Anti-austerity is terrible messaging

Opposition to the UK government’s cuts, since 2010, in all public services – deep cuts in police, transport, hospitals, schools, fire, universities, disability benefits, mental health services, care for the elderly, legal aid for the poor, nursery schools, the army, green technology … everything – has gone under that banner of “anti-austerity”. And every time I hear the slogan, I despair.
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For greener Green Lanes: radical traffic reduction

(Mostly of local interest in a small part of north London)

Until September, there will be no through traffic on Wightman Road.

Many of those who live on Wightman, or on the Ladder roads which normally act as rat-runs between Wightman and Green Lanes, are very happy with the reduction in traffic:

It’s because of a bridge repair, but it raises this question: should it be a temporary measure on just one road, or should Haringey take it as an opportunity to begin seriously to cut through traffic and pollution by private motor vehicles, and a shift to more foot, bicycle and bus travel?
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Better cycling infrastructure, or make driving more costly? Yes.

Good cycling infrastructure is extremely important for increasing cycling and for reducing the use of cars in our towns and cities. On main roads, that means protected (segregated) cycle lanes; on side roads it means filtered permeability – pedestrians and cycles go through, cars and trucks don’t. There’s plenty of evidence for the importance of such infrastructure.

But when the UK cycling organization runs the headline “Cycle infrastructure responsible for 85% of cycling increase“, I have to object. This is the message of Infrastructure, Infrastructure and Infrastructure gone mad. If you read just that headline, you’ll be left with the impression that nothing much matters other than infrastructure. Even if you read the whole article, you won’t know why that interpretation is dead wrong.
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Brain surgery

Two months ago, Harry Brighouse posted his marvelous Teaching’s not exactly brain surgery, is it? on the Crooked Timber blog. It’s a good thing Brighouse did so right then, because he was playing off of the exalted status we accord brain surgeons, which as we know one American brain surgeon has in the weeks since single-handedly left in tatters. And though we know that, it’s always worth seeing the Guardian’s Marina Hyde pile on in her inimitable style.

We’re not denialists, but please no gloom and doom

I was talking earlier today with a colleague who runs a masters degree on Climate Change Management. Their enrollments have fallen. She attributes this to a “change in the discourse on climate change”, which has rendered the very term a downer, to be avoided (she and her colleagues had thought the degree’s name was pretty upbeat, because “management” suggested… hey, it’s a problem, but we can manage it: not enough, it seems). She contrasted the public attention to the Copenhagen meetings a few years ago, to the relative silence on Paris today. And this of course comes in the midst of an increasingly clear picture of the disaster we’re walking into. If your attention has been elsewhere of late, consider these tidbits:

Kevin Anderson tells us that all the IPCC scenarios that offer at least a 50% chance of staying below 2 degrees depend either on negative emissions technologies that don’t exist yet, or on emissions peaking by 2010 (hint: that didn’t happen). It’s a short and readable piece in Nature Geoscience. Continue reading