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Why shifting to green and healthy transport modes delivers vast rewards for cities



Prioritising the movement of people using sustainable transport modes, rather than cars, delivers vast benefits for the health of citizens and the prosperity of cities. It is also essential for reducing city greenhouse gas emissions. This is why.

Transport emissions are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in cities

    Emissions sources vary from city to city, but transport – and particularly on-road vehicle transport – accounts for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions in the vast majority of cases. In New York, 23% of emissions are from transport; in Mexico City, the figure is 45%; and across C40 cities, transport accounts for an average of 30% of cities’ emissions.1

    Around the world, outdoor air pollution kills around 4.6 million people each year, and many more suffer from serious related conditions such as premature birth, low birth weight and asthma.2 Traffic is the biggest source of urban air pollution, including non-greenhouse gas pollutants. Globally it is responsible for up to a quarter of particulate matter in cities’ air.3

    Tackling transport emissions delivers big rewards for city economies, health and communities

    Cities with fewer and cleaner cars on the road can reap vast rewards. Here’s how:

    Reduced congestion boosts city productivity. Traffic congestion holds back our economies through lost time and productivity. For example, before London’s Congestion Charge zone was introduced in 2002, time lost to congestion cost the city’s economy up to £4 million a week.4 Time spent in traffic in Australia’s eight regional capital cities costs nearly US$ 2.8 billion in lost productivity.5

    More walking and cycling leads to increased footfall for retail businesses. More walkable areas can boost local employment, footfall and retail sales, and increase retail rents as much as 20%.6 In London, for example, investment in walking and cycling in the town centres and high streets across the city have led to a 17% decline in retail vacancies and a 93% increase in footfall. People in London walking, cycling and using public transport are spending 40% more in their local shops each month than car drivers.7

    Active travel leads to less depression, anxiety, stress, obesity and chronic disease.8 Lack of physical activity results in physical and mental health problems, lost productivity, higher rates of absenteeism and higher healthcare costs. It kills more people today than smoking. Shifting people out of cars and into active travel – particularly walking and cycling, but also public transport, which typically leads to more activity – significantly lowers these risks. Fewer cars also means less traffic noise, which can cause sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment in children and cardiovascular disease – in Europe, it is the second biggest environmental problem affecting health, after air pollution.9 10

    On average, private cars are parked for over 95% of the time.11 Car parking is a profoundly inefficient use of valuable space in cities. Cities including New York, London, Paris, Vienna, Boston, Houston and Hong Kong have parking coverage of between 15% and 30%.12 13 Parking spaces push buildings further apart, making it harder to walk and encouraging more driving. It also limits the vibrancy and sense of community in local areas. Cities have a huge opportunity to turn parking into housing, productive uses like shops and office buildings, and for walking, cycling and public transport stations.

    Fewer cars can lead to less crime. When a city street goes ‘car-free’ (for example on weekends), crime has dropped by up to 74%.14

    Cities can take action today

    Transport decisions are within the powers of most cities, and city leaders now have an unprecedented range of mobility options. A future where the majority of citizens travel on foot, by bike or by shared transport is within cities’ grasp. Cities can benefit from the lessons and experience from leading cities around the world.

    Priority actions for cities include:

    • Implement transit-oriented development. These are people-friendly urban planning policies that encourage dense, mixed-use development around transit stations to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.
    • Build infrastructure and implement schemes to increase the rates of walking, cycling, and public and shared transport use for all citizens.
    • Build electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentivize the uptake of electric vehicles to transition the vehicles left on the roads away from fossil fuels.
    • Collaborate with suppliers, fleet operators and businesses to accelerate the shift to zero emissions vehicles and reduce fleet vehicle miles. Lead by example by procuring zero emission vehicles for city fleets as quickly as possible.

    To get started, view transport data for your city in our Transport Data Explorer, and read here about impactful actions that cities can take to reduce transport emissions.

