Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Importance of Urban Mobility

(Originally posted at:
More than a month after my last Greenpeace blog post about the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, I'm now finally coming to the end of my trip to Brazil before I come home to Edinburgh. I've spent the last fortnight volunteering at the Greenpeace office here in Manaus in the Amazon, and it's been an amazing and really interesting experience. I will write another blog post specifically about how Greenpeace works in Brazil and some of the things I've been doing here, but right now I'd like to share a bit about a really important local campaign: transportation. 

Earlier this week, a couple of articles appeared on the Guardian website about some of the challenges that we are facing here in the United Kingdom to ensure that cycling is a safe and easy way to travel around, and that public transport is made affordable to those who could make use of it. The links between the way in which local and national government take decisions in regard to transport provision and the way in which we need to respond to climate change are obvious; the methods of transportation we choose to use to get around can vary enormously with regard to their carbon dioxide emissions, and these choices are profoundly influenced by transport policy.

The question of how much money goes into funding facilities and infrastructure for respective methods of transport really is one which appears around the world. Here in Manaus, in just two weeks here I've really noticed how the pavements are in a very poor condition throughout the city, how pedestrian crossings are often hard to find, not respected by drivers and markings are left to fade or disappear, how hard it can be to understand where you can get to using public transport, and how dangerous the roads are for cyclists. To be frank, I simply wouldn't ride a bicycle anywhere in Manaus if I had any other option to get about.

This isn't just a problem here in Manaus, but also across a huge number of towns and cities nationwide, which is why Greenpeace Brazil is campaigning for cities with over 20 thousand inhabitants to formulate plans for urban mobility which prioritise the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport over motorists. In these cities, formulating a Plan for Urban Mobility or PMU (Plano de Mobilidade Urbana) is required by law, but are being made in a way which doesn't meet these environmentally beneficial priorities.

To campaign for a better PMU locally, here in Manaus we've been working on a short film to raise awareness of some of the problems pedestrians encounter whilst trying to move around the city, which will be released online soon. Once it's up, we'll post a link to it here. Greenpeace groups across the country are campaigning on this issue in a variety of ways as well as film-making, such as organising stalls and public awareness raising events, encouraging supporters to get in touch with their local authority and much more besides.

Obviously, this is a national campaign which is specific to Brazil. However, the challenges which face us with regard to tackling climate change and building better transport systems occur around the world, including the UK. Whilst it's not our main campaign just now, we do have a Clean Transport campaign which has looked at changing vehicle emissions laws and preventing airport expansion in the last few years alone, and our need here in the UK to reduce our use of oil in transportation has significant implications when you consider the reasons why so many companies seem to think drilling for oil in the Arctic is a good idea.

If you are concerned about transportation, oil exploration or climate change, there are a number of things you can do, such as writing to your MP, MSP or local councillor, signing petitions and even just keeping the environment in mind when choosing how you get around. However, I really do recommend that you try getting involved in your local Greenpeace group, wherever you are, so you can learn more, meet other people who care about these issues and get active with these and other campaigns.

If you happen to live in or near Edinburgh, I'll also be giving a talk about my experiences in Brazil at one of our local group meetings in September or October (we meet on the first and third Wednesday of every month in the Beehive Inn on the Grassmarket), so keep an eye on here and on our mailing list for more information closer to the time. In the meantime, I'm still planning on writing at least one more post about Greenpeace Brazil here, but just in case you're interested in any of my non-Greenpeace related updates about my travels in Brazil, you can find them on my personal blog here.

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