Sustainable Transportation – Approaches, Chances, Challenges
16th MIBAS Debates on CSR “Sustainable Transportation”
- Viktoria Wesslowski, Freelancer Consulting, sustainable urban development, sustainable transportation policy with focus on cyclists and pedestrians. PhD from University of Manchester (2014): Building and growing urban transport cycling in Santiago de Chile and Member of ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club).
According to European Environmental Agency (2017), transportation accounts for one-third of energy consumption in EEA region, 25% of greenhouse gas emission and divides land into patches that hinder animal and plant breeding. Additionally, on a tertiary level transportation is one of the highest contributing factors towards respiratory and cardiovascular problems among people. Therefore, 16th MIBAS debate on CSR was based on understanding, rethinking and re-establishing means of “Sustainable Transportation” with an effort to derive a common comprehension that seeds an initiative to reduce over-consumption of harmful transportation means at a personal level triggering an eventual ubiquitous impact. Sustainability is a popular term coined most frequently these days in every second context, may it be an Annual General Meeting of an organization, a lecture at a business school, a public debate or press conference and even in a group of four friends. However, even though the phenomenon has gained much public attention most people have little understanding that sustainability can only truly and holistically be achieved if everyone contributes on an individual/personal level. 16th MIBAS debate on CSR based this mindset at the core of its discussion.
What does sustainability in transportation mean? Does sustainability means cutting off all means of carbon based transportation? What is multimodality and how can it help achieve sustainability? What does rationality mean on an individual and holistic level when purchasing expensive cars that reassure social status? And how infrastructure can facilitate establishment of a sustainable transportation system? There were the key questions around which the debate revolved.
The debate begun with asking the speaker to define sustainability in her perspective, while, aligning it with her PhD research on Building Practice and Growing Practice. This initiated a very enlightening start of the debate. According to the speaker, where on one hand sustainability is a very broad concept that cannot be understood in a phrase of certain words, on the other hand, it is a concept that can be easily defined at a highly subjective level. Like every stakeholder in a situation has different role, needs and expectations, they also simultaneously have different rationales about dos and don’ts, including how to defining the term, when it comes to sustainability. Individual’s concept of sustainability is likely to revolve around impact on environment and reduction of pollution while businesses and governments have to think of sustainability as a balancing state between financial/economic wellbeing with least possible negative consequences on the environment. The concept of Building Practice and Growing Practice revolves around the believe that sustainability is achieved in two sequential or parallel stages namely Building Practice and Growing Practice. Building Practice is when the government makes infrastructural development, provides subsidies and encourages practices that reassure sustainable environment. For example in case of cycling, the government must build better cycling paths, encourage shower facilities at work and establish better laws for cyclists and pedestrians. While growing practice says that community reciprocates to these efforts by creating cycling challenges, cycling buddy programmes and/or creating campaigns to encourage use of cycling as a means of travel. According to the speaker collectively with the two true sustainability can be achieved that survives in long run.
The speaker also highlighted the importance of multimodality or use of several means of transportation to cover a single journey as an effective way to optimize the transportation system while reducing the effect on the environment. The interesting phase of the discussion was reached when the speaker was asked to practicalize her thoughts of zero carbon transportation in a situation with high lobbyism from the car industry and high level of employment provided by this industry. This conflict between social interest and ecological concerns created an interesting twist in the debating adding more irrational humanistic perception to the entire idea of cars and transportation, slightly deviating from the mechanical point of view. Although, the speaker agreed that “no carbon transportation” is a more idealistic perspective at the moment, she also agreed that alternatives such as electricity run cars are new initiatives by the industry in the recent past as they realize change in consumer behaviour and expectations towards more environmentally friendly products and services. However, as in real life no concrete solution could be derived to balance environment with social concerns.
Towards the end of the debate, the discussion was opened to the public where they were asked to offer their thoughts and place questions to the speaker. Students discussed the concept of rationality as being core to subjectivity in the concept of sustainability. They argued that with no defined borders of sustainability people justify most or all actions that can in real terms harm the environment. For example, taking kids to school by car rather than foot is often justified in the name of safety or expensive cars are often justified as being a long term investment and so on. The interesting share of ideas and discussion concluded with the final Mibas’ Annual Summer Party.
The summer party gave students an optimal opportunity to enjoy the sun from the beautiful Alster harbour. In between the hectic, intense semester this was a great channel to relax and phase out all tiredness. The speaker and all the students engaged in conversations about the industrial perspective on sustainable transportation while having drinks and relaxing for the rest of the evening. This debate was an ultimate combination of a useful discussion, exchange of thoughts as well as a means to regain composure with the party. Mibas’ debate on CSR has constantly been working to provide industry and stakeholder insights on the topic of sustainability to its students and participating enthusiasts. The debate ensures future engagement to further help understand sustainability in other areas and aspects of life.