Disposable Earth

Stephen Hawking's recent call for the colonization of space is, as Gristmill recently pointed out, often derided as the concept of a "disposable earth", a wishful-thinking scenario where, when this Earth is too damaged and resource-poor to support us, we can just sail off into space to find what we need elsewhere. The BBC borrowed the term for "Disposable Planet?", a six-part online series discussing the problems of using our resources to support a growing population today while leaving a habitable world for tomorrow. Perhaps the most interesting feature contained in the series is "A tale of two cities", a comparison of Alexandra, a township of Johannesburg, and the city of Curitiba, Brazil, which examines the role of urban planning and what it can — and can't — fix, as well as the close connection between urban poverty and the front lines of the fight for sustainability.One of the most striking of Curitiba's environmental efforts is not its famed public transportation system, used by 75% of commuters, or its extensive park system, more than three times larger than World Health Organization recommendations, but rather its unusual recycling program, which trades food to low-income families and supplies to schools for their recyclable waste. This program is also used to collect ordinary household waste in slum areas where the streets won't allow garbage trucks to pass. Curitiba has a long-standing reputation of innovative and sustainable planning, dating back to an initiative that came in response to the urbanization trend of the 1960s. [Image of Curitiba by Mathieu Struck, used with permission of the the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License] [Written by: Eva Jacobus]