Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Layla Nunes Lambiasi
My experience with this year's Collaborative Course Harvard SEAS/Poli-USP couldn't have been better. During 10 days I had the opportunity to meet interesting people, to discover new places and learn more about my own city. The site visits and lectures were all very relevant bringing up the many problems of big cities such as São Paulo. These issues give students from different courses, an overview of how  to address the challenges of the future. From the transportation system, water management to energy supply, we understood how many of these structures works and how we can try to make it more sustainable.Throughout the activities we had the chance to discuss all these questions with professionals and professors and to be engaged in many enriching debates. One of the best things about this experience was the friends I've made and the moments we shared, looking at São Paulo through their eyes definitely changed the way I see my city.
Jahred Liddie
Harvard College, Class of 2016
S.B. in Environmental Science
and Engineering

Jahred is a student writer at the Harvard Office for Sustainability and recently wrote an article about the course. Check it out at the link below!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Eloi Alves Ferracioli
This collaborative course was one of the best experiences of my life! The lectures, faculty, practical work and site visits provided wonderful knowledge that certainly will be a great help in my academic and professional life. It was very important to have the students in direct contact with the professionals responsible for the big issues of our city.

But the most important part of the course was to meet and develop close connections with the amazing people, exchanging ideas and creating huge friendships. Living together and sharing ideas for 10 days made a huge difference which maximized the results of this course. I expected to learn more about how things work in US and which technical, economic, social and political aspects they have in common with Brazil. But, I didn’t expect to learn and understand more about my country and my culture while I was trying to show a little about Brazil. The most important discovery was to see our urban problems from another point of view. Sometimes, during discussions, I realized that common things here may not be known to our American friends. It actually can be a key point to understand the sources of problems and to create new solutions. Being able to share in broad discussions made finding new possible solutions a reality.

I’m so glad to have met all the participants from Harvard and I hope to visit in the future, or see you in France, my new home next semester, all invited! I’m so grateful to all the organizers and everyone how made this course possible!

I’m already feeling “saudades” for all!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mark Ashby '16 with Professor Maurício Salles
It’s been over a week now since the course in Brazil ended, and it’s been tough adjusting to normal life back in Cambridge. Learning about the course topic and how it related to Sao Paulo was fascinating, and I already miss it.

Like many others have mentioned, the site visits were very eye-opening. I especially liked hearing the views of the instructors at the different sites, who were experts in their field and always more than willing to answer our questions. It was interesting to hear their varied opinions on the outlook of Sao Paulo and what solutions they believe could make the biggest impact for the sustainability of the city. Specifically for me, it was great to learn more about green energy. I came into the course with little background in the topic, so I greatly appreciated the detailed explanations given on the manufacturing and installation processes of wind turbines and solar panels. For example, GE and Enercon allowed us to tour their warehouse facilities and see the whole operation involved in bringing their massive turbine blades and hubs into shippable products. Their technology is cutting edge, so it is rare for outsiders to get such a thorough look inside, and I feel very lucky. It was also interesting to see how the rival companies do things differently and to speculate on which might be better.

I definitely feel like the time in Brazil impacted my academic pursuits and career interests, which is exactly what I wanted to get out of the course. It also goes without saying that the Harvard/Poli-USP groups meshed very well over our short time together and created lasting friendships. Overall, it was an amazing experience.

Natália de Ponte Rodriguez
It has been a week since the course's finished. It's not that much, but I really miss it. The site visits and the lectures were really great, and the people were amazing. I'm so happy we've got along so well! It made this experience to be unforgettable, and the bonds we created with each other during these 10 days together are priceless.

I really recommend every Poli student I know to apply for it. I've learned so much about so many things in such a short time! Professionals, professors and students were so open to talk and discuss about the problems we've been facing and have already faced in the past, it was very constructive.

