Monday, Nov 05, 2012 @ 4:55 pm
Hurricane Sandy has brought to light the importance of sustainable initiatives in creating a resilient New York City. On October 24th, prior to the storm, the Pratt PSPD, Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development, together with student organization LEAP, Leaders in Environmental Advocacy at Pratt, in an effort to continually present innovative ways to view and address the environmental issues of New York City, organized a timely presentation which provided lessons to be learned from a separate community – a community that is thousands of miles away.
Guest lecturer, Theresa Williamson, executive director of Catalytic Communities, spoke on the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro and their relevance to sustainable living. Catalytic Communities, an organization developed by Theresa herself, works to de-stigmatize the favelas of Brazil; societies commonly characterized as “slums”. Catalytic Communities documentary film “Favela as a Sustainable Model" describes why the negative connotations that so often surround the term “favela”, should not exist.
A large portion, 22 percent, of Rio de Janeiro’s population lives in the favelas which dot the hillsides of the city. These settlements developed centuries ago out of a need for housing, and due to a lack of government aid, issues of waste and sewage management, water supply and contamination, and a general lack of space are still present in varying degrees. However, the vibrant communities that subsist despite these challenges are an inspiration, both in terms of lifestyle and mindset. Several progressive advances are taking place to “green” the communities including environmental education programs, recycling and adaptive reuse of materials, local commerce, promotion of healthful diets and use of fresh, local foods, and bicycle and pedestrian transportation. There is a general sense of “collective action”, an awareness of community through whichever tasks are undertaken whether it be construction, infrastructure development, health services, or otherwise. A quote from a favela resident filmed in the documentary, “Our community is protected by the community itself”.
The favelas encompass elements which can only enhance a community’s spirit and connection to the environment; especially important in times of crisis. In preparation for the effects of climate change, along with the proposed infrastructure, perhaps New York City can also look to the favelas for further sustainable solutions.
To learn more about favelas, their relation to sustainability, and how you can get involved with Catalytic Communities, please visit their web page at http://www.catcomm.org/en/.
Posted in • Environmental Systems Management