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A Piece About Love

One night, about 3 or 4 days before Transport Hero Camp at the CUTA Youth Summit, I woke up at 5am and wrote something that had been bopping in my head for 2 months: how I wanted to address the delegates at the beginning of the event. Those who attended know that my delivery fell drastically short of what I’d wanted (yes, Toastmasters remains a to-do). Richard’s encouraged me to post the written version, which he says works very well. I’m posting it now because I’m needing reminders of what I’m doing and why. (Feel free to skip the first four paragraphs, Richard also says.)

Wow, I am excited and honoured to be up here, to help get us started in what is going to be an amazing session. I have been so amazed by this summit so far, it has been amazing. I would first like to take a moment to thank the Youth Summit Task Force and everyone I have worked with that has helped make today’s session possible, my co-facilitator Paul, and a special welcome to everyone who has come from outside the Youth Summit – we are so glad you will joined the circle that’s been forming here at the Summit since this past Thursday and we hope you get some inspiration in it for yourself.

My journey to this Summit and how I’ve come to stand before you today is an interesting one, as interesting as I’m sure all your journeys have been. My journey is interesting to me because I feel it is indicative of a shift in the way things are happening and will be continuing to happen in the future, and it is a development that I think holds a lot of promise. But it’s also the sort of thing that won’t just happen on its own – it happens because we as individuals align ourselves, in the deepest and most elemental of ways, to bring our energy into seeing it realized.

I can’t explain this without an example, so I’ll quickly give you a rundown of my background. If someone told me three years ago I would be standing here talking to you, I would been completely baffled. I was a student of Communication at Simon Fraser University here then, studying the Internet and looking at theories of technology – though to be fair, I was a student here which means I was using the universal bus pass. And even now, it’s still a big of a head fake – I’m now a research assistant, working in Communication. And let me apologize now if it seems like I’m talking about computers all the time.

So why am I wearing this cape standing in front of you?

As cheesy and Moulin Rouge as it sounds, I’m here for love. There’s a great book, it talks about the Internet and the way it is altering the practices of society, called Here Comes Everybody. You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m going to spoil it for you: the author, Clay Shirky, talks about how the Internet enables people to not only pursue, but scale projects based solely on love, uniting and organizing people, and inspiring people to organize themselves. If you ask yourself why something like Wikipedia exists, you’ll find that it’s the same thing – people are in it for love. There are things in it for themselves, yes, but it doesn’t impede or block this.

People don’t typically think of transit as having much to do with love. People think it’s about headways, or funding, or the economics of people making decisions in their lives based on need, the market of options and the information at hand. And that’s not completely wrong – love won’t upgrade your train signalling system or solve your issue with security on the system.

But if you start to ask yourself – what will people do with their love for transit? – you start coming to some interesting places. You get people who are willing to do an enormous amounts of research and learning. You get people who are willing to reach out to bus drivers, lost tourists, frustrated riders, help ‘em out with a smile or a text message for when the next bus is coming. You get people who make amazing, inspired things that in turn inspire other people, all for free and without any expectations. You get people who build trip planners for an entire integrated transit system for fun, like they did in Toronto. That’s a lot of effort. That’s a lot of time sifting through time tables, and wondering about streetcars. Who does that for any kind of a rational, logical reason? And yet, people do – and lots of people have, in many different places. That’s probably why we even have Google Transit – because someone at Google decided they loved this enough to start building it in their free time.

But why love, and why now? The topic of this Summit is sustainable urban transportation. The question of what is sustainable, what will be sustainable, will have answers coming from all directions, whether that’s the market economy, the government, science, or just the simple limits of the environment. But in my opinion, the loudest answer is going to come not from experts, but from a wide spectrum of people seeing things in different ways, coming together to build new connections between things. Like looking at the connection between transportation and information. Or transportation and anthropology, who we are in our everyday lives. Or transportation and sociology, how it plays into who we can’t help being. It is exploring these areas that I think the sustainable solutions will come out, because the sustainable solutions are the ones you are going to be able to convince everyone to do. And if I had to place my bets on what will convince someone – statistics, graphs and charts, or love – I’ll put my bet on love. That we will do it not because we logically understand what our carbon footprint is going to be when we adopt this measure – but because we understand that we need to live our lives manifesting our loves for each other, our love for our future and our desire to see this love persist past the problems our world is facing.

There’s a computer term that plays into the title of a book by Tim Sanders that really sums up what I would like you to take away, and how I would like you to approach the rest of this session. It’s called “Love is the Killer App.” Love is the game-changer. Love is why I’m in this room – and I’m willing to bet it’s why you’re here too. Because you’re passionate, because you want to see things get better for more people, to enable them to do what they want to do. Building something with love as the logic means changing a lot of the way we do things, because the previous logic was scarcity. And the reason this is called Transport Hero Camp, is because I think only heroes can build systems out of love.

So my final point: when we build a system with love in mind – love of each other, our selves, our surroundings, love our future and our past, and respect for our natural limits – then we’ll be much closer to a sustainable system. So, today, right now – let’s start building it.


  1. What a wonderful speech! You really do have an exceptional way of looking at the world.

    Posted November 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  2. Daniel,

    Thank you for your kind words. While giving the speech, I remember looking over at Todd Litman and freaking out in my head a little. I think the Civil Engineers and Transportation Demand Management gurus know enough to grok what I mean without laughing too hard, but perhaps their disciples don’t. (Or maybe Todd was really laughing.)

    Oh well. Glad you like! :)

    Posted November 25, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

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