cj#1116> Curitiba: A City Managed by Common Sense


Richard Moore

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Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 20:34:33 -0700
To: •••@••.••• (undisclosed list)
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Curitiba: A City Managed by Common Sense

Dear friends,

It always gives me hope when I'm reminded of the remarkable
city of Curitiba, Brazil, which I've known about for about 8
years. If you are interested in more detailed information,
there's an extensive description in Bill McKibben's HOPE,
HUMAN AND WILD (Little, Brown & Co., 1995). Curitiba so
inspired me that I included it in my "imagineering" story
about the first major (future) experiment in co-intelligent
politics in http://www.co-intelligence.org/S-PatandPat.html
.  All of us could forward the Curitiba story below to
officials in our city governments, just to suggest what's



_ _ _ _

A City Managed By Common Sense

Residents of Curitiba, Brazil, think they live in the best
city in the world, and a lot of outsiders agree. Curibita
has 17 new parks, 90 miles of bike paths, trees everywhere,
and traffic and garbage systems that officials from other
cities come to study. Curibita's mayor for twelve years,
Jaime Lerner, has a 92 per cent approval rating.

There is nothing special about Curitiba's history, location
or population. Like all Latin American cities, the city has
grown enormously - from 150,000 people in the 1950s to 1.6
million now. It has its share of squatter settlements, where
fewer than half the people are literate. Curibita's secret,
insofar that it has one, seems to be simple willingness from
the people at the top to get their kicks from solving
problems. Those people at the top started in the 1960s with
a group of young architects who were not impressed by the
urban fashion of borrowing money for big highways, massive
buildings, shopping malls and other showy projects. They
were thinking about the environment and about human needs.
They approached Curibita's mayor, pointed to the rapid
growth of the city and made a case for better planning.

The mayor sponsored a contest for a Curibita master plan. He
circulated the best entries, debated them with the citizens,
and then turned the people's comments over to the upstart
architects, asking them to develop and implement a final
plan. Jaime Lerner was one of these architects. In 1971 he
was appointed mayor by the then military government of

Given Brazil's economic situation, Lerner had to think
small, cheap and participatory - which was how he was
thinking anyway. He provided 1.5 million tree seedlings to
neighborhoods for them to plant and care for. ('There is
little in the architecture of a city that is more
beautifully designed than a tree,' says Lerner.) He solved
the city's flood problems by diverting water from lowlands
into lakes in the new parks. He hired teenagers to keep the
parks clean.

He met resistance from shopkeepers when he proposed turning
the downtown shopping district into a pedestrian zone, so he
suggested a thirty-day trial. The zone was so popular that
shopkeepers on the other streets asked to be included. Now
one pedestrian street, the Rua das Flores, is lined with
gardens tended by street children.

Orphaned or abandoned street children are a problem all over
Brazil. Lerner got each industry, shop and institution to
'adopt' a few children, providing them with a daily meal and
a small wage in exchange for simple maintenance gardening or
office chores. Another Lerner innovation was to organize the
street vendors into a mobile, open-air fair that circulates
through the city's neighborhoods.

Concentric circles of local bus lines connect to five lines
that radiate from the center of the city in a spider web
pattern. On the radial lines, triple-compartment buses in
their own traffic lanes carry three hundred passengers each.
They go as fast as subway cars, but at one-eightieth the
construction cost.

The buses stop at Plexiglas tube stations designed by
Lerner. Passengers pay their fares, enter through one end of
the tube, and exit from the other end. This system
eliminates paying on board, and allows faster loading and
unloading, less idling and air pollution, and a sheltered
place for waiting - though the system is so efficient that
there isn't much waiting. There isn't much littering either.
There isn't time.

Curitiba's citizens separate their trash into just two
categories, organic and inorganic, for pick-up by two kinds
of trucks. Poor families in squatter settlements that are
unreachable by trucks bring their trash bags to neighborhood
centers, where they can exchange them for bus tickets or for
eggs, milk, oranges and potatoes, all bought from outlying

The trash goes to a plant (itself built of recycled
materials) that employs people to separate bottles from cans
from plastic. The workers are handicapped people, recent
immigrants, and alcoholics.

Recovered materials are sold to local industries. Styrofoam
is shredded to stuff quilt for the poor. The recycling
program costs no more than the old landfill, but the city is
cleaner, there are more jobs, farmers are supported and the
poor get food and transportation. Curitiba recycles
two-thirds of it garbage - one of the highest rates of any
city, north or south.

Curitiba builders get a tax break if their projects include
green areas. Jaime Lerner says, 'There is no endeavor more
noble than the attempt to achieve a collective dream. When a
city accepts as a mandate its quality of life; when it
respects the people who live in it; when it respects the
environment; when it prepares for future generations, the
people share the responsibility for that mandate, and this
shared cause is the only way to achieve that collective

(Source: The Global Ideas Bank
http://www.globalideasbank.org )

quoted in Global Village News and Resources.  A free
subscription is available from •••@••.•••.  For more
information, see introduction to GVNR #4, at the end of this

_ _ _ _

PS:  Curitiba update from Tom:

Although the undated article above is a bit out of date
(e.g., former Mayor Jaime Lerner is now governor of the
state of Parana, of which Curitiba is the capital) the city
is still remarkable.  Tonight on the web I found the
following more recent data:

Acclaimed nationally and internationally for its innovative
urban solutions, the city relies on the country's most
efficient public transportation system and boasts 52 square
meters of green area per inhabitant, causing it to be called
"Brazil's Ecological Capital."  The current administration,
led by Mayor Cássio Taniguchi, is bringing successful
experiences to the other 26 municipalities that comprise the
city's metropolitan area. 

Curitiba is among the fastest growing cities in Brazil.  Its
water resources are being compromised by precarious sewage
infrastructure, irregular developments along the riverbanks
and garbage entering the water system.  Since 1996, the city
encouraged local residents to take responsibility for their
water resources by involving the community in monitoring
water quality and mobilizing the community in environmental
management.  140 key people in schools, environmental
organizations, universities, neighbourhood associations, Boy
Scout groups, etc., have been trained and supported to
mobilize their membership.  More than 5000 people have now
been involved in monitoring the environmental conditions of
the city's rivers, using sight, smell and simple field
analysis kits, and sending results to the city's department
of the environment.  Another 135,000 people have
participated in related environmental education and cleanup
activities. http://www.iclei.org/mia98-99/curitiba.htm

A virtual field trip of Curitiba, created in 1999, can be
found on http://www.busways.com/pages/vtrip.html.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tom Atlee  *  The Co-Intelligence Institute  *  Eugene, OR

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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