brazil: how to live well in the city (in times of climate chaos and peak oil)
Friends of the Earth Brazil / Núcleo Amigos da Terra ran a project to build, support and publicize community-level initiatives to address these issues in the city of Porto Alegre.
FoE Brazil brought together a network of around 50 people who are working to make Porto Alegre a ‘transition town’, showing the way forward for urban communities committed to tackling climate change. The group includes people from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, including experts in permaculture and agroecology, rural workers from the landless workers’ movement, social economists, activists and many others.
During 2008, this group supported diverse initiatives, and hosted or participated in a number of events to study and promote sustainable farming and buildings for urban areas. Among the events they organized were practical workshops to transform a domestic garden into a productive space, and workshops on agroecology. Group members also gave lectures, taught in schools, and took part in conferences, public hearings, and regional and national events organized by social movements in Brazil.
The group also set up a website, to share information and ideas with a wider public. The website covers local policies and programs relating to climate change; examples of strategies which have been implemented, locally, nationally or internationally, to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions; and stories of individual or community actions taken to build resilience in the cities.
FoE Brazil also supported community projects linked to the National Movement of Struggle for Household and Shelter (MNLM) including:
- Horta Jardim Gordo, a collective urban garden managed by a local community association, which has been going for some time but needed reinvigorating. FoE Brazil gave technical assistance relating to growing food, building a playhouse for children, and starting a rainwater-harvesting project. The garden is now producing food for 27 families, and provides activities and work for young people who are vulnerable to violence and drug dealing.
- At a ‘house of passage’ at Av Padre Cacique, community leaders support families who are resettling unused buildings, helping the families to generate income. FoE Brazil supported a three-day training programme, teaching people how to build rainwater-harvesting systems, grow medicinal herbs and make compost, as well as focusing on art and communication skills.
Through this project, FoE Brazil has catalyzed and informed the local debate on climate change, with a positive and practical focus on localizing economies, community food production, and the development of lifestyles that are less dependent on oil. They have raised awareness of the false solutions to climate change that are promoted globally, and alternatives for urban and rural areas.
The project has had positive impacts on many levels. There were direct practical benefits to the communities and individuals assisted. The communities also gained visibility and access to processes and resources they were previously unaware of. Their political influence has grown and they are able to provide lessons to the city and more widely.
Environmentalists and social activists have also learned from each other and formed new alliances.
According to Lucia Ortiz from FoE Brazil “the most valuable result was the opportunity to develop FoE Brazil and give visibility to urban communities’ real experiences, learning and building confidence to work together in practical and political transformations in the city.”
FoE Brazil’s experience has shown that there is great potential for urban communities to build creative solutions to climate change and the energy crisis. Localized economies and social technologies can contribute to a better life for all, as well as tackling global problems.
Financial resources are key to building both practical actions and public outreach. FoE Brazil found it was essential to have at least one person working on each project.
The organizations behind ‘How to live well in the city’ are planning diverse projects for 2009.
FoE Brazil also plans to resist proposed changes in Porto Alegre’s urban plan, working with new allies from the social movements.
In 2009, FoE Brazil will also be promoting a Gaia Education course in Porto Alegre, in cooperation with the Federal University and the Centre of Buddhism and Ecology, as well as a short course on Transition Towns.
More information can be found at: www.natbrasil.org.br/noticias/noticias_2008/viverbem.html
with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)