Thursday, May 08, 2008

Leaving Pousada dos Franceses

6th May Impressions of Sao Paolo

Last day. Pack bags, breakfast and then take the metro out to the highest tower in Sao Paolo to see the view. I’m getting used to SP now, though I still keep a sharp eye in the back of my head looking out for footpads (Joe the Californian was threatened with a knife last week), and also am looking all ways at once when I cross the road.

Having said that, with every day I experience more fellow feeling with the Paulistas. Smiles come easily, and people go out of their way to help, several times a day.

A noticeable thing about the Paulistas, and presumably generic Brazilians is that they are great readers. Street newspaper kiosks (which happen about every 100 yards) have books racks displaying Lorca, Dostoyevsky, Shaw and all the greats, in the place where London bookshops would have Jackie Collins. Interesting…

I have my camera out today, and am still awestruck by the buildings. There is a real sense of the aesthetic, where London (IMHO) goes either for stark functionalism or nauseating opulence. But London’s pavements are of higher quality than SP. More predictable. Which is a pity because if you are on dodgy pavements, you have to keep an eye on the ground. What is the point of having stunning towers if everyone is having to watch the broken pavement? Thing is, they have these really nice Art Deco and cobbled pavements, but the patterns (and the surfaces) do not get replaced once the utilities companies have done their thing. Lib Dems are known for their “pavement politics”, and they have a point. People want to see a difference after they vote for someone, and pavements are a good way of satisfying that desire*. There is much less litter than in London, partly because there is 2 or 3 sweepers on every street corner. Great. Better that than long dole queues. (I have a political solution to the litter problem over on > political essays > Litter Our Cultural Heritage. I can’t do a hyperlink because I am writing this on the plane, so no web link. And no mains plug, so this blog may be cut short…)

The trees are looking even better in the sun. They could do with more trees, though they have more than London already. And window boxes. Part of the Sustainable Cities paper mentions the “vertical greenhouse” – the use of window boxes to green the city. Imagine every tower face covered with greenery trailing down from the windows, cooling the buildings, fixing a bit of CO2, adding beauty and growing a modicum of food. Or even more than a modicum. I see loads of inefficient old air conditioners sticking out of the windows, but not a single solar heating or photovoltaic panel. Wake up, Brazil! Ever noticed how hot the sun is? That is because it is a source of energia.

The traffic is still nuts today. On the way back from the Brigadeiro metro station I notice that the motorcyclists hunt in packs. Sometimes alone, but they seem to prefer groups. Big groups if possible. Safety in numbers. Leader of the pack stuff. And why not?

I find a near-total absence of buskers. In particular there are more Chilean pan pipe bands in Reading than in the whole of Brazil. That is because perhaps because they prefer samba, but there are more open air Sambistas on a Climate Change march in London than the whole of SP. So.

I saw one street preacher. He was on song. Looked like a nice man, nice smile. Preaching outside a bank. There was a street person asleep behind him. I wonder if Jesus might not have been inside the bank, preaching to the bank manager about social equity.

Arrive at the Banesta Tower to see the view and who should be there but Ralf Fuchs, one of the organisers of part of the Congress. He is polite, but not chatty, so I refrain from opening a discussion with him on the subject of green economics, which I would dearly like to do.

The city is spread out in all directions below us stretching as far as the tree-clothed mountains on the horizon. Everywhere the jagged towers are below us. A church is down there, completely outclassed, and its domes striking a different note. I murmur something to Ralf about sustainable cities, which was the subject he had brought together at the Congress, and he says yes, he cannot understand why it does not completely fall apart.

I as if he was happy with the Congress, and he looks a little doubtful. I …[to be continued]

[The laptop battery ran out at that point, so I spent most of the rest of the journey reading a thought-provoking book “Is there a Green Ideology?” Which is the subject of a blog below.]

I left the hostel, the Pousada dos Franceses, saying fond farewells to the people who run it, and very glad I went there instead of a hotel; originally went for this because of cheapness as I am only part supported by the International Committee. It was clean, but basic; the breakfast was great, but the real bonus was the genuine friendliness of the staff. In hotels you can get ingratiating servility from the staff, a layer of trained super-politeness, without depth. In the Pousada you get heart. Recommended.

The bus journey through town was slow because of traffic. At one stage chocolate vendors were walking along a 3-lane highway, selling to the motorists, secure in the knowledge that the 100-kph motors on the 100-kph asphalt raceway were not going to go any faster than a granny with 2 OA hips.

Noticed a definite sense of relaxation when we finally burst out of the city into the greenery and scenery.

Lots of street people: like London. This is a symptom of a dysfunctional economy.

Saw Ralf again at the airport, but then I met Ozod Boum Yagalgch, coordinator of the Mongolian green coalition, and a speaker at the conference. We had 20 minutes talking before our respective planes departed (almost missed it, so absorbed).

My understanding is that 10% of the surface of Mongolia is affected by gold mining processes, that the health of the miners is seriously affected by the processing, especially the mercury and cyanide, and the health of the environment is likewise affected. The Mongolian people, especially the miners, profit little from the gold, since most of the profits are enjoyed by the multinational companies and taken out of the countries.
Please correct me if I have not understood correctly.

This situation is a perfect example, a cameo, of what is happening to the world itself. The common wealth of the planet is being extracted in such a way that the profits go to multinational corporations, and the people and the environment are left with the costs only. Governments are too weak, and sometimes corrupt, to control the multinationals, so it is up to the green movement to do this.

The objective of the Mongolian Green Party is to have a moratorium, to all gold mining in Mongolia, and then to restart it using processes that do not damage environmental and human health.

There is justifiable anger of Mongolians at this situation, and I feel that it is of vital importance that the Global Greens and the global green movement to take effective action to help the Mongolian Greens to succeed in their aims using methods consistent with the Global Green Charter. I believe that this should be made a campaigning priority for the global Greens because it is such a clear example of the distorted balance of power between environment, people, government and multinational corporations; therefore a swift victory here would be a good example of what we wish to achieve on a world wide basis.

The flight was 11 hours. I watched “There will be Blood” about an oil man; interesting. Chatted briefly to nice Christian government official (Tax dept – that’s OK by me, I am paid by taxes) but she is against the congestion charge, not yet having made the connection between motor cars and the destruction of God’s handiwork…

KLM was fine. I like Dutch peeps. Their pleased surprise when I said “Dank u wel” on leaving was touching; they speak English better than most English, but are pleased when an English person knows 3 dutch words. actually I know 8 words altogether: Weisbegeertje van der Wetsidee.

Back in England there was a bit of difficulty with the taxi. Distinct contrast to the helpfulness of the Brazilians. But this slight friction was offset by the glorious sight of Somerset clothing herself in sweet green leaves, and birds singing, and my heart was filled with joy at being home again. Great trip, great conference, great clarity of mind: the greenhouse effect is happening now, sea levels are rising, we know what to do about it, all we have to do is bring green rationality into politics and economics, which means taming the corporations. No problem. Let’s go!

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