skip to Main Content

On “co-benefits” and gazing

So I’m sitting here thinking: how do I make an interesting “hook” out of the word: “co-benefits”? Working in transport planning and road engineering I have this problem a lot. It’s a conversation killer at dinner parties. But when I dig deeper with the munchers at my side and the connections between roads and time and buses and people and walking and connecting become clearer then they get excited. And so do I.

So, “co-benefits”. I’ve learnt recently, that the people working in climate change mitigation use this word a lot. It captures the idea that the gloomy prospect of climate change isn’t making enough difference to how decision makers think. And so the mitigation people are looking for these “co-benefits” – for ways of linking things that work for climate change with things that work for other reasons. Solar water heaters are a (sort of) good example. They save energy AND they save money. Co-benefits!

Trouble is, to buy a solar water geyser you need money up front. Many people are happy to pay for stuff they really crave like clothes and TVs and cars using debt but they don’t want to pay for a solar water geyser using debt. It’s a grudge purchase. So I was musing all of this as I was bumping along on the Jammie Shuttle bus up to campus. One part of my brain was wondering how anyone could persuade people with a choice to choose a bus over a car when the ride is so darned uncomfortable and the other part of my brain was thinking about co-benefits.

Then I spotted the most beautiful thing in my side vision: a young boy bowling a cricket ball. I’m not a cricket fan…but his energy and fluidity and joy just caught me and I turned and stared. Then I picked up my phone and starting writing this and thought to myself. “Yes, there it is, a subtle, profound co-benefit of riding the bus today rather than the car”. The simple enjoyment of a boy playing cricket and my having the time to turn and gaze. Co-benefit. Made my day.

Back To Top