Preservation: the importance of everyone’s involvement

Public squares and parks are democratic leisure spaces, which should offer everyone the possibility to enjoy moments of distraction and entertainment. Society needs places that allow people to know each other, enjoy collective leisure activities, create bonds between them and increase their respect for the common good. Closeness between inhabitants of a community – and, therefore, their empowerment – is one of the main benefits that public squares may bring. Building and managing these locations are governmental responsibilities, but people who use them are the ones who must keep them clean and respect them.

Many citizens from São Paulo are afraid of going to public squares and parks because they are usually dirty and ruined or full of drug dealers and users. The risks they offer to families that can’t afford to pay for leisure forces many of them to give up their right to enjoy those spaces. What should be an including environment ends up associated to violence and neglect.

Last Sunday (November 21st), Transition Brasilândia and Fundação Stickel organized a task force to revitalize a square named Benedicta Cavalheiro, located in Brasilândia, São Paulo. Besides removing trash – including a sofa that was inappropriately discarded there –, volunteers planted seedlings, created graffiti paintings on the walls, installed trash cans, etc. 150 people participated in the action, which lasted for a whole day and also included leisure activities for all ages.

Such initiatives give people the opportunity to act in benefit of their own communities. It is necessary to involve local citizens, because they are the ones supposed to preserve the revitalized areas. When most volunteers don’t belong to the community, it is hard to make people value their hard work and to create consciousness about its importance. It is important to create closeness between the initiative and those who are benefited by it, so that chances of success and durability of results are higher.

That is the thought that orients the Limpa Brasil movement, which will clean the 14 bigger Brazilian cities in 2011. In order to do that, it intends to reach all society through involvement and consciousness raising. That way, it will be possible to not only remove trash from urban environments, but to make people rethink their actions and care about waste management and preservation of spaces. Those issues are usually neglected, but they influence directly on  people’s well-being.

Unfortunately, in Brazil, the thought that makes people treat the streets like they didn’t belong to them is very common. But citizens own streets like they own their houses. How is it possible to explain all the waste discarded on sidewalks, rivers, beaches, roads, squares, etc.? People lack information and communication. Getting rid of things without worrying about their destiny is an attitude that must be changed. That is an issue that concerns to the whole world. However, countries like Brazil are still beginning to worry about it. Cutting down on consumption, controlling of solid waste production and appropriate management of it are important, but still very little discussed measures.

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