When you clean one corner of your house, unless you take the clutter completely away….unless you figure out how to completely remove it….only if you don’t move it into another corner of another room….only….someone’s going to notice the new dirty corner in a different place.

Same place….different corner.

What do you do with the things you take away to make where you live more pleasant?

I heard an interview about Curitiba the other day and it was one of the more interesting things that I’ve had the chance to listen to while I deliver the mail.

Here was a city that was covered up with trash….covered so completely that you often had a narrow passageway to walk through on the streets of some sections of town.

This man, Jaime Lerner, helped institute policies that changed that situation.

He started exchanging bus tokens for trash….allowing the poor to clean up their neighborhoods and get something in return for their efforts.

They mentioned the term “complimentary currency” in the interview I heard….giving something in return for the cleanup that had value but wasn’t money…..

That was an interesting thought….exchanging something useful that didn’t cost the city a lot of money to get the people of the city to clean things up.

Jaime Lerner is somebody who attacked the situation with a lot of creativity and made his city into something great.

He empowered the community to make where they lived better.

He built greenspaces….improved the public transportation….streamlined the recycling program.

He helped create what is recognized as a very environmentally friendly city.

Watch the first video….and take note of what they’re saying about 7 minutes in, though….

At that point, they talk with some of the people who live around the landfill that serves the cities trash disposal needs.

What’s “out of sight, out of mind” is going to have to be in someone else’s backyard.

Where else are you going to put it? Out in space?

That made me think about some of the “cleaning” that I’ve done in my life.

Sometimes, my cleaning is just reorganizing my “treasures”…..making neater piles.

I can move….straighten….divert attention…but I never really fix the problem.

Like all the stuff going to the landfill, it’s not really away….it’s just someplace different.

That’s a curmudgeonly thing to say, I guess.

What this guy did with the city is pretty revolutionary.

He changed the city and made it beautiful….figured out a way to clean things up, get the people to take ownership of their environment, built efficient public transportation systems…and made things better.

He did all these things and now Curitiba is a showpiece for what’s possible in urban planning.

You do have to wonder, though…..where is all that trash going to keep the city so beautiful?

Somebody’s backyard is going to be full of trash…


That’s a weird thing to realize….

It sure is pretty in Curitiba, though.

And I still want to tear up those railroad tracks so that I can ride my bike.

That would be nice.

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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