Thoughts from Brazil on adding inequality to the Transition Network purpose statement
By Catrina Pickering 22nd September 2011
Proposed purpose statement: “Transition Network supports community-led responses to climate change, inequality and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness.”
Who proposed this and why
By May East and Monica Picavea, Transition Sao Paulo, Brazil
Why do we think it’s important to have inequality as a central driver in Transition?
In any society marked by deep disparity between rich and poor, the needs of those most at risk should be considered a priority by those who are in the leading role. Transition in this context means more than community lead responses to climate change and peak oil, it means putting in place programmes which challenge injustice, promote human dignity, and build a resilient common good.
Although poverty levels have fallen by 67.3% across Brazil over the last 17 years, according to a recent research by the Getulio Vargas Foundation economic think thank, 8.5% of the Brazilian population still live below the poverty line (living on less then 151 reais= £56) and a third of the Brazilians belong to class D and E.
How can we speak about transition without taking into account 33% of the population. 25 million people were lifted out of the poverty over the last decade due to the countries steady economic growth and Lula da Silva’s social welfare programme Bolsa Familia granting monthly cash for families that ensure that kids attend school and are vaccinated. Some argue this is giving fish instead of teaching how to fish… however many of us have witness how misery has diminished particularly in the Northeast of Brazil. Last month a new programme Brazil Without Misery was launched to reach the remaining 8,5% – 16 million- still leaving under the poverty line. The programme will increase cash transfers, improve public services, and create new job opportunities for the poor. The recent elected President Roussef said in a news conference: “These aren’t statistics; they’re people with lives, experiences, dreams”.
So what are the dreams of these emerging segments of Brazilian society? Are they related to meeting the basic needs or are they fueled by unnecessary want, which the Western world are addicted to. Transforming the dreams of running water and sanitation, 3 meals a day, health in community, reliable transportation, opportunities for the young into reality should be the imperative in any transition project. The great design challenge for committed social transitioners is how to shorten the gap between the rich and poor without costing the Earth.
Inequality has many faces and should be considered not only on economic terms. Paulo Freire would say that authentic liberation – the process of humanisation- is a praxis involving action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.*
Potentially a great North & South dialogue can take place within the Transition movement. A dialogue deepening the sense of interdependence between peoples and planet. “Because dialogue is an encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others…*” The North can promote a fair debate and inner reflection on the difference between needs, consumption and over-consumption. The South can share the medicine of solidarity, frugality, happiness and resilience. South are the keepers of the old practices of backyard gardening. North demonstrates responsibility for own waste, raise awareness on the finiteness of natural resources, and how they can be a source of wealth and abundance if consciously used. North reminds of the importance of stories, culture, legacy, memory of street, neighborhood and city. South shares the freedom of imagination and artistic expression, allowing people to unleash their talents.
The first threads of this emerging tapestry have been woven. The first Transition slum in the heart of Sao Paulo is going through a profound process of reflection, activation and connectivity. In this process we are all learning and yearning more than we now know.
*Jornal Estado de São Paulo, August, Monday, 15, 2011 – FGV – Getulio Vargas Foundation Study. Data used from : (PNAD ( Pesquisa Nacional de Amostras a Domicílios) and of IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística).
**Tomás Aquino, Tratado sobre a Justiça, Rés Editora, 1989.
*** Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Freire