I can say I have a different point of view after the course. It's mentally healthy to do what we did together. I appreciate it and I will remember this time we spent together with fondness. Thank you all!
DT, Natália, Rodrigo, Jenny & Anastasiya

Rodrigo Kleinert 5th-year

On the 14th of January our group of students had the opportunity to have a very insightful discussion with Ricardo Young, a city council member that enthusiastically supports the cycling cause as an important step for a more transport efficient city. After explaining his very interesting view on the role of cities as huge consumers of resources, he showed how policies from the last century and economy shaped the roads where we now try to drive on. Therefore, public subsides for public transport are huge now a days, and the number of sustainable transport projects are tiny. One of the few are the cycling paths that started to be laid in the city road network in 2007, yet in very low standard and following a very poor route selection.
Ricardo Young
City Councilor, São Paulo

As a cyclist, a student of civil engineering also working with urban mobility, I have eagerly seen the infrastructure being built and had hoped for a cultural change in behavior to make use of it. But so far, we have had only a minor migration from other modes of transportation. I believe in the idea that many of the destinations within a 5km radius of one’s location can be reached by bike – despite of terrain and weather – if a high standard infrastructure connecting all possible origin-destination pairs is available.

São Paulo’s infrastructure seem to be closely linked to the political sphere, thus building bike lanes in quantity has gained more importance then building them with quality – a showy action of a leader thirsty for votes. The little usage of the recently implemented bike lanes in the city show also that the lack of planning according to the public demand is a major factor that in fact may contribute negatively for the cycling cause. This is why: if bike lanes are laid on a street with no significant demand for them, they become underused and therefore seen as a waste of useful street area by drivers and public transportation users. This adds to the combined efforts deficiency on the commercial side to adapt facilities to assist enthusiast bikers – like myself – to ride more quickly, safely and comfortably. Simple examples include the lack of changing rooms in office buildings and the tiny number of parking spots for bicycles. It is not hard to imagine that looking for a place to park under the Brazilian sun in a humid summer day after riding a poorly structured bicycle lane is not fun.

Last but not least, I believe the bikers themselves and their behavior in the traffic are sometimes counterproductive. Ricardo Young thinks similarly: bicycles are vehicles, and those riding them should not only have rights, but also duties. Traffic rules seem to lose their validity when someone mounts on a bicycle in São Paulo. I have witnessed riders “performing” countless forbidden turns, red light infractions, wrong way rides, pedestrian disregard on sidewalks, and the list goes on. I say "performing" between quotation marks because it is undeniably a form of art to be uninjured after starring in a number of these events. Eventually, accident rate rises as bike lanes popularity decreases. Simple.

Solutions? There are many. From enhancing the lanes quality and reducing taxes for bike-friendly buildings to fining cyclist for traffic infractions and creating a safer street environment, there is an infinity of tasks to be done by different and several actors. Ricardo Young believes that under ideal conditions, literally all trips could be done by or involve bike rides. Personally, I am not that optimistic given physical condition and distance restrictions. But the fact is that incorporating a functional cycling network on the urban modes of transport scope can significantly foster a quicker urban redevelopment directed to a multimodal and less car dependent configuration, transforming the city we have inherited from a less populated and less demanding era into a metropolis with better standards in terms of traffic, capacity and above all, sustainability for the future.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mayra Espinoza-Martinez '16
As a sociology concentrator, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the 2015 SEAS/Poli-USP Collaborative Field Course on Sustainable Cities. Not only was I exploring a new and exciting country, but I was also exploring a different approach to issues that I typically look at through only a sociological lens. During the extent of my time in Brazil, I was privileged enough to learn alongside passionate students and engineers regarding the various challenges São Paulo is currently facing in energy, sanitation, transportation, water, and more.

One of the aspects that I enjoyed most about the course was the group project, which included three team members from Harvard and three team members from the Poli-USP. I enjoyed this project because of the focus on cross-cultural exchange and personal innovation. My group’s topic was Urban Mobility, and it was really enlightening to discuss the differences between major American cities and Brazilian cities like São Paulo. As a sociology concentrator, it was interesting for me to learn that the degree and depth of urban planning at the time of our distinct cities’ foundings continues to have an effect today in where the rich and the poor typically live, whether it be the urban center or the more far-removed outskirts, and what that means in terms of how a city functions. I arrive at the conclusion that the physical layout of a city is just as impactful to the overall well-being of that city as is its economic and social makeup. During my time in São Paulo I began to think of how urban planning can be used as a starting point to reverse negative trends in poverty, homelessness, and access to clean water, reliable transportation, sanitation, etc. This is a question that I hope to continue exploring at Harvard.   
Mayra and the gang at the Atibainha Reservior

Overall, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program. I had a wonderful time learning about sustainability efforts in Brazil and exploring São Paulo with my new Brazilian and American friends!