    The C40 Green and Healthy Streets Declaration

    Signatory cities to the C40 Green and Healthy Streets (Fossil Fuel Free Streets) declaration have committed, as priority actions, to:

    • Procuring, with our partners, only zero-emission buses from 2025.
    • Ensuring that a major area of our city is zero emission by 2030.

    These priority actions can also be adopted by non-signatory cities around the world as impactful, ambitious steps toward streets free of transport emissions. Read here for details of the actions planned by signatory cities to deliver these commitments.


    [1] C40 and ARUP (2019) Deadline 2020: How cities will get the job done.
    [2] CCAC secretariat (2018) World Health Organisation releases new air pollution data.
    [3] Karagulian et al (2015) Contributions to cities’ ambient particulate matter (PM): A systematic review of local source contributions at global level In Atmospheric Environment Vol 120, pp.475-483.
    [4] Transport for London (no date) Congestion Charge.
    [5] Designed to move (2015) A Guide for city leaders: Designed to move active cities.
    [6] Designed to move (2015) A Guide for city leaders: Designed to move active cities.
    [7] Transport for London (2018) Economic benefits of walking and cycling. Webpage. Available at: [Accessed 5 March 2019].
    [8] Designed to move (2015) A Guide for city leaders: Designed to move active cities.
    [9] There was an average noise reduction of three decibels on main roads during the first car-free day in Paris. In addition, noise exposure in the UK causes a loss of healthy life valued at €1.34 billion. Consistent day-time exposure over recommended noise levels has an impact on health, including high blood pressure, stroke, dementia and heart disease. C40 (2018) Benefits of climate action: Piloting A Global Approach To Measurement.
    [10] WHO (2011) Burden of disease from environmental noise: Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe.
    [11] Shoup D. (2011) The high cost of free parking. Book: revised edition. American planning Association, Routledge.
    [12] WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff (2016) Making Better Places: Autonomous vehicles and future opportunities.
    [13] Old Urbanist (2011) We Are the 25%: Looking at Street Area Percentages and Surface Parking.
    [14] Designed to move (2015) A Guide for city leaders: Designed to move active cities.

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    Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!



    Our future is in OUR Hands

    We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

    Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

    What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

    Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

    So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

    Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

    Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

    We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.



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    Rethinking Democracy From the Perspective of Political Ecology



    The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

    By Victor M. Toledo, originally published by

    Ed.note: This piece originally appeared in Spanish in La Jornada, December 1, 2020

    Translation into English by Jane K. Brundage

    The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

    In the first extractive and agrarian societies, which make up 99 percent of the history of the human species, governance was carried out in a direct and balanced way. Governance began to become problematic with the appearance of the first cities, the State, class society and the diversity of work tasks. The democratic model, which according to E. Dussel was born not in Greece, but in Egypt and other Mediterranean cities, was defined as the power of the people in order to differentiate it from the various autocratic or despotic forms.

    Today, modern governance in non-autocratic societies is generally synonymous with institutional, representative, electoral, formal or bourgeois democracy, in which decisions are made by representatives who are distantly elected by vote and usually through political parties. A good part of Western thought has forgotten or concealed the existence of another democracy, which was prior to the representative one, and which can be described as direct, participatory, radical or local. Four thousand years later, it continues to exist essentially among the planet’s 7,000 villages of indigenous peoples. Today, in the presence of the crisis of modernity, it resurfaces as the basic cell for constructing an innovative governance scheme that runs up the scale from the local to the global.

    Today, the supreme and greatest challenge for contemporary science is to contribute to overcoming the crisis in which the modern world is plunged and to offer clarifications, clues, alternatives. The ineffectiveness of electoral or representative democracy as a way of reaching consensus and above all,  as a way of offering solutions to the phenomena of social injustice and the deterioration and depredation of nature, requires study and research. Modern democratic systems are also highly expensive. In Mexico, the National Electoral Institute (INE) will spend a budget of 12,493 million pesos in 2021 to organize elections and sponsor political parties.

