The Future Cities project

challenging risk-aversion and the precautionary principle

» Mobility & Transportation

Driving the world to destruction?

‘Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability’ by Daniel Spurling and Deborah Gordon, Oxford University Press, 2010. 322pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 10 April 2010

Musing about Easter Island, Jared Diamond famously asked “what were they thinking when they chopped down the last tree?” Diamond’s polemical book “Collapse”, written five years ago (but based on a 1995 article), argues against the unthinking exploitation of nature Read more…

Dan Dare or Dan Daren’t

Austin Williams | 3 October 2008

Whatever happened to the jet-pack; the monorail; the personalised Lear jet; Maglev taxis; automated highways; long-haul flights by space shuttle? All of these strange and wonderful transport ideas were commonplace Utopian ambitions for the future as seen by the Sixties’ generation. Read more…

The Pessimists: Putting the brakes on India and China

Austin Williams | 15 May 2008

Notwithstanding the fact that the president of the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, Clyde Prestowitz, says excitedly that visiting China is ‘always an epiphany’ (1), in general, when considering the Chinese ‘economic miracle’ (2), the West has developed a nagging cynicism about that country’s rapid rate of development.  Read more…

ESSAY: The political engagement’s off

Austin Williams | October 2007

The e:petitions web page was launched on Number 10’s website in November 2006 ‘enabling anyone to address and deliver a petition directly to the Prime Minister.’ Presumably, someone thought that it would be a good wheeze to minimise the photo opportunities for aggreived members of the public to present a paper petition to the Prime Minister in full view of the waiting media. Read more…

Rod Eddington’s unedifying proposals

Austin Williams | 16 December 2006

Rod Eddington’s transport study is the latest in the long line of Treasury-driven policy initiatives designed to counter the lack of political certainty in government circles. While ministers are noticeable by their absence in real transport debates, refusing to discuss any clear initiative for fear that it might turn around and bite them on the bumper, it is much easier to have a third party do it for you.  Read more…

Cities, People, Planet

‘Cities People Planet: Liveable Cities for a Sustainable World’ by Herbert Girardet;  Wiley-Academy, 2004. 304pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 9 October 2006

This is effectively another reworking of the 10-year-old The Gaia Atlas of Cities: New Directions for Sustainable Urban Living. All the usual suspects are displayed, albeit with significant new additions and examples.  Read more…

Commuting: The Life Sentence

Austin Williams| 8 June 2004

The one aspect of the daily grind that is guaranteed to provoke an opinion is the commute to work. Congested roads, overcrowded trains, packed buses and sweaty tubes – it’s been said that if travel broadens the mind, commuting shrinks it back. Few would contest that the transport infrastructure is in a sorry state. But if the commuting experience is really so bad why do so many of us continue to do it?  Read more…

Dan Dare, or Dan Daren't

‘Future Visions: Future Cities’ Conference, London School of Economics, 6 December 2003

Reviewed by Dave Clements | 11 December 2003

The Future Visions: Future Cities conference,  supported by the Architects Journal, examined the role of the city through the prism of politics, culture and economics.  Read more…

The Art of Travel

‘The Art of Travel’ by Alain De Botton; Penguin, 2003. 272pp

Reviewed by Elisabetta Gasparoni-Abraham | 25 October 2003

This fascinating book, written by Alain De Botton, examines the diverse motives that moved great men of the past – like Charles Baudelaire and Edward Hopper, Gustave Flaubert, Alexander von Humbolt and William Wordsworth – to venture to new shores. He does this by juxtaposing their great experiences to the far less heroic experiences of De Botton himself.  Read more…

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

‘Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything’ by James Gleick; Abacus, 1999. 326pp

Reviewed by Peter Smith | 25 July 2003

Faster is a quick paced, entertaining description of the spread of technology and its impact on our lives. Unlike other superficial accounts Gleick locates recent developments in consumer goods and information technology within a broader context of development, Read more…