Urban Poverty and Relocation

By: Scott Bower

Brief Overview:

When I think about Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, romanticized images of European architecture, tango music, and urban sprawl inundate my mind.  In addition to my pre-conceived notions of the city, my recent trip to Buenos Aires with a group of 11 other students and a professor helped me to broaden my understanding of this historically rich and socioeconomically diverse cityscape and the larger implications that sustainable housing may have for a better future.  We studied sustainable housing and urban development which comprised of our group actively participating in the construction of an adobe home on the periphery of the city in El Tigre, visiting stratified neighborhoods,  and engaging in analytical discussions about the ‘bigger picture’ of sustainable living amongst our group. The following posts of mine exemplify my deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of this subject of sustainability with globalization and how this subject is becoming increasingly important environmentally, politically, and economically in the 21st century.

Urban Fallacy- Deep Inequality and Poverty The urban development of Latin American countries began in the export-driven coastal cities.  Increased demand and competition amongst local economies led to the emergence of labor institutions such as “free-trade” zones and maquiladoras that facilitated massive displacement of population from rural to urban areas (Angotti, 8).  The origins of port cities like Buenos Aires shows that the city already had colonial barriers that were set up in order to isolate the poor from the wealthy.  Not only are these barriers physical and come in the form of shopping malls, grand theaters, and rich housing complexes, but they have become socially ingrained into the highly urbanized and complex cityscape.              As described in the magazine series Latin American Perspectives, the urban fallacy exemplifies how inequality has become more pronounced in Latin America, resulting from neoliberal agendas to boost the economy through low-wage labor.  The attraction of urban areas to the poor had large repercussions regarding the effects of inequality in countries such as Argentina and Brazil.  Angotti asserts that land property and how investments are protected by property owners plays a big role in the divisions that can still be found within large cities like Buenos Aires.  The fruition of enclave urbanism, which is the conscious design and development of fragmented cities and metropolitan regions, has made the barriers within the city limits more apparent as the poor are being forced away from the city centers.  In Buenos Aires much of the city was designed based off of enclave urbanism. 


Angotti, Tom. “Violence, Enclaves, and Struggles for Land.” Latin American Perspectives. March 2013, Issue 189 Vol.40: 5-20. Print.


ElefanteBlanco- What is Villa 31?             Buenos Aires is no exception to urban poverty that prevails in Latin America.  A neighborhood that has become notable for their high levels of political organization, yet dismal crime rates is Villa 31, which is located in the downtown area of Buenos Aires.  When our LC group observed the entrance of the slum, I immediately saw the stark contrast of the distant make-shift houses and its affluent neighbors and the surrounding industry buildings.  This expansive urban slum is nestled in the heart of the Buenos Aires with the most affluent and wealthy neighborhood, Puerto Madero, only a short bus ride away.  Although we did not enter the slum, the movie ‘Elefante Blanco’ depicted the conditions of the marginalized people living in the community.             The premise of the movie is that a longstanding priest in Villa 31 calls upon a younger priest to take over his position in the community as mediator of the crime-ridden area, ardent practitioner of faith and trustworthy friend to the community.  However, the corruption of the religious institution and the increased gang violence exemplifies the tough and hostile living conditions many people are forced to survive in.  Many scenes and shots from the movie show dilapidated and antiquated homes made from scraps lying around the city or recycled materials.  The claustrophobic feel of the alleyways in the film are characteristic of many slums. 

From Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro- Urban Poverty             It seems to be that the iconic image of urban poverty in Latin America is the Brazilian favela.  These ‘shanty towns’ crawl up the lush hillsides of major cities like Rio de Janeiro and come within a few hundred feet of wealthy communities like Copacabana and Ipanema.  I recently traveled to Brazil in January 2013 and I had the unique opportunity to visit Santa Marta, which is a pacified favela in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro.              The steep incline of the road made it difficult to walk up, along with the numerous pot holes and crowded sidewalks.  The close proximity of each house was incredible.  It seemed as if they were overlapping each other as telephone wires and kite strings connected the rooftops like cobwebs.  The community was vibrant and many homes stood out with intricate window panes or bright colorful paint finishes.  From a distance Santa Maria appeared to me as one entity, one favela, one specific type of poverty; however, this misconception quickly dissipated once I observed how unique the lives and homes of the community members were in comparison to other areas of Brazil that I saw that trip.             In comparison to Buenos Aires’ Villa 31, it would seem that both face similar problems of urban relocation.  In Villa 31 the property value of the community’s location within the city makes it extremely valuable.  Despite the strenuous attempts of politicians to renovate Villa 31, the residents continue to successfully resist because that would mean relocation and the destruction of their homes so that wealthy investors can use the land for other purposes.  In Santa Marta the residents face a similar threat of relocation.  Although favelas began as illegal occupations of land that were isolated from the urban hot spots, the up-scaled renovations of many homes in favelas like Santa Marta have attracted outside buyers.  In other words, lower middle class people are beginning to purchase homes in the favelas.  This stems from the fact that the property taxes many people in the favelas are forced to pay continues to increase until the cost is out of their budget and they have no choice but to rent or sell their home.  This leads to yet another relocation of the poor and marginalized people living in Brazil to other favelas that are further away from major cities.   
–          

Urban Relocation Perpetuates Class Divisions- FOVISEE             FOVISEE is an organization we spoke with that uses housing policy to facilitate social change and to promote sustainable energy use.  Our LC group spoke with a representative of this non-government organization named Nicolas.  His talk focused on a specific project that makes pre-existing government made housing communities more sustainably viable.  These large housing complexes are located far away from the city where land is cheap.  The government offers free housing for a select number of ‘qualified’ people who are then coerced to leave their current home and live in the new, government houses.  Nicolas’ presentation brought to mind questions about urban relocation because it seems quite obvious that the government is blatantly creating a greater divide between the social classes.  The majority of paying jobs are within the city and impoverished people depend on these jobs for their income.  However, the farther away they are from those jobs, the greater it will cost them because of transportation and time costs.              The intentions of the FOVISEE project have good intentions; however, I cannot see it leading to any real, dramatic social change.  The importance of ameliorating this social division in society using more compassion and understanding is outlined in a radical work of literature called Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.  I believe that my discussions about urban poverty and relocation extend far beyond simply sustainable housing or urban development.  The idea that is proposed in Freirian pedagogy is one of co-responsibility when it comes to the oppressor and oppressed.  The oppressors will never actualize any social change if they continue to distance themselves from the poor using social and physical borders.  A change in the distribution of information and in the mentality or ideology of the oppressor class is necessary to instigate real change amongst the larger and arguably more powerful working class aka the oppressed. http://fovisee.com/

