Cross-thinking about Sustainability

Hypermobility: a challenge to governance

Strategies for sustainable development in the area of mobility tend to focus on technological innovation to achieve less polluting cars, airplanes and other means to supply the mobility we need. The current Dutch government has explicitly rejected strategies that influence the demand for mobility, assuming that this not socially viable. Is that right? Will technological improvement of current means of transportation suffice? OR Is our fate to live in hyper-mobile societies regardless of our actions? What challenges does hypermobility pose for governance? Is there space for sustainability?

In the second debate in a series on Cross-thinking about sustainability, prof. John Adams will discuss these questions by analysing nature and origins of what he calls our hypermobile society. While Adams recognises that mobility is liberating and empowering, he raises the possibility that it may be possible to have too much of a good thing. Cars may kill cities. We thus need fundamental reflection – and debate – on how we want to, and can, live and move. Adams will formulate some alternatives that may be at least worth considering. Prof. Johan Schot (Eindhoven University) will be the co-referent for this debate.

In hypermobile society, traditional geographical communities have been replaced by ‘communities of interest’, which are not tied to a particular location. We spend much of our time in such communities, physically in the midst of strangers, celebrating and advertising the blessings of mobility. From the viewpoint of sustainable development, hypermobile society has severe drawbacks. Not only is it a highly polluting society, but there are also many adverse social implications, society may become more anonymous and less convivial, more crime-ridden and less culturally diverse.

The most favourite strategy for sustainable mobility are new technical inventions. We need to see whether changes are conceivable at the demand side. This does not seem easy. Mobility is perceived by a majority of people as a sign of self-expression and development, and a symbol of personal independence and empowerment in the constantly individualising and liberalising world.

John Adams is a lecturer in geography at the University College in London, UK and was a member of the original board of directors of Friends of the Earth in the early 1970s. He published his idea on hypermobile society in a report for the OECD and participated in public debates about transport planning in Britain and Germany.

Date: 11 May 2006
Language: English
Start lecture: 20.00 hrs
Entrance fee: € 10,- / € 7,50 with discount
Reservations: 020 623 13 11 of
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This lecture is an initiative of Felix Meritis, Industrial Transformation Project - International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IT-IDHP), Kennisnetwerk Systeem Innovaties (KSI) and Trouw.

Earlier lectures in a series on Cross-thinking about sustainability:

Wolfgang Sachs (Wuppertal Institute) - Can globalisation be a driver for sustainable development? - 17 January 2006