Home Opinion Brasília, false environmentalists and social apartheid

Brasília, false environmentalists and social apartheid

Carlos Cristo, director, Government Relations, of CDN, in Brasilia. He holds a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning (University of São Paulo) and a postgraduate degree in Urban Planning from the Catholic University of Louvain - Belgium. He was a Guest Professor at the National School of Public Administration, Honorary Professor at the Ricardo Palma University in Lima, Peru and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Automotive Engineering Association (AEA) from 2009 to 2011. He was also Chief of Staff of the Secretariat of Innovation Of the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Director in the Secretariat of State Reform of the Ministry of Federal Administration and State Reform.


Opinion By Carlos Cristo

Brasília which will be 67 years old next month  is the result of a (modernist?) project of debatable quality, although its author has been intellectually canonized. The city was planned under a concept of social dispersion through  the so-called ‘satellite cities’, whose fusion in the urban network follows a metastatic pattern rather than a healthy one.

Urban costs associated with this project are huge. And even if part of these costs are offset by generous transfers from the Federal Government to the capital of the country, the national civitas, they still suffocate local government and limit the development of this city-state.

Cost of transportation is one of the most important negative externalities of Brasília. As  well as is most Brazil’s other cities the modal system on wheels far outweighs the scarce kilometers of rails, besides being the largest source of urban pollution. Brasilia’s road systemis gigantic and too onerous.

From the environmental point of view the Federal District’s low populational density generates two consequences. The first is the positive side of plenty of green areas, high level of rainwater infiltration,  many birds and, not infrequently, wild animals roaming at night in deserted spaces.  The second,however, is negative, resulting of the fact that its vast territorial extent generates high costs since unlike a “normal” Brazilian city  Brasilia does not present contiguous economic agglomerations.

The city-state houses more than seventy parks, in addition to a National Park and huge reserves of cerrado (a kind of savannah vegetation)  and has, in its perimeter, water springs of clear water, at the top of the specific technical classification. These springs generate streams most of them supplying the main lake, the Paranoá, after crossing neighborhoods, administrative regions and ‘satelitte cities’.

An essay to organize these variables into a holistic system, trying to reconciliate economic, environmental and social interests is under way through a project of Economic and Environmental Zoning – EEZ”, which is being conducted by public hearings, a space for the exercise of citizenship.

But to my surprise a curious kind of mobilization is emerging. In elegant, very low-density neighborhoods with two-floors  houses with large lawns and orchards, there are many people assuming a posture of missionaries of the environment, preaching isolation and segregation of their homes and neighborhoods. I referr to the kind of people who seem to abhor stores, gas stations, public spaces  and public transportation, and even bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

They are privileged people who do not care about if their neighbors  have to travel dozens of miles a day,to take their children to schools, gymnasiums and ballet, or to buy food, medicine, clothes, whatever.  Their objective seems to be to keep a distance from others, under the sacred mantle of preservation of the environment,.

Their use of false environmentalist flags, if not restrained by wiser guidance, may lead to the undesired path of social aparthei. This is the last thing we need in a country where inequality already prevails and where it lacks an effective approach to urban planning. We have to beware!

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