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EarthTalk: What is the ‘green cities’ movement?

Since 1970s, loose association of conservation-minded urban areas has grown up worldwide.

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The skyline in Curitiba, Brazil, is accentuated by green spaces with extensive gardens and free-flowing waterfalls in a park near the city's botanical gardens.

JILL WENDHOLT SILVA/KANSAS CITY STAR/NEWSCOM/FILE

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Q: What is the “green cities” movement?
John Moulton, Greenwich, Conn.

A: A loose association of cities focused on sustainability, the “green cities” movement encompasses thousands of urban areas around the world all striving to lessen their environmental impacts by reducing waste, recycling more, cutting emissions, increasing housing density while expanding open space, and encouraging the development of sustainable local businesses.

Perhaps the archetypal green city is Curitiba, Brazil. When architect and urban planner Jamie Lerner became mayor in 1972, he closed six blocks of the city’s central business district to cars, delighting residents and business owners alike. Today the car-free zone is three times larger and is the heart of this bustling metropolis. Mayor Lerner also put in place a high-tech bus system, greatly reducing traffic and pollution; the move also encouraged density around transit hubs, thereby preserving open space in other areas. Today, three-quarters of the city’s 2.2 million residents use the bus daily.

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