Before arriving here, however, we spent a couple days in Parana state, just north of Santa Catarina, visiting its capital, Curitiba, known as one of the most green cities in the world in the world due to the vision of its former mayor and also the governor of the state, Jaime Lerner. After visiting the beautiful Botanical Gardens that he built and observing improvements made in public transport and trash collection, we had the special priviledge of spending a hour with Jaime Lerner, an old friend and contact from my days as US Consul in Rio de Janeiro and with whom I have some family ties.
Here are some highlights of our discussion of an hour with Jaime Lerner:
- Leaders of cities get bogged down in trying to decide exactly how to do things. It is much better to engage in the subject and work your way though the problem.
- He often asks city mayors around the world "What is your dream?" That is different from asking "what is your problem." Leaders need a vision of what kind of city they hope to create for their citizens. You can then work on the problems too.
- For success you need a) political will; b) solidarity of the population; c) a strategy; and d) a proper "equation of co-responsibility" among the different sectors of the city. Many politicians lack a strategic vision.
- If you want to deal with global warming, you need to recognize that 75% of carbon emissions come from cities. You have to lick the problem in the cities.
- He believes on the environment that you have to "teach children to teach their parents." In Curitiba it was only by mobilizing students to separate trash that the adults became conscious of the importance of this. In Curitiba the rate of separation is 70%.
- Important rules for making cities green is to get people to drive less, live as close to their work as possible
- Rising crime in cities comes from a lack of a stable economic relationship between the classes. People moved to to cities in Brazil to help build the cities and when building slowed down they no longer had jobs. It is important for different classes to be integrated and to support one another. They should live in the same neighborhoods.
- When he first started working with his group, they found that it was best to find simple solutions for problems and spread out. Today, his group works more a process like "urban acupuncture," visiting a city for a couple of weeks, offering some suggestions and then withdrawing, leaving it up to the locals to follow up on suggestions.