Personal Experiences

Katherine Iwagami

Learning Cluster: Sustainable Housing in Buenos Aires, ArgentinaJanuary 2014

I am wholeheartedly grateful to have been given the privilege to be able to travel to Argentina. To study a country’s history is one thing, but to be present in the environment takes education to the next level. Along with twelve other students and our professor we contributed to the creation of an adobe art studio for artist, Pablo Salvadó. We worked tirelessly in the Argentinian summer sun, covered in clay and sweat to build the studio in 6 days. During our free time I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone, which included speaking in broken Spanish and feeling frustrated with figuring out the conversion rates of dollars to pesos (even though it really is just a fairly simple conversion rate. Math is not my forte.) This was my first time out of the country by myself and although I felt more than a few times wishing I could go home, I am so glad I stayed. This learning cluster was not only just studying about sustainable housing. For me it was an experience of personal development; it was learning how to develop a sustainable core of independence and self-awareness so that I may successfully overcome my fears of traveling alone and feeling uncomfortable in foreign places in the future. From this experience I have taken on a new perspective and appreciation for traveling and understanding the necessity to abolish the self-constructed walls that are placed to feel comfortable yet stagnant.
Palermo
Walking down the streets near our hostel in Palermo Viejo, I took notice of the various types of architecture: both the aesthetically pleasing, and the dull-in-color, paint chipped older buildings. I was delighted by the modern flats that reminded me of New York City studios, European-inspired flats, and distinctly older historical apartments. 
There are so many different styles of architectural design within each building on each street that it may seem that they are lacking in harmony, but rather I found that they contrasted beautifully and complemented one another.

Each day, I found myself looking at structures in Buenos Aires that reminded me of buildings from New York City. Palermo Soho was named so, because of its similarity in style and atmosphere to NYC’s Soho.

To see various styles of buildings….from glass, to concrete to brick etc., was refreshing. It seemed as if the apartment buildings and other structures were created by architects who cared only to create his structure unaware in harmonizing with the buildings adjacent to it. Each structure was individual; they each had character and their own history of creation.

January 12, 2014

Museo Proa in La Boca, Buenos Aires-Ron Mueck, hyper realist sculptor
One of the very first excursions Tomas took us on was to La Boca, a barrio in Buenos Aires. Almost immediately I was in awe of the colorful sights and surrounded by the warm, savory smell of parilladas decarne cooking on grills.

The streets are lined with tourists and Argentinians alike, passing by tango dancers, and flocking towards stalls selling artisanal tango related memorabilia and leather goods.























La Boca(below) :
I was really attracted to this old, dark structure that reminded me of an abandoned warehouse from a ghost town. Placed against a most beautiful blue summer sky it also contrasted with the smooth tan bridge in the background. It would seem that there is no harmony between the two differently constructed structures yet I found that one of the many beautiful things about the city lies in its architecture. To me, captured in the photo to the left, is an example of where the old and the new collide. The histories of the past and the present are represented in this scene. Normally, where in most communities the new structures seem to be taking over the older structures, here, it seemed as if there was a balance of both old and new.
















Plaza de Mayo-Historical site in which madres de los desaparecidos protested and held rallies. Since the late 1970’s they’ve been bringing public awareness to the government’s affiliation with the disappearances of those against the government during the Dirty War.

A hotel on Calle Florida in downtown Buenos Aires. In the late 1800’s, this street was known to be where the top European fashion designers established their shops on. 

Text & Pictures by Katherine Iwagami



Learning Cluster Experience meeting with FOVISEE –  by: Corina Velasquez

During the last week of our learning cluster in Buenos Aires, our group was able to meet up with Nicolás Maggio of the Non-Governmental (NGO) and Non-Profit Organization (NPO) called “Foro De Vivienda Sustentabilidad y Energias” (The Housing, Sustainability and Energies Forum) or FOVISEE.
The aim of the organization is to improve quality of life in low-income communities, foster care for the environment and reduce greenhouse effects by generating energy savings into affordable housing and guaranteeing universal access to energy and adequate housing.

FOVISEE was founded four years ago. Maggio confidently shared that a major reason FOVISEE focuses on low-income families is because energy usage and sustainable living have a direct connection to a person’s/ family’s quality of life.

The FOVISEE initiative has three working areas:

1. “Laboratory in the Neighborhood”: The design, implementation, and evaluation of field projects in low income neighborhoods

2. Cultural Change: The generation of a cultural change that promotes awareness of energy efficiency in housing, and particularly in low-income housing.

3. Consulting/Advising: FOVISEE works with both public and private institutions on subjects such as housing, poverty, energy, and sustainability. Due to their experience they help lead projects such as Corporate Social Responsibility plans, training workshops, and sustainability in office buildings.

The government of Argentina builds about 40,000 houses for the poor every year. Making sure the homes are built and powered sustainably is one aspect that FOVISEE focuses on. Maggio shared with us that low-income households use 10% more energy than the middle class because of their living conditions.

FOVISEE believes in public policy when it comes to housing. For example, they will not support housing projects in locations that are not legally supported by the government such as Buenos Aires’ most famous slum, Villa 31. FOVISEE takes a holistic approach to work together with governmental policy to move their mission forward, rather than working on their own without following public policies. I found this to be encouraging since FOVISEE is an NGO and does not yet have support from the Argentine government.

*For additional Information visit:

http://www.fovisee.com/

http://www.weatherizers.org/joomla/
Alongside many on-going or past endeavors, FOVISEE developed a project called Sustentabilizar Hogares – Argentina, that is: to sustain-ablize houses [in] Argentina. Similar to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) carried out by the Dept. of Energy in the United States, their overall goal is to take a simple approach to making houses more “livable,” and stable in places where aid is needed the most. While this is just one project, it is easy to see the impact that FOVISEE readily makes in the sustainability/energy community alongside government action. This NGO is aware of the worldwide energy crisis and its forthcoming effects. Without proper housing, how will we tackle the larger environmental, health, and safety issues that may arise as a result? This is why FOVISEE works “to reverse the situation and promote a more sustainable development.”
The project produces the following results:

1. Improved quality of life: a sustainable energy home produces greater comfort to its occupants, estimates an increase of household members with respect to the space where much of their lives increase the residence time and encourages family housing, improves general maintenance, values property, etc.

2. Increase in household budget: energy savings translate directly into increased availability of funds for other basic needs. The project improves the budget and the household economy.

3. More health and safety in the home: the project develops components that have demonstrated strong positive impact on the health of the residents of the home, and avoids domestic accidents related to the use of energy in homes. Families in a susteinable home have fewer accidents with electricity and gas.
4. Creating a green and sustainable employment increased trade: the project will create thousands of new green jobs every year.

