On April 20th, 2014, in the Passing Scene column to your right (or below if you’re reading this on your device), I raised the above question. Peter Woolstencroft was good enough to comment in Facebook, and gave me permission to post his comment below, together with my response. There’s also an exchange with my friend and former student, Dave Danyluk. Here’s the picture I refer to in my response to Peter:
A delivery vehicle in downtown Leipzig, manoeuvring carefully to avoid pedestrians.
Peter Woolstencroft: A car free city is a nice idea, but what happens to the costs of road building, maintenance, and repairs? Who is paying for these expenses? I like the firetrucks and ambulances that go past my house on a paved and well-maintained road. Much appreciated are the trucks that bring goods and services to people in their houses and apartments. In other words, what proportion of road building costs and maintenance are accounted for by gasoline taxes, licenses, vehicle permits, and whatever else motorists generate by way of their economic activity (such as taxes on insurance)?
Last May, I sketched out an idea for a research project that would look at what senior governments could do to ensure that those who make decisions about the growth of North American cities do a better job of respecting the environment. That idea has now matured into a research proposal. In this entry, I’ll summarize the proposal and provide a link to the full proposal.
In the age of globalization, there are two distinct ways of giving voice to, and putting a push behind, your political views. One is through the time-honoured rules of national politics – elections, polls, and petitions to government. Many of us have become disillusioned with that way of doing politics, at least in part because corporations don’t play by those rules unless it suits their convenience.
Thanks to a plethora of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, and to the ease of communication in the 21st Century, corporations, or anyone that wields serious financial power, can circumvent the old rules, by moving their activities or their money to countries more favourably inclined toward them. However, as I’ve argued in previous posts, the rest of us can play the same game.
We’ve watched as the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) failed in the face of massive demonstrations. In Europe, after storms of angry public reaction, Shell Oil backed away from plans to sink an oil storage facility into the sea and Monsanto re-thought its venture into genetically modified seeds. Noreena Hertz (cited at the end of an earlier entry) sees this kind of consumer power as a major weapon for ordinary people in countering the excesses of globally mobile corporate and financial power. I have my doubts.
Posted in Researchers' corner, The age of community
Tagged consumer advocacy, environment, fair trade, free trade, human rights, labour issues, NGOs, non-government organizations, Noreena Hertz, poverty, Ulrich Beck