This article is inspired by the article São Paulo escondeu seus rios para que os carros pudessem passar by Aline Cavalcante. Aline is a keen cyclist, a writer for the influential Brazilian bike blog Vá de Bike (Go by Bike) and was one of the founders of the Brazilian female fixed-gear bike polo league.
In this article Aline talks about how certain areas of São Paulo regularly enter into a state of alert during periods of heavy rain, of which we have had quite a few recently. The above photo comes from a São Paulo newspaper Folha, and shows a street in the neighbourhood of Vila Madalena, quite near to where we live. This shot is slightly ironic, as were you to be standing in the exact same spot as the photographer and were to turn around, you would see not only the A7MA art gallery but also Harmonia 57, São Paulo’s conceptual living breathing eco building of which I have previously visited and written about and which captures rain water in order to water itself when needed.
Also just around the corner is the ridiculously hip and most excellent bike-shop-come-gallery-come-bar Tag and Juice, one of the focal points for São Paulo’s bike scene here.
Segundo o arquiteto e urbanista Alexandre Delijaicov, da FAU/USP, um dos grandes responsáveis pela mudança de paradigma que transformou São Paulo veio da gestão do prefeito Prestes Maia, que governou de 1938 a 1945, e eliminou 4 mil quilômetros de riachos, córregos e suas margens – essas consideradas ótimas opções de lazer em metrópoles como Paris e Londres.
During the time of São Paulo’s great expansion, the rivers which ran through the city were seen as a hindrance to development, and were paved over. According to the architect Alexandre Delijaicov, one of the people most responsible for this “paradigm of transformation” was the mayor Prestes Maia who governed between 1938 and 1945. He eliminated 4 thousand km of creeks, streams and their banks, something which Aline tells us were considered great options for leisure in metropolitan centres such as Paris and London.
So far so bad. If London managed to get it right so many years ago, we Brits are certainly struggling now, with so many new homes being built on flood plains, and our government threatening to pave over many greenfield sites to satisfy and ever growing need for new housing, much in the name of economic growth. But what Aline writes about next is quite remarkable, and very much in tune with the transition of consciousness.
A movement of recognition and appreciation of these areas is beginning to gain strength in Sao Paulo. “In early November, for example, diverse collectives, groups, companies and individuals have promoted a great meeting with dozens of activities, proposing the awakening of consciousness about the importance of our rivers , public spaces and comparing the city with what we want.” This was based around the call “There’s a River in São Paulo” which is now a developing community on Facebook.
Promover o reconhecimento e a exploração in loco das cidades redescobrindo a natureza de rios soterrados por ruas e construções contribuindo assim para despertar em jovens e adultos uma compreensão afetiva sobre o uso do espaço urbano.
Aline also writes about the initiative Rios e Ruas (Rivers and Streets) by Instituto Harmonia. This initiative was set up to promote the recognition and exploitation cities the rediscovery of the nature of rivers buried under streets and buildings thereby helping to awaken in young adults an understanding of the affective use of urban space.
It is interesting to me that they use the word afectiva meaning affective or emotional, and not efectivo meaning effective. Many times I have written about Jung’s mandala, and the four different ways of knowing the world. Here is a very good example, which also reminds us of the quote from Goethe in my previous article:
If you don’t feel it, you’ll never get it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)
It is not enough to comprehend in your rational mind. It is important to have a connection to nature, and this also comes through emotional intelligence, our feeling selves. It is, as my friend Emma Kidd, herself a Goethian scientist calls it, living knowledge, direct, dynamic and sensory.
Richard Louv has done much to bring to our attention his extremely important research on Nature Deficit Disorder. As technology takes us further from nature, so we have to guard against losing an entire young generation to technology, whereby they have no developed comprehension of what it means to be in nature, to really experience the livingness of nature, and all the benefits this brings us.
In my previous article Authentic and Counterfeit Wholes in São Paulo I wrote how journalist Nizan Guanaes had been struck by the huge impact on the psyche of Paulistas (people living in São Paulo) on the opening of a new cycle lane along the banks of the main river.
Quanto mais perto o paulistano estiver dos seus rios, mais perto estaremos de sua transformação em vias vivas e limpas da cidade.
The closer we are to our rivers, the closer we are to the transformation of our lives and to clean cities he writes. It can bring us together in an authentic whole where everyone wins, “the revitalization of the river encourages community action, increases urban mobility and access, without the need of more cars, tracks and streets, creates economic development, prevents floods, nature preserves and restores and stimulates sustainable practices.
As these projects show us, the important aspect is the consciousness of being connected to nature, be it out in the wilds, or connecting to the waters which run through the centres of our cities. We lose our connection to nature at our peril, but it is amazing to see the emergence of a new consciousness actively striving for this once more.