5. More energy for the country: the project was shown to achieve an average 35% saving of energy in households. Given that in Argentina buildings consume one-third of the available energy, replication of the project can generate significant extra energy available for the country.

6. Reduction of environmental impact: the aforementioned energy savings result in a direct reduction of the environmental impact of energy use in the home.

7. Economic development: the project has demonstrated potential in the development of industries and communities that may benefit different regions of the country where it is applied.

FOVISEE is currently developing a first draft to generate the next step to implement, test, and demonstrate the benefits that this project could lead to millions of poor people in the country.

Like FOVISEE, we see the same techniques being implemented by the WAP’s sustainable organization called “Weatherizes Without Borders” (WWB). Something as simple as re-installing a new window, as shown below can save a family the hardship of suffering through the cold winter months. WWB actually provides green training and certification opportunities for those interested in helping create safer, more sustainable living environments for its participants and low income families all over the world.

LC – 2014 Student Bios

Student Bios

Hideto Akasu (Hiddy)
19 years old
from Kokubunji, Tokyo, Japan
Comedian
I love soccer!!!
I love meat!!
iA mi me gusta argentina!            

Hello! My name
is Julie Jackson, I’m from Westminster, California, and I’m currently a
freshman at Soka University. I am so happy to be a part of this learning cluster
because I think it is important to demonstrate what you learn through your
actions. I love learning about different cultures and I’ve always been
really interested in Latin America, but I have never had the opportunity to
visit. I am excited to be visiting Buenos Aires because it is so rich in
diversity. I’m interested in exploring the topic of sustainable housing
due to the economic and environmental aspects, and I would like to be able to
share the idea with other people. I really enjoy film and photography, and
I was a producer for a film class for three years in highschool. I hope to
document our trip so we can share our experiences with others.

Hi
there! My name is Shelsea Ramirez. I was born in Queens, New York and I spent
my high school years in West Palm Beach, Florida. I am currently a sophomore at
Soka University of America and I am extremely fortunate to be selected to go to
Argentina to learn about sustainable housing. As a child, I spent a great deal
of time in Colombia and Ecuador with family which caused me to want to focus my
studies on Latin America. More specifically, I want to improve the living
standard and education for children in impoverished areas in Latin America. I
believe that my experience in this learning cluster can be connected with my
current goal because I will learn to analyze and apply sustainable housing
methods safely and efficiently. I plan on reapplying the experience
in the future in order to help modify the living standards of
families in an environmentally friendly way. I am really excited about this
opportunity to connect with nature and build the adobe structure with my peers
from SUA!

  My name is Hideo Suzuki. I am a sophomore at Soka
University. I am really eager to participate in this learning cluster in
order to deeply understand the true meaning of building house. Previously, I
had never considered the possibility of people being able to live on their own
house with their environment and financial benefits. However, when I
volunteered at Fukushima, where a big earthquake happened in 2011, I noticed
the importance of being able to live in my own house. What I did there was the
debris removal in order for them to rebuild their own house. This experience
has interested in sustainable development. And now, my dream is to contribute
the revival of Japan from the disaster by managing urban planning. So, I am
very excited to learn on-site and have a great opportunity to broaden my view
of environmental planning

Katie Iwagami.Hello! I’m Katie and I am a sophomore at Soka University of
America. This will be my first learning cluster abroad, and also my first time
to South America! I hail from the suburbs of New York and was born to a
Japanese father and Dominican mother. My mother encouraged me ever since I was
a child to embrace nature and express my emotions through art and dance. I grew
up listening to music while painting on large pieces of paper on the walls and
enjoying the humid summers, and bitterly cold winters of my childhood outside
in the backyard with my younger sister. In the last few years I have really
engaged in studying the culture of the Dominican Republic and I’ve developed a
great desire to visit the island and engage in dialogues with the children and
mother, especially in the poorest areas. In the future I want to give back to my
mother’s home country. I am interested in establishing or
working in a center for the youth. I’m determined to really utilize all aspects
of this learning cluster experience so that I may learn the techniques and
process of what to takes to create a sustainable structure and then apply it to
future endeavors in the slums of D.R. Because of my great love of travel,
history and art, I am looking forward to studying the neoclassical architecture
and diving into the culture of Buenos Aires as well. Although I have very little
experience in construction, I feel more than ready to work with a great Soka
team and share this hands-on experience of establishing a low-cost, self-sufficient,
natural adobe structure.  

Corina Velasquez. I am a 3rd year student at Soka University
of America.  I enjoy being outdoors,
playing sports and hanging out with friends and family.  I am interested
in the area of sustainable living practices in relation to urban development. As
is commonly misunderstood, sustainable living is regarded to be for the
“poor”.  However, as we have learned,
that is not the case.  It often seems unrealistic
individuals living in cities to practice sustainable living practices because
of all the commodities available to live comfortably without the necessity of
putting in effort to live sustainably.
Yet, I have continued to question how it is possible to live a
sustainable living style even when living in a city.  It is such a crucial question for modern day
society and I believe my experience in Buenos Aires will be able to deepen my
understanding of how an individual can best do that.  I am excited for this LC to Argentina that will
give me the experience of building a home from start to finish as well as being
able to further my knowledge of how sustainable living can be practiced jointly
with urban development.   

  Hey, Scott Bower here.
I was born and raised in Torrance, California.  I love to eat Mexican food, go to the beach,
and play soccer.  My interest in
sustainable housing stems from the fact that the housing sector of the United
States is vital to the nation’s economic wealth.  I want to learn more about how sustainable
housing practices and materials would provide a better alternative to current
methods of construction.  The economic
and political implications of this shift fascinates me and I believe that a
greater understanding of the dynamics involved in the process of sustainable
housing will help me to elucidate this dichotomy between the environment and
the market.  Oh, and by the way I have a
cat named Little Spot (Manchito).



My name is Mitsu Hashimoto. I am 19 years old and currently a freshman at Soka University of America. I was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, but my mother is American and my father Japanese. I had heard about earth building a few years back, but it was still a very vague notion to me back then. I was not much aware of housing and sustainability issues, but this changed when I came to SUA. One of the classes I took during my first semester was sustainable cities which explored issues in sustainable urban development. This got me interested in sustainability and improving our conception of modern development. When I read the description of this learning cluster and did some research on earth building, I realized that this was a practice I wanted to learn more about. I feel that earth building is an extremely viable alternative to our modern day construction methods. I hope that I will be able to apply earth building to my own home some day, and maybe help others learn more about the practice. This will definitely be an enriching experience with a great group!  

