The government has announced that it will undertake a law change to fast-track eligible development. The details are still relatively light but the following types of projects have been singled out for priority at this early stage (my satirical comments added):

  • Roading (to help us re-pollute the air);
  • Walking and cycling (which has been revealed as woefully inadequate);
  • Rail (to allow for physical distancing on public transport);
  • Housing (to re-home all our returned migrants);
  • Sediment removal from silted rivers and estuaries (to pretend all this new development is OK);
  • New wetland construction (to make better use of land no longer needed for farming);
  • Flood management works; (to protect all the new development we have built); and
  • Projects to prevent landfill erosion (so we can keep over-consuming nature).

Now is the time for change, not more of the same. The environmental benefits of the global lockdown cannot be underestimated. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Cov-SARS-2 is the result of the ways things were. Frailties and inequalities have been exposed. COVID-19, like Climate Change, is a threat multiplier. Doing things differently, like creating more green space can address both these issues simultaneously. That is the type of investment we should be making. We need to create a better future, not the same one that got us here. I challenge all land development professionals to look beyond ‘infrastructure’ and create a new and improved vision for the places that we are making together.

I will shoot myself if I hear shovel-ready one more time.

Ani Dasgupta, Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

If you need inspiration, I would suggest looking at the work by UN-HABITAT in response to COVID-19, including:

  • Community driven solutions: Collaboration, raising awareness, participation, community ownership, re-purposing buildings, urban mobility.
  • Evidence-based mapping and knowledge: Re-organizing places, data collection, smart technologies, learning.
  • Mitigating economic impact and recovery: Policies, fiscal capacity, City Prosperity Initiative, new ways of working and living.

I’ll leave you with this parting thought: It took the World Health Organisation ten years to eradicate Smallpox. Two years of throwing money at transport, buildings and earthworks isn’t going to fix this problem; so let’s finally get to work on building a better world instead.