    In this context, because its long civilizational history has left a current legacy of 25 million Mexicans who identify themselves as indigenous and live in thousands of traditional communities, the Mexican case provides numerous living examples of a radical and participatory democracy. There are innumerable examples in the territory, especially in those regions where an inextricable relationship survives between culture and nature, together with a vigorous defense of communal territories.

    This is the case in the state of Oaxaca, where 80 percent of its 570 municipalities elect their authorities directly. Likewise, the neozapatista caracoles[1] in the state of Chiapas, and the most recent processes of self-management and self-defense in the municipalities of Cherán[2], state of Michoacán; Oxcub, Chiapas, and Cacahuatepec and Ayutla de los Libres, state of Guerrero. By the same token, keep in mind the actions of the self-defense groups of Michoacán, a project frustrated by the power of the State, and the community police still serving in 920 towns and communities within 51 of the 81 municipalities in Guerrero.

    All these experiences have been ignored, vilified, despised and repressed by the national system, because they contain the seeds of a profound transformation in the ways of governing. Their subversive power extends and multiplies beyond the local and acquires regional dimensions. In the Sierra Norte de Puebla, about 250 Nahua and Totonaca communities have held regional assemblies since 2014 (they have 30) with thousands of participants in defense of their territories, their forests, their springs and their mountains. Representative democracy, which maintains and conceals social exploitation and exploitation of the natural world, is under siege.

    These reflections were shared by this writer speaking at the program “Rethinking Democracy in the Current World”, organized by the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico]. It was a very successful event owing to the quality of the speakers and the number of those who followed the conferences virtually (ours was attended by more than 20,000 people.

    For Dr. José Manuel Mireles, hero and martyr, for a true democracy.

    +   +   +

    Translator’s notes:

    [1] Caracol is the Spanish word for conch shell — long used by Mexico’s indigenous peoples in ritual ceremonies. Blown into, they emit an unmistakable, hauntingly plaintiff tone that, once heard, is never forgotten. In the autonomous Zapatista communities of Mexico, caracol is the name given to its organizational regions, created in 2003 to replace the earlier organizational structure, Aguascalientes [Hot Waters]. Formed in 1995, the objective of Aguascalientes was to serve as contact points between Zapatista communities and other cultures in Mexico, and with cultures in the outside world. The Zapatista Caracoles were formed following a period of extensive discussion about the necessity of changing the traditional relation between Zapatista communities and other Mexican communities, and between Zapatista communities and the outside world.


    In that sense, the objective of the caracoles is similar to its antecedent. In the Zapatistas’ own words, to be “windows for us to see ourselves, and for us to look outside” with “horns [ie, conch shells, in the sense of loudspeakers] to get our word out and to listen to those who are far away.” Source: Los Caracoles ZapatistasRaúl Romero, La Jornada, August 17, 2019.   (Spanish)

    [2] Cherán, an indigenous community|municipality located on the Purhépecha Meseta [Highlands] in western Michoacán, is a remarkable story of community resilience, resistance, persistence and triumph over seemingly overwhelming odds. It is all the more remarkable for having been initiated and driven by the community’s women and young people. Here’s a good review at the 5-year marker: Mexico Indigenous: Cherán Celebrates 5 Years of Autonomy and Dignity.

    Source: Resilience

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    A Smarter Conversation

    How localization leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness.



    At a time of rapid change, there is a better way forward. A path that leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness. 


    As globalization and consolidation has changed many of the ways we live and work, it has also contributed to the depletion of resources, on-going pandemics and crises and human suffering.

    For four decades, Local Futures has revitalized  communities and local economies around the world

    Mobilized spent about one hour speaking with the visionary founder of Local Futures to the ideas into action for a better way forward.

    “A new human story founded on connection and diversity is emerging. It’s called localization.”

    Helena Norberg-Hodge, Founder and Director is the founder and director of Local Futures/ISEC. A pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than forty years. She is the producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and the author of several books, including Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, described as “an inspirational classic”, and most recently Local is Our Future. She was honored with the Right Livelihood Award (or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) for her groundbreaking work in Ladakh, and received the Goi Peace Prize for contributing to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”


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