Saludos! My name is Albert Pineda and I am a freshman at Soka. I am of Mexican descent and was born and raised near Los Angeles. Two summers ago, I volunteered to travel to Baja California, Mexico, to build a small house for a family of four; it made a permanent impact on my life. I was introduced to this program to Argentina by Professor Tomas and was strongly intrigued by the environmental benefits of sustainable housing, something I did not ponder in my trip to Mexico. Apart from the studies of sustainable homes, I am also excited about having the opportunity to learn and study the different cultures of Argentina and be able to interact with its people. With knowledge of filmmaking, I hope to contribute in preserving the experience through media in an easily shareable way that will allow scholars to see the importance of our accomplishments.

Hola ! I’m Milly Burnett, a sophomore at SUA, focusing on Environmental Studies and Education! I am extremely excited for our upcoming trip to Argentina, as it will be my first time in South America – and first time building an adobe house. I grew up in Nashville, TN, where I cultivated my love for music, the outdoors, and education. I have always thought about becoming teacher, but it wasn’t until I reached SUA that I realized that my mission lied in environmental education regarding sustainable practices. My interest in sustainability has only continued to grow, as I watch our Earth suffering from unsustainable practices. I believe it is vital for the U.S, as a wealthy nation to adopt sustainable development in cities and suburbs alike, and through this LC, I’ll explore how Argentina has begun to tackle this daunting challenge ! I’m looking forward to working with our group (and hopefully next month know a bit more Spanish !) Adios !!

Proposal

INTRODUCTION

Last year, Professor Tomas Crowder-Taraborrelli led a Learning Cluster to Argentina to study and build a sustainable house in Buenos Aires. The trip was a great learning experience for everyone. We all felt this LC should be organized a second time in order to elaborate on the 2013 Sustainable Housing Cluster experience.* Once again, we’ve recruited some of the same scholars, architects, and artists that made last year’s LC such a great success. 

We are still inspired by the same research questions: Why have homes become unaffordable for most people in the world? Is it due to the cost of land, the price of construction, property taxes, and/or public services? Why must one hire an architect or an engineer when, with limited training, one can build a home by hiring just a few workers? How can these sustainable practices impact future growth of underdeveloped areas? Our Learning Cluster will explore ways in which many people in the world have built houses with reclaimed, environmentally conscious and aesthetically pleasing materials. We will also explore the connections between this type of sustainable, efficient development and how it can potentially reconcile the disconnection between urban and rural development. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWZoK2VmwKo&feature=emb_title


While the earthship sustainable adobe homes are gaining traction in many parts of the developed world, this type of construction has long been practiced in Argentina. Indigenous communities built their homes with adobe; many of them are still standing in the North. Pioneer adobe builder Jorge Belanko, mentored by Professor Gernot Minke, founder of Earth Architecture, has committed his life to building adobe houses in Southern Argentina and to teaching others the simple construction methods. Belanko produced a well-known didactic documentary film that demonstrates the different techniques in earth building. He argues in Las manos, el barro, la casa that since the 1930s, construction with earth has been deemed to be for “poor” people; that a whole business was built around the concept that “hard materials” like concrete, are longer lasting, more elegant, and more valuable. Belanko, is one of many Argentines, redeeming an indigenous building practice that is cost-effective, easy to accomplish, environmentally sound, aesthetically pleasing, and safe. Earth building as demonstrated by the interest in Belanko’s work, is particularly popular in countries like Argentina where building materials are expensive.

PURPOSE OF THE LEARNING CLUSTER

This Learning Cluster will examine the social, economic, and environmental problems of housing and urban development in Buenos Aires, one of Latin America’s most populous cities, and ways in which sustainable adobe construction is being positioned by many as a possible solution. Since the 1970s, metropolitan areas in Latin America have grown dramatically, as has the income inequality between the wealthy and the poor. Slums commonly referred to as villas miserias, have increasingly become perilous ways for the poor to gain access to housing. In the last decades, the wealthy, in part influenced by unrelenting media stories about crime and insecurity have moved to the suburbs to build luxurious homes in gated communities. Conversely, slums like the well-known Villa 31 in Buenos Aires continue to expand, presenting their own sets of complex environmental issues. By analyzing ways in which sustainable housing can safely and efficiently modify the living standards in the slums, this course will assuredly transform the skepticism about sustainable housing and provide for a more educated approach to urban development in Latin America. Urban transformation has had profound cultural, social, and political consequences for society at large.

During the first part of this travel course, we will study the rich architectural history of Buenos Aires, once considered to be the “Paris” of Latin America because of its neoclassical
buildings and wide boulevards. We will consider the decisive historical events that have shaped its urban identity. We will visit traditionally wealthy neighborhoods like Barrio Norte, working class neighborhoods like La Boca, and neighborhoods that are currently experiencing rapid transformation due to a real estate boom like Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, and Puerto Madero. We will also visit the politically charged Villa 31, a slum that was built in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of the city. Mercedes Maria Weiss, professor of art-history and architecture at the University of Buenos Aires, will lead seminars on urban history and development for our LC. The objective of these seminars will be to understand the economic and political forces that have ordered and regulated the construction of neighborhoods and housing along economic lines.

During the second part of the course, we will travel to Ingeniero Maschwitz, in the Northern part of the city, and participate on an eco-construction team with plastic artist Pablo Salvadó, where the Sustainable Housing Learning Cluster took place last year. We will participate in helping to build a sustainable adobe building. This building will eventually be completely self-sufficient and off the electricity, water and sewage grid.

Students will have hands-on experience in the design and construction of a low-impact natural building that requires little training in construction. Based on last year’s experience, students will form teams according to their interests. These teams will be coordinated by Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli and Professor Weiss and consist of:

* a design team ( which will draw plans for the structure of the building)

* a budget team (which will calculate costs for purchasing equipment and materials)

*an environmental and services team (which will assess the resources available in the area, design and install electricity and water access)

* a building team (which will coordinate the field work)

The building workshop will run from 9A.M.-5 P.M. Plastic artist Pablo Salvadó will provide all materials and tools. Among the many skills students will learn during the workshop on earth building are: laying out a rock foundation and perimeter drain, building small and medium size walls with discarded car tires, mixing adobe and plastering walls with adobe (clay), and participating in the design of a sustainable garden. Professor Weiss will explain the rain collection system that will be hooked to underground tanks to students. Cristián Torlasco, an Argentine national who obtained his architectural degree at the University of Oregon, will also be on sight to advise the project. He has built two sustainable homes in the past. In order to capture this experience, the students will create a short documentary (15-20 minutes) to be presented at the Learning Cluster Fair. This short documentary will help to educate SUA students about the practical, structural, and societal effects of living a sustainable life, as well as the positive effects on the environment and humanity.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

1.Gain a deeper understanding of the significance of sustainable living where environmentally stable housing and financial security is under threat.

