Its 20 million inhabitants make of Sao Paulo the biggest South American city; however, these are only the official numbers, whereas a walk through the streets shows how many additional homeless people the city must count in as well.
This is definitely my first impression of Sao Paulo: how many homeless people can one city take? Moreover, some sidewalks are but a home for people, a gathering place where blankets and even tents are set up, improvised houses to shelter those who lack what the city officials count in their statistics as a house.
Sao Paulo is the capital of the wealthiest province of the country, and therefore attracts many people looking for a job, a house, a better life than the mere poverty where they were living in. I’m not sure if many of the fortune hunters will be fortunate in the end.
As a regional capital, Sao Paulo has an important role to play, therefore I have an interesting conversation with the GreenBlue Municipality who explained me how they try to work on sustainability throughout the state of Sao Paulo. More than 10 years ago this environmental program was created in order to support the municipalities of the State of Sao Paulo in structuring and carrying out their environmental actions.
They don’t impose exotic rules or strategies, but rather start from the local perspective and try to enhance them, based on local needs, possibilities and solutions. As a result, they create local awareness and responsibility, which result in more dedication and action. However, being created by the Secretariat for the Environment, they emphasize the importance of decentralisation, not only to the local political level, but as well to non-political actors.
The voluntary participation of the local municipalities did not put a brake on their engagement. For instance, in 2014 610 out of a total of 645 municipalities were actively taking part in this initiative.
The State of Sao Paulo shows that decentralisation and democratisation are not putting a brake at active participation, moreover they might be key to get everyone involved.