The California governor had spent five days in the city promoting measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lobbying world leaders as they met to negotiate a global climate pact.On Thursday, with those negotiations entering their final stretch, Brown sat with a sweater on his shoulders, Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich’s concept of counter-productivity on his mind.“He said if you count the cost of the hours that you have to work to pay for your car and the insurance and the gasoline, and then add that, kind of translate that into time,” Brown said, “you could go faster on a bicycle.”But looking out the window at the traffic rushing by, Brown said he didn’t “know what to do with all of that, because everybody is working all the time for their car.”“That’s why this is so challenging,” he said. “What we’re doing relative to what needs to be done leaves open a lot of things to be figured out.”
One place Brown can begin is asking why there’s so much dependence on automobiles. It’s hard to get people out of their cars when they need them to earn a living. Bill Davidow, author of the book Overconnected, writes on how the rise of the automobile and modern highways following World War II made it possible for people to work in a community far distant from the one in which they live. Now decades later, we are virtually “locked in” to commuting to work by car, Davidow asserts in his book.
But the last two decades have seen the rise of a new information and communications technology infrastructure that obviates the need to drive to a centralized, commute-in office every work day. People can use that infrastructure to bring their work to them rather than the traveling to a distant workplace, working at home or in distributed co-working shared office facilities in their communities. The latter option is also far more accessible by the bicycle commute Brown envisions.