2. Research the process and practice of sustainable construction using both recycled and natural resources.

3. Perform a comparative study between southern California and the province of Buenos Aires in regards to property management and building permit regulations where sustainable construction is concerned.

4. Critically analyze the contrasting architectural styles as well as the use of materials among affluent and impoverished communities.

5. Create meaningful relationships between the group and organizations in Argentina dedicated to building sustainable homes.

6. Facilitate discussions that encourage social change through community activism.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

Team building; experience hands on learning; production and construction of a documentary.

As the universal movement for sustainable living collects momentum, the students of this Learning Cluster will have a much more expansive and tangible understanding of what it takes to bring the theory of sustainable living into practice. By visiting and exploring wealthy and poor neighborhoods alike, students will gain knowledge of both the materials and resources that have been utilized, in a highly contrasting way, to create the city of Buenos Aires. Students will aspire to achieve the following learning outcomes in a variety of ways:

Develop students’ habits of independent inquiry and study: Prior to leaving for Argentina, all students will form research teams and present their findings to the rest of the class. The documentary aspect of the project in Argentina will provide another avenue for independent growth, as students will be able to develop their own questions to be asked in interviews as well as organize visual material to complement the pedagogical objectives of the Learning Cluster.

Engender analytical and investigative skills and the ability to apply them to a specific problem or question: During their first week in Argentina students will develop questions and expectations based both on their own research as well as research presented by their classmates. During the second and third weeks, they will combine this research with firsthand experience in order to understand how to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Enhance the ability to work collaboratively: Students will be working together to organize the trip, develop the documentary interviews, divide the subject matter, and create a cohesive final project. They will also have to develop a steadfast work ethic to include all team members, both domestic and international, who will be collaborating and contributing to the success of the project. The experience in its entirety will require students to depend on each other’s skills, including Spanish speaking abilities, different cultural understandings, and creative writing talents.

Foster a contributive ethic by working on issues that have a larger social significance or meaning: The creation of sustainable housing not only benefits the immediate community and the environment directly, but also ripples out to provide an alternative way to build a house for people who cannot afford the standard industrialized, corporate approach to building. Our documentary will further contribute to spreading awareness about the feasibility of and access to resources for this type of construction.

Prepare students for their roles as engaged global citizens: Through personal encounters, new experiences, hands on creation, community collaboration, inquiry into government regulations, critical evaluation of materials and resources, and an overall objective of contributing to the sustainability of humanity, this experience in Argentina will help deepen the understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

IMPACT ON SUA COMMUNITY

Upon return, students from this Learning Cluster will attempt to impact the SUA community in an innovative manner that will shed light upon the environmental inquiries that are still very much alive on-campus. Once we learn the techniques of building an earth structure, we will be able to impart this knowledge to those who are willing to learn and take action. Bringing awareness of our LC project to the SUA community will allow for a gradual shift in the way our generation perceives sustainable living in the United States, and especially, in Orange County. Understanding, for instance, the implications of renewable and solar energy will help Soka students realize that we each have the capacity to push the “eco-friendly–go green” movement even further. This will instill a sense of pride in our students to contribute to the global community on an exceedingly prudent and moral level. These earth ships prove that humanity is capable of “doing more”. SUA can be one of the first campuses to realize the potential and effectiveness of these living standards.

Soka takes great pride in the Language and Culture Program. Close to 90% of our LC class is studying the Spanish language. By traveling to Argentina to experience the culture and life in Latin America, we can share our discoveries and challenges in working in another language with fellow students back home. We envision that this LC’s travel component will empower others to better their language skills by immersing themselves in una cultura hispanohablante.

Finally, the meaning behind the word “Soka”—to create value—is also tied into our LC’s belief that through the creation of sustainable living spaces, we can create value on our own. A home is one of the most quintessential parts of being human. Humans need shelter, and creating a home can both accomplish that goal and represent part of the human identity within society. By collaborating together as a team to build this sustainable living space, this LC re-defines what value means within the home. A home is not just composed of nails, wood and paint–it can be composed of matter that we recycle, of matter that is part of the earth we live on. Giving, instead of taking is what matters most in this paradigm for sustainable dwellings. We feel that such a message will resonate with the SUA community. Can value be created within a home? Why is it important to give back? These are some of the working questions that define our Learning Cluster.

SIGNIFICANCE OF FIELD WORK AND LOCATION

While abroad, this Learning Cluster will study the architectural history of Buenos Aires, as well as construct a true realization of sustainable architecture. As sustainable architecture is still in its infancy, contributing to a fully self-sustaining housing project is a rare opportunity that can influence the current perception and future of sustainable eco-housing. The structure that we will leave in Argentina will be a unique and significant step towards a more sustainable world. It will advertise itself to the local community, but we plan to spread additional awareness through an instructional documentary. While much of our studies are for the course members, this endeavor is about proving that “off the grid” living is not only possible, but cost effective and feasible. We hope to inspire and instigate future architectural experimentation and innovation.

Buenos Aires is the heart and spirit of Argentina, and the focus of this LC. Touring the city and buildings in Argentina is vital in this critical study to decipher the distinct differences between communities within the city. Understanding Urban Development in Buenos Aires, Argentina plays a large role in understanding how sustainable housing can be successful in nearby communities.

This LC also seeks to analyze the architectural and aesthetic styles of housing in the city, in collaboration with a local non-profit institution called Techo. Like this LC, Techo advocates the importance of strengthening urban development on social policies in impoverished areas. More pertinent to this course, Techo builds an environment where sustainable communities exist in order to improve the quality of life for those who are struggling to survive in Buenos Aires and its surrounding neighborhoods. By gaining a deeper understanding of the area as the students travel to contrasting locations, they will be able to engage with the community members and discuss how they can help impact the community on the social and cultural facet of this study. What is really at risk here is that the public in Argentina lacks awareness about sustainable
housing. This course will help them see that this is a cost-effective manner of living that is easily accessible. This study and project could truly educate and inspire Argentines to take action and improve their own quality of living.

The opportunity given to the students to travel to Argentina will profoundly affect the way in which these students comprehend the rapidly growing slums at a time in which an unstable and unforgiving economy exists for all. They are found in rural areas and as well as in populous cities such as in Buenos Aires. According to July 2004 estimates, there are about 640 precarious neighborhoods in suburban Buenos Aires, comprising of 690,000 residents and 111,000 households. The population of the villas miseria in the city of Buenos Aires property doubled during the 1990s, reaching about 120,000 as of 2005, which is continuously growing today. These statistics show how important it is to study the reasons behind not only how both slums, such as “neighborhoods of misery” and cities are built and where they are located, but also of laying the foundation for the causes and reasons for why they exist.

