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Nature_and_Environment.12

Urban Sprawl: Issues and Alternatives

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{Nature_and_Environment.12.62}: ... {wren1111} Mon, 20 Feb 2006 18:25:26 CST (37 lines)
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<b>Curitiba and Hope</b>
" http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2005/11/curitiba.html"

<i>The Brazilian city of Curitiba is a global model for development
that both respects the earth and delights its inhabitants.

The first time I went there, I had never heard of Curitiba. I had no
idea that its bus system was the best on Earth or that a municipal
shepherd and his flock of 30 sheep trimmed the grass in its vast
parks. It was just a midsize Brazilian city where an airline schedule
forced me to spend the night midway through a long South American
reporting trip. I reached my hotel, took a nap, and then went out in
the early evening for a walk--warily, because I had just come from
crime-soaked Rio.

But the street in front of the hotel was cobbled, closed to cars, and
strung with lights. It opened onto another such street, which in turn
opened into a broad and leafy plaza, with more shop-lined streets
stretching off in all directions. Though the night was frosty-Brazil
stretches well south of the tropics, and Curitiba is in the mountains-
people strolled and shopped, butcher to baker to bookstore. There
were almost no cars, but at one of the squares, a steady line of
buses rolled off, full, every few seconds. I walked for an hour, and
then another. I felt my shoulders, hunched from the tension of Rio
(and probably New York as well) straightening. Though I flew out the
next day as scheduled, I never forgot the city.

From time to time over the next few years, I would see Curitiba
mentioned in planning magazines or come across a short newspaper
account of it winning various awards from the United Nations. Its
success seemed demographically unlikely. For one thing, it's
relatively poor - average per capita (cash) income is about $2,500.
Worse, a flood of displaced peasants has tripled its population to a
million and a half in the last 25 years. It should resemble a small-
scale version of urban nightmares like São Paulo or Mexico City. But
I knew from my evening's stroll it wasn't like that, and I wondered
why.</i>

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