just the opportunity to do this!
Do people change their behaviour during and after such events? Yes – often because they have no alternative, but sometimes because they are encouraged to do so.
Take for example the measures that have been introduced in New York over the last few days to force people to intensively car share (minimum 3 people!) or use public transport by making the subway free.
What will be interesting to see is if there are any efforts made to ‘lock in’ the changes that these measures will bring about, or if there will be an intentional, or accidental, slip back to the same old patterns of high carbon transport that existed before (and possibly contributed to) Hurricane Sandy and the devastation she caused……