LODGING
In Buenos Aires, the students will be staying at a local hostel, Borges Design Hostel, located in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. Located in the heart of the city, the Borges Hostel has modern interior within a classic 1920s-era building structure. Each room contains a bathroom, TV, patio, and kitchen for possible meal preparations.

Contact e-mail address: info@bdhostel.com
Contact phone number: 54. 11. 4777. 8174
Official website: www.bdhostel.com

TRANSPORTATION

The students are planning to leave the United States from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the 10th of January and arrive January 11th at Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires.

Itinerary, course reading and activities

Dates: Monday, January 6th- Wednesday, January 31th 2014

WEEK 1

Monday Jan. 6:
ON-CAMPUS
10AM- 12PM: Review syllabus with the class and course/objective overview. Assign group and/or individual research based questions and topics for course. Discuss reading: Rock, Chapters 8 and 9, Sernau Chapter 10 (Social Inequality).
1PM-3PM: In class training session to prepare construction of adobe structure. 
Screening: Garbage Warrior, Earthship-Britanny Groundhouse, The Queen of Versailles, Detropia

Tuesday Jan 7:
ON-CAMPUS
10AM-12PM: Overview of history of urban development in Buenos Aires, Argentina since the 1970’s. Discuss Reading: Wilson, Part 1 and 3.
1PM-3PM: Overview of sustainable housing in/around Buenos Aires

Wednesday Jan 8:
ON-CAMPUS
10AM-12PM: Screening: Las manos, el barro, la casa

1PM-3PM: Discuss documentary and implications. Discuss reading: Carns, Chapter 7 and Sanchez Chapter 1.

Thursday Jan 9: ON-CAMPUS 
10AM-12PM:  Discuss with groups the goals of the course. Outline what are we going to do in Buenos Aires and at the construction site.
1PM-3PM: Discuss who we’re going to interview. Prepare questions for interviewees. Discuss presentation at the LC fair (videos, blog, essays, etc.)

Friday Jan 10:
EN-ROUTE
AM: Depart LAX

Saturday Jan 11:
ARRIVE IN
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA 8:50 a.m.
*Meeting time TBA depending on flight arrival.
12PM: Meet at Tomas’ apartment to discuss reading: Phillips, Chapter 14 and 16. Teams discuss reading according to their team topic and assignment. Water, discuss reading: Ludwig, Chapter 7.
1PM: Lunch
2PM-5PM: Free!
7PM: Daily Reflection on Angel
8 PM: Learning Cluster dinner (restaurant or Tomas’ apartment).
9 PM: Tango dancing

Sunday Jan 12:
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
9AM-12PM:  La Boca. Architectural tour of the Center of Buenos Aires. Compare styles of construction and techniques with earth architecture and green building.
12PM-1PM: Lunch, meeting with Pablo Salvado.
1PM-4PM: Readings: Minke, Chapter 2 and 3, Fryer Chapters 4 and 5.
7PM: Daily Reflection on Angel.
Night: Free!

WEEK 2
Mon Jan 13:

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
10AM-4 PM: Bosques de Palermo, Avenida Libertador, Recoleta, Plaza San Martín, Villa 31.
5 PM: Group meeting, discuss readings, groups objectives, schedule and plan for construction.
20 PM: Tango/Music Show

Tues Jan 14: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
9AM-12PM: Lecture on the Argentine Economy. Schroder, Ogletree, Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5.
12PM-1PM: Lunch
1PM-4PM: Design of earth building. Teams offer suggestions for building techniques.
5PM: Demonstration of labor— how to utilize sustainable materials for successful building. Become familiar with materials as a group.
7PM: Daily Reflection

Wednesday Jan 15:
ON-SITE
7:30AM: Leave to the building site
9AM: Arrive to the site. Breakfast. Meet with plastic artist Pablo Salvado. Foundation work.
1:30 PM: Lunch
3PM: Return to city. Evaluation of costs for purchasing equipment and materials.
6PM: Visit to the Centro Cultural Kaikan
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Teams meet to discuss progress of earth building.

Thursday Jan 16:
ON SITE
7:30AM: Leave to the building site
9AM: Arrive to the site. Breakfast. Meet with plastic artist Pablo Salvado. Discuss work for the day. Evaluation of costs for purchasing equipment and materials.Continue construction of on-site project. Walls. 
1:30 PM: Lunch. Clean-up.
3PM: Return to city. 
Friday January 17:
ON-SITE
7:30 AM: Leave to building site. 
9:00 AM. Group discussion of the goals of the day.
1:30PM: Lunch
3:00: Return to city
8PM: Group dinner

Saturday January 18:
In Buenos Aires
MORNING FREE
1:00 PM: Museo Evita, Museo Sivori
3:00 PM: MALBA museum.
6:00 Return to Hostel
8:00 PM: Work on website.

Sunday January 19:
FREE MORNING



WEEK 3

Monday January 20:
ON-SITE
10AM: Arrive at location. Work on project with on-site architects.
12PM: Lunch
1-5PM: Continue construction of on-site project.
5PM: Return to city
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection
Tuesday January 21:
ON-SITE
10AM: Arrive at location. Work on project with on-site architects.
12PM: Lunch
1-5PM: Continue construction of on-site project.
5PM: Return to city. Update on progress of documentary film.
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection

Wednesday January 22:
ON-SITE
7:30 AM:
9:00 AM: Hogar El Jaguel de Maria. Photography workshop. 
10AM: Arrive at location. Discuss Reading: Hunter, Chapter 5. Work on project with on-site architects.
12PM: Lunch
1-5PM: Preparation of roof structure.
5PM: Return to city
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel

Thursday January 23: 
10am: meet with FOVISEE- President Nicolas Maggio  (http://www.fovisee.com/)

Friday January 24: 
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA 
9AM: FREE Morning and afternoon
7PM: Meet for dinner to discusses success of building

Saturday January 25:
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Free Day!

Sunday January 26:
EN-ROUTE

EZE-LAX-SUA

WEEK 4

Monday January 27:
ON-CAMPUS
10AM-12PM: Continue to edit and work on film material.
1-3PM: Film editing continued.

Tuesday January 28:
ON-CAMPUS
10AM-12PM: Finalize any film editing needed.
1PM-3PM: Film finalizing continued.

Wednesday January 29:
ON-CAMPUS
10-12AM: Meet to discuss and launch our short film on YouTube.
1-3PM: Discuss our Learning Cluster Fair Presentation. (TBA)

End of Winter Block
*We will be filming throughout our Learning Cluster. The objective is to create a short film documentary (15-20 min) about our group and individual studies on Urban Development, Architecture, and Sustainable Housing in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

*Students will submit photo essays, personal essays, and possibly more material about their experiences with building, their time spent in the city, and the economic, social, and environmental issues they study. Students will be divided into their four groups (design, environmental, building, budget) and each group will submit a final bibliography on their assigned topic of interest.

