The Transformation of Amparo

This article was first published in The City Fix Brasil in Portuguese. If you would like to read the Portuguese version please click here.

I wrote a previous article Authentic and Counterfeit Wholes in São Paulo. This article looked at the development of São Paulo as a whole, and how as a city it does not function authentically or harmoniously. Brazil is now very much in the news as an emerging economy, and many articles in the foreign press are questioning Brazil’s ability to be ready for both the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. I myself do not want to make predictions about these events, but given the systemic corruption and many other problems here, these questions are not entirely unfounded.

However, I wanted to write about Amparo as it is important for Brazil to showcase many of the amazing small and often unsung projects here. Outside of the large cities there are many amazing things happening by many people who really do care about Brazil, the land and the people. Amparo is one such case, where the local council (government) seem to have an enlightened approach to developing Amparo holistically, such that it does seem to be coming together as an authentic whole, the infrastructure, culture and community. As I said, people in Brazil who want to do good work have innumerable challenges, which is why it is so important to recognise good work when we see it. I hope the people of Amparo enjoy this little article.

The Transformation of Amparo

 A Small Brazilian city with big dreams


Last weekend my wife and I passed through the small city of Amparo on our way to the eco resort Canto da Floresta for a couple of days of rest and relaxation. Our route took us through the centre of the town and I was delighted to see a wonderful example of integrated transport and pedestrian design.

A beutiful river runs through the city, and along the banks are open community parks. These run along some of the main roads, which have three elements, the road lane, a well contructed footpath for walker and joggers, and in the middle a separate red cycle lane, with a small raised barrier to prevent cars and lorries from parking on it.

The cycles lanes run through the centre of the city as well, including many old parts which are being restored

As a British person, one aspect of life in São Paulo that I struggle with is the visual pollution of all the electricity cables in the streets. In the UK all electricity cables are laid underground, but in São Paulo I find it almost oppressive. However, Amparo have begun to move their own cables underground as you can see in this picture, and as a result, when cycling along the cycle lane it becomes a much more pleasant experience.

The city is also ensuring that people with physical disabilities are also looked after.

Work to tranform Amparo began ten years ago, and it is wonderful to see the results of this work which is still on-going. The government of the city have also developed other cycle facilities such as a bike park for children and teenagers.

I was also interested to read about how the government there are supporting micro and small businesses, thus developing the local economy. This is a great vision, since São Paulo is now at breaking point with the focus on incentivising consumers to buy cheap cars. The vision of Amparo to me seems well thought out and integrated and is one that wishes to see a thriving community, a thriving economy but one which is sustainable and supports all of those who live and work there.

While much larger cities such as Curitiba and Rio are gaining much news coverage in terms of their programmes of development, I really thought that the little city of Amparo should also receive some well-deserved praise for quietly transforming itself into a city of the future. Well done Amparo.

All image credits: www.amparo.sp.gov.br

A BBC Documentary about Totnes and Transition Towns

Now that I am in Brazil, I have joined up with Transition Towns Brasil and I am begging to do a number of presentations here about the Transition Towns movement.

Also, as many people I am meeting in Brazil are really interested in (and perhaps visiting) Schumacher College in Totnes where I did my MSc in Holistic Science, I thought that I would post this one-hour documentary about the town of Totnes by Nicholas Crane.

A Saxon river town in South Devon, Totnes is one of the UK’s oldest towns. It has seen tough times through its long history but adversity has taught it to innovate. Nicholas Crane visits the home of one of the greatest social experiments of the 20th Century and uncovers the test bed for an ambitious new idea that aims to change our urban life forever.