I heard a talk on a local National Public Radio affiliate this week dealing with the politics of fear. The guests on the radio show drew a distinction between being motivated by hope and motivated by fear, an idea I thought I’d explore here further. Living Labs Global Award city partners have made numerous requests for forward-thinking proposals. From México City’s digital public transport project, to Cape Town’s open government idea, to Santiago de Chile’s on-street parking improvements, these requests are fundamentally motivated by hope and a vision that the future can be improved.
The radio show also called to mind a series of blog posts published on the Copenhagenize site about “Fear of Cycling,” in which sociologist Dave Horton argues many of would-be cyclists fears, while real, are due to western culture’s tendency to inflate risks. Policymakers, planners, and even advocates, while well-intentioned, have been motivated by fear in their plans, programs, and policies. And the result has been less bicycling and more driving.
Taking a broader view, in today’s political climate, with the world’s economic woes at center stage, it is easy to be risk averse and to make decisions motivated by fear. However, these times are also an opportunity to take new risks, to fundamentally alter the way things are done, to inspire hope and innovative thinking. Tragedy presents opportunity. A forest decimated by fire welcomes new life. It’s been a useful exercise for me to note the distinction between fear and hope in my motivations; I think it’s time our institutions check theirs and remember that hope is the only outlook that beckons innovation.
- Terra Curtis