Collaborating Institution

Techo: http://www.techo.org

As mentioned in the itinerary, this cluster will meet with representatives of this non-profit organization to discuss the implications of sustainable housing for impoverished communities. Students will conduct a short interview to gain clarity on urban development policies in inner-city neighborhoods where most Techo volunteers work to improve the quality of life for members of each area. This organization maintains an exceptional standard that coincides with the objectives of the course.

Below, is a statement from the non-profit Techo:

TECHO pursues three strategic objectives: (1) The promotion of community development in slums, through a process of community strengthening that promotes representative & validated leadership, drives the organization and participation of thousands of families living in slums to generate solutions of their own problems. (2) Fostering social awareness and action, with special emphasis on generating critical and determined volunteers working next to the families living in slums while involving different actors of society. (3) Political advocacy that promotes necessary structural changes to ensure that poverty does not continue reproducing, and that it begins to decrease rapidly.

Vision: A fair and poverty free society, where everyone has the opportunities needed to develop their capacities and fully exercise their rights

Mission: Work Tirelessly to overcome extreme poverty in slums, through training and joint action of families and youth volunteers. Furthermore, to promote community development, denouncing the situation in which the most excluded communities live. And lastly, to advocate for social policies with other actors in society.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

*For the following reasons, Buenos Aires is considered to be a relatively safe place to stay.
1. Health 
Buenos Aires has a temperate climate that ranges from subtropical in the north and sub polar down south. During the month of January, we will be experiencing an Argentine Summer, which turns out to be relatively hot with high moisture readings. The Center for Disease Control states that Malaria should not be a concern since Buenos Aires is an urban center. It does, however, recommend for travelers to have their vaccines up to date, which will be required of all students in the group.

2. The Popularity of the Destination

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, Buenos Aires is the second most desirable city to visit. This suggests that Buenos Aires is as safe as any other major urban hub.

3. Safety Rules and Guidelines

The students will always be required to remain in groups of 2-3 people at all times. It is recommended that all members of the core group be informed when a small group separates. It is also important that a fluent Spanish speaker be assigned to each smaller group at all times. The students will be oriented on safe practices for a major city of this type but are also expected to exercise common sense.

Language
The official spoken language in Buenos Aires, Argentina is Spanish. The sponsoring faculty, Professor Tomas Crowder-Taraborrelli, is a native Argentine, fluent in both English and Spanish. Three of the students in this Learning Cluster group are native Spanish speakers, 2 other students are fluent and about 3 are capable of understanding and communicating back fairly well.

WORKS CITED
Carns, Ted. Off on Our Own: Living Off-Grid in Comfortable Independence: One Couple’s “Learn as We Go” Journey to Self-Reliance. N.p.: St. Lynn’s, 2011. Print.

Fryer, Julie. The Complete Guide to Water Storage: How to Use Gray Water and Rainwater Systems, Rain Barrels, Tanks, and Other Water Storage Techniques for Household and Emergency Use (Back to Basics Conserving). N.p.: Atlantic, 2011. Print.

Hunter, Kaki, and Donald Kiffmeyer. Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques (Natural Building Series). N.p.: New Society, 2004. Print.

Low, Setha M. Theorizing the City: The New Urban Anthropology Reader. N.p.: Rutgers UP, 1999. Print.

Ludwig, Art. Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use–Includes How to Make Ferrocement Water Tanks. N.p.: Oasis Design, 2005. Print.

Minke, Gernot. Building with Earth: Design and Technology of a Sustainable Architecture. 2nd ed. N.p.: Birkhäuser Architecture, 2009. Print.

Phillips, E. Barabara. City Lights: Urban-Suburban Life in the Global Society. N.p.: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Rock, David. Argentina, 1516-1987: From Spanish Colonization to Alfonsín. N.p.: University of California Press, 1987. Print.

Roy, Rob. Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable Home. N.p.: New Society, 2006. Print.

Sanchez, Laura, and Alex Sanchez. Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home. N.p.: Sunstone, 2008. Print.

Schroder, Lisa, and Vince Ogletree. Adobe Homes for All Climates: Simple, Affordable, and Earthquake-Resistant Natural Building Techniques. N.p.: Chelsea Green, 2010. Print.

Sernau, Scott R. Social Inequality in a Global Age. Third ed. N.p.: Sage, 2010. Print.

Wilson, Jason. Buenos Aires: A Cultural History. N.p.: Interlink, 1999. Print.

DOCUMENTARY AND INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS

Earthship-Britanny Groundhouse
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krWgtnJRAUg&feature=related

Garbage Warrior
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrMJwIedrWU&feature=related

El barro, las manos, la casa
http://vimeo.com/41616082
http://ecocosas.com/documentales/el-barro-las-manos-la-casa-documental/

Other possible resources for student research

Earth architecture
http://www.eartharchitecture.org

1. “Tips on Building an Adobe House” . This website has sections dedicated to different aspects of building an adobe home. One of the most helpful sections is titled “Adobe Bricks.” It has step by step instructions on how to make adobe bricks which essentially make up the structure.

2. Adobe Houses for Today: Flexible Plans for Your Adobe Home book for purchase: $27 .This book was mentioned in an article titled “Top Six Adobe House Building Plans and Manuals.” It covers plans for building an adobe house including many photographs and diagrams.
http://about.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=950401135/search=Adobe%2BHouses%2Bfor%2BToday/rd_type=M

3. Adobe: Build it Yourself book for purchase: $29 This book was also mentioned in the article “Top Six Adobe House Building Plans and Manuals.” This one covers the building codes and energy requirements in building an adobe home.
http://about.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=950348502

4. “Adobe Building Systems” This website is titled “Adobe Building Systems.” On this particular link you will find what amounts to a power point on the basics of building an adobe home. http://www.adobebuilding.com/Education/green%20building.html

5. Sustainable Development in Argentina
http://eau.sagepub.com/content/4/1/37.full.pdf+html
Sustainable development in Argentina analyzes why, despite having an impressive endowment of renewable and non-renewable resources, Argentina has failed to maintain its relative global position in economic, social and environmental development in recent decades. The authors summarize the main environmental problems in the country and conclude that the current trend is not unsustainable development but unsustainable underdevelopment, with increasing damage to natural resources and ecosystems and a growing incidence of poverty.

