Julia Galbeau | Hillside Bike Infrastructure

Julia Galbeau | Hillside Bike Infrastructure

Over the past 70 years, nine out of 10 infrastructure projects around the world have had cost overruns and benefit shortfalls. Trillions of dollars worth of megaprojects in the energy, transportation, agriculture and water sectors have destroyed wildlife habitat and fisheries, degraded ecosystems and destabilized the Earth’s climate. They have also led to human-rights abuses and are plagued with corruption and financial accountability problems.

Nonetheless, at the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane, leaders agreed on even more megaprojects, pledging to boost infrastructure spending by as much as $70-trillion (US) more by 2030.

In the run-up to this November’s G20 meeting in Turkey, and December’s Climate Summit in Paris, 88 leading international scientists, environmentalists and thought-leaders have written an open letter to the president of the G20. The letter was organized by Foundation Earth, a think tank established by Randy Hayes of the Rainforest Action Network, and counts among its signatories Herman Daly, Paul Ehrlich, Lester R. Brown, The Club of Rome, William Rees, Wade Davis, David Suzuki and Deepak Chopra.

The letter states that, “Corporate-led economic globalization hasn’t delivered nearly enough for at least two of the more than seven billion people on Earth. … Developing more infrastructure in support of this failed economic model is doubling down on a dangerous vision.”

The letter also ties the framework to catastrophic climate change scenarios, warning that if the G20 commits to the “wrong path” in November, it could nullify any climate agreements potentially made at COP21 in Paris. “We must not lock in problematic technologies for generations to come.”

Noting that new scientific findings point to the type of infrastructure required for an ecologically sustainable economic model, the authors offer a set of criteria for evaluating infrastructure projects – including full-cost accounting. 

The signatories recommend prioritizing decentralized wind and rooftop solar energy; mass transportation alongside walkability and bikeability; and agriculture that doesn’t rely on massive amounts of synthetic fertilizer. 

The letter concludes that we’re “at a critical moment,” faced with a choice between “two strategies to steer future infrastructure.” We could choose “smaller-scale … more flexible systems” that wouldn’t damage the Earth’s “life-support ecosystems,” but the G20’s proposed path would promote “unsustainable projects” and “further exceed the earth’s carrying capacity.” 

Download the full letter here

Janet Kimantas is associate editor at A\J with degrees in studio art and environmental studies. She is currently pursuing an MES at UWaterloo. She splits her spare time between walking in the forest and painting Renaissance-inspired portraits of birds.

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