in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
year, the city of Curitiba (Brazil) initiated two related projects of
environmental education: the recycling campaign called “Green Exchange” and
the citizenship education courses offered by the Open University of the
Environment. Since then, Curitiba has earned a reputation as the ecological
capital of Brazil. Indeed, the city is recognized internationally for its
sustainable urban planning, its social and environmental programs, and its
efforts to promote citizen participation in environmental initiatives.
the last decade of the 20th century, successive local governments have involved
Curitiba residents in several noteworthy educational experiences such as the
water quality monitoring program and the planting flowers and vegetables
Program: Environmental Education for Social Change
the late 1980s, the population of Curitiba was growing at a significant pace,
receiving newcomers from rural areas that settled in the outskirts of the city,
in places usually lacking appropriate infrastructures and basic services. In
many of these neighbourhoods, the inadequate disposition of garbage in the slums
of the city due to the lack of a collecting garbage service was generating
serious environmental and health problems among the population. Garbage trucks
had no access to these areas because the streets were narrow and unpaved.
order to tackle this problem, the city initiated in 1989 two programs:
“Garbage that is not Garbage” and “Purchase of Garbage”. As part of
these initiatives, the local government signed an agreement with the
communities, in which citizens formed associations and cooperatives and sold
their separated waste to the city.
1991, the city expanded these small initiatives and launched an ambitious
program called “Cambio Verde” (Green Exchange). This program consisted in
establishing community centers located in the poorest areas, where the garbage
trucks picked up recycled materials. In these community centers, the citizens
could exchange recyclable trash for sacks of food, toys, transportation tickets,
and educational material. Seeking to support the local economy as well, the city
bought from farmers of the region the food needed to exchange for the recyclable
materials. These materials were then transported to plants operated by members
of the community with fewer job opportunities, including people with
disabilities and homeless.
organizers of the Green Exchange program designed several educational strategies
with the objective to raise awareness about the importance of recycling.
Prominent among them was the implementation of media campaigns that included
advertising in television and newspapers, and educational programs in schools.
The city also created the “family leaf”, a theatrical group that conducted
presentations in parks and community neighbourhoods stressing the importance of
to the success of all this programs was the conviction of successive municipal
government that without the participation of citizens the program would not
succeed. In the words of three times re-elected Mayor Jaime Lerner,
“local-level action can protect the environment and can also be directed
towards other key issues such as education, whose main priority is to alleviate
the impact of poverty” (Lerner, 1996, 1).
success of these programs is measured today by the fact that Curitiba today
separates 13 % of its garbage. The city is ranked first among the 4 Brazilian
cities that separate recyclable biodegradable waste (cans, glass, metal,
plastic, paper), followed by Porto Alegre (5 %), Florianópolis (4 %) and São
Paulo, the largest Brazilian city which only separates 1% of what it collects (http://www.curitiba.pr.gov.br).
To put these figures in international perspective, in Curitiba, about 70% of the
population recycle while in New Your city it is estimated that only 10 to 15% of
households do it (McCullough; 1994; 226) .
farmers, citizens and workers learned about environmental sustainability
practices and received support to alleviate their socio-economic conditions.
Indeed, besides raising awareness about the contribution of recycling in the
prevention of environmental degradation, the recycling program of Curitiba also
sought to help the poorest populations of the city to improve their quality of
life. The success of the program is not only an example of social and
environmental sustainability, but also a lesson in solidarity to citizens and
environmental adult educators from countries around the world.
University of the Environment
Also in 1991, the city of Curitiba perceived the need to educate and involve adults on environmental issues and decided to establish the Universidade Livre do Meio Ambiente (UNILIVRE), giving birth to an innovative program of free environmental education. This university “was born out of the belief that the quality of life in the 21st century will be directly proportional to people’s understanding of their relationship to the environment” (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2002:19).
some of the courses offered in UNILIVRE are available at no cost for all the
citizens interested in learning
more about the city’s evolution and its urban processes. As an example, the
University offers a course entitled “Environment and City”, with the
objective that participants learn more about the environmental programs
implemented in Curitiba during the last 20 years. This course also seeks that
participants develop a sense of belonging and identity with their city.
According to Cleon Santos, the University’s principal, UINILIVRE tailors the citizenship courses to the needs of participants. For example, when the participants are teachers, the course would focus on historical aspects of the city, fundamentals of ecology and teaching. When there is a group of taxi drivers, educators focus on issues such as the reasons for implementing the public transportation in Curitiba. “They are upset by the good buses because they lose customers, so we have a section about the historical sites where they could take tourists” (McKibben, 1995: 97).
to data provided by architect Clovis Ultramari, project coordinator of UINILIVRE,
in its first decade of existence approximately 80,000 citizens have participated
in different activities organized by the University.
order to have a first hand experience of the lessons learned by the citizens of
Curitiba, I conducted several interviews with people who live or who had lived
in that city. Fabiano Gondim, a former resident of Curitiba living now in
Toronto addressed the recycling program in the following way:
Curitiba faced several problems fifteen years ago. There was environmental degradation and widespread poverty. The solution adopted by Curitiba was to involve citizens in a recycling program, which generated job opportunities, diminished the production of garbage, and provided food for the poorest sectors of the population. Therefore, a problem can become an opportunity to improve. Governments and citizens can work together in solving problems using very creative and relatively inexpensive approaches, and that is what made the difference for Curitiba.
Lucien Creative (1999). Curitiba 205 (227), 92(4) .
McCullough, David (1994). One Man, One City, Problems and Solutions: Jaime Lerner and The Curitiba Program for the Environment (pp 214-231). In Corporate Author, Environmental Issues in Brazilian Society. Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program. June 26-July 31, 1994, Brazil Available at ERIC.
Almeida Santos Antonio Cesar (1997). “Memorias E Cidade Depoimentos e
Transformacao Urbana de Curitiba” (1930- 1990), Published by Quatro Ventos,
McKibben, Bill (199. Hope Human and Wild. Minnesota: Little, Brown and Company.
Cassio (1995). Creating and Environmentally Sustainable City: The Curitiba
Initiative, Vol 16 No.1, Spring.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2001). Showing the Way: Curitiba: Citizen City, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Wellington, http://126.96.36.199/reports/allreports/1_877274_06_2.shtml Available at ERIC.
da Cidade (2002). The Curitiba Declaration. prepared for The Latin American and
Caribbean Regional Forum on Sustainable Urbanization in Preparation for the
World Summit for Sustainable Development. www.ippuc.org.br/the_curitiba_declaration.doc.
Barboza, Citizen of Curitiba
Gondim, Former Citizen of Curitiba
Allegretti, Citizen of Curitiba
Ultramari, Project Coordinator in UNILIVRE, Curitiba
Universidade Livre do Meio Ambiente (UNILIVRE) www.unilivre.org.br
de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano de Curitiba http://www.ippuc.org.br
Emissions Research and Initiatives www.zeri.org
Global Ideas Bank www.globalideasbank.org
Communities Network www.sustainable.org
by Martha Barriga (OISE/University of Toronto), 2002
Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).
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