6. Sustainable building and community organization technologies
http://search.proquest.com/docview/200023418/fulltextPDF?accountid=25347
Whilst much has changed in Argentina over the last four decades, housing remains a critical issue. Public housing schemes favor the construction of expensive homes that are accessible to few. There is an ever-growing need, therefore, to tackle the housing problem through a comprehensive approach that addresses housing, employment and local development. The Experimental Centre for Economic Housing/Association for Economic Housing (AVE/CEVE) is a non-governmental organization established over 40 years ago in the context of rapid urbanization. AVE/CEVE has worked to develop, apply and transfer a range of technical solutions to address various housing issues affecting low-income communities. Its approach encourages the active participation of residents throughout the process — both in projects for housing construction and in technology transfer processes. AVE/CEVE has developed a number of technologies and systems that seek to ensure the efficient use of energy and water resources, including a compact toilet and sink unit which results in water savings of 20%.

7. Buenos Aires: Global Dreams, Local Crises by David J. Keeling
http://www.amazon.com/Buenos-Aires-Global-Dreams-Crises/dp/0471949353/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1349301672&sr=8-7&keywords=urban+development+argentina&tag=rnwff-20
Buenos Aires is a city of fascinating contrasts. The most southerly of the world’s great metropolises, it dominates the Argentine urban system, but is relatively isolated from the rest of Latin America and the global economic and political system. The archetypal elegance and sophistication of the Paris of the South is set against the problem of poor housing, social deprivation, and suburban sprawl. As Argentina struggles to maintain a democracy, the future stability of the region depends on how this vital, varied, and vulnerable city comes to terms with the need to restructure in the face of economic, environmental, and demographic crises. The book begins with an overview of the city’s four-hundred-year history, which forms the basis for an examination of the contemporary urban landscape. This leads to an analysis of local politics in relation to planning and housing policies that is followed by a consideration of changes in the city’s economic structures and an examination of Buenos Aires’ national, regional and global transport links. The book then turns to a detailed look at the city’s green spaces, environmental problems, and health care systems.

8. The Influence of the World Bank on National Housing and Urban Policies: The Case of Mexico and Argentina During the 1990s (Ashgate Economic Geography Series) by Cecilia Zanetta
http://www.amazon.com/Influence-World-National-Housing-Policies/dp/0754634914/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349301672&sr=8-1&keywords=urban+development+argentina&tag=rnwff-20
Firmly grounded on her professional work, Dr. Zanetta’s academic research is aimed at building a bridge between practice and the world of ideas to ultimately improve living conditions in developing countries. During the past ten years, she has worked extensively on development projects in many Latin and Central American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru. Her main areas of interest include urban and housing policies, decentralization, public sector modernization and sub-national governments. Dr. Zanetta is an adjunct faculty member at the Department of Geography, University of Tennessee.

A Green City

Una Ciudad Verde: A Commentary on Sustainability

by: Julie Jackson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guxurfldXUg

  This Learning Cluster to Buenos Aires, Argentina has allowed me to see how unsustainable our society currently is and has led to a new appreciation for the people trying to make a difference. Unfortunately, every moment of the day more and more waste is being created and we’re destroying our environment with the choices we make. However, there are many people trying to create new ways of living more sustainably, and environmentally-friendly efforts are being launched around the world. We don’t necessarily have to live in a house of adobe to be sustainable, (although it would help greatly), we can simply make informed decisions and adjust different aspects of our lives. The following discusses some of the steps that the city of Buenos Aires is taking to become a “green city”.    

Buenos Aires is a large city striving to be environmentally conscious. The city is home to many wonderful parks and green spaces which are popular among residents and have helped contribute to a more healthy and active lifestyle. I was surprised to observe the overall level of activity in and around these parks, and discovered it is not uncommon for large mobs of people to all exercise at the same time, as seen in the video above. People take advantage of these beautiful places by walking, jogging,  running, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or working out in these spaces. There are locations throughout the city that provide work out equipment that are built like playgrounds and open to the public who would  like to exercise outdoors, an idea that I would love to see implemented here at home. These parks and green
spaces are not only beautiful, but help combat the pollution by producing oxygen and
filtering the air. Being active is a popular trend here which promotes good health and an environmentally conscious mindset among Buenos Aires residents.
Walking is a main method of transportation in the
city, but for longer distances people can be seen using bikes, public
transportation, motorcycles, and cars. Bike racks are on almost every street
and clearly designated bike lanes are in frequent use. The bike lanes have
dividers from the rest of the street and are clearly marked which makes it
easier and safer to get around the city by bike. Motorcycles are also a very
popular mode of transportation and it seems that drivers are more aware and
respectful of people on motorcycles than what I have observed here in Southern
California. Other modes of transportation included buses, trains, and subways,
which still contribute to pollution, but help reduce the number of cars in the
city. Cars still populate the streets, but with other options for
transportation the need for them is much less. Buenos Aires has now removed
taxes on hybrid models and cars that use alternative fuels or energy sources,
which will promote alternative, “greener” models. Another interesting development
in progress is that the traffic signals are being replaced with LED technology
which is expected to decrease energy consumption between 45 and 50%.   Being a large city, waste and pollution is a huge problem. Through my observations it seems that everyone and their grandmother is a pet owner and can be found walking their dogs all throughout the day; however, these animals leave waste on the streets. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their animals, however this seems to be an issue throughout the city and an environmental friendly way to clean up after your dog and dispose waste has not been introduced. Every morning, shop owners step outside and hose down the sidewalk in front of their business so that the dirt, trash, and animal waste goes into the gutter. It cleans the street, but causes problems elsewhere and consumes a large amount of water. While this issue could use improvement, the city has tried to reduce the amount of waste by designing a new method of disposal. Large trash and recycle
bins can be found on every street in Palermo, the first neighborhood to use this method of  disposal. The city stresses the importance of separating waste and recycling,and many businesses have adopted these methods and are distinguished by “Ciudad Verde” logos that are posted for people to see. The mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle is highly publicized and it seems that residents are doing relatively well at implementing these ideas. Grocery stores charge
for plastic bags, so most locals have their own bags that they bring to the
supermarket to use (they also sell reusable bags at the store).This is a good
way to reduce the consumption and waste of plastic bags, and is hopefully a
trend that will catch on quickly in other parts of the world.    Artists and vendors are helping to promote the idea of reusing waste by creating products made of recycled materials. These goods can be found at ferreterias and include a variety of interesting and stylish products. Some examples include using old jeans to make shoes,
records to make bags, cans and bottles to make jewelry or decorations and the
list continues as people put their creativity to use. It’s great to see old products being
reused and given a new purpose, considering the amount of waste that is
produced every day. While these items are only produced on a small scale, every bit
makes a difference and helps promote a change in thinking. A change that keeps
sustainability in mind.    

  If you’re interested in learning more about the green city movement of
Buenos Aires, you can check out the city’s official site at:
http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/ciudadverde