Other mobilities are (im)possible

-By Monika Buscher, Lancaster University, UK

Other mobilities are possible. But will a systemic shock engender systemic change? Coronavirus has shut down air travel and the global economy, and incited a mass-move online to work, meet, and socialise. When the catastrophe is over, will some of the lessons, values, and new practices stick? Early signs are not promising. As the news is dominated by Covid-19, climate, pollution, and environmental crises seem forgotten. Indeed, mobility systems ‘naturally’ seem deserving of billion dollar rescue packages, even though they are causally implicated in the death of 7 million people from air pollution per year worldwide (WHO), 40,000 a year in the UK, and climate change that will impoverish, displace, and kill more than 240 million people by 2050, whilst incurring $520 billion losses (Worldbank). Might the viral mobilities of Covid-19 eclipse these crises? In our current media discourse they already do. The invisible, hypermobile virus is feared in ways that mobilises instant, worldwide societal and economic transformation where looming systemic collapse of vital planetary systems paralyses. The mobilities paradigm shows that it is the complex, multi-causal system-ness of the climate, pollution, and environmental crises that has stopped a mobilities transformation so far. That hasn’t changed. To change mobilities systems, more than disruption is needed. Learning new ways of living, working, and socialising locally and online is possible, but not enough. We also need more (mobilities research on) understanding system-ness and precarity, causality and responsibility, courage and creativity mobile publics, collective and individual capacities for translating understanding to transformation.

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