Updated: May 19, 2022
My name is Fabricio, I am 21 years old, and I am an ecological, regenerative activist. Today I want to tell you about how the simple act of growing your food can change your perspective of nature, community, the problems of climate crisis and even food itself. The root problem with climate change is a deep and perpetual disconnection with nature and with each other. The reality is that most people do not know where their food comes from, it would seem that they are so bound to supermarkets, as if you show a person a carrot seed in most cases, they will have no idea what it is. Moreover, if you show them a carrot, most people are perfectly aware of the shape, flavor, color, and two places where they are sold. However, the disconnection that exists between people, at least in Mexico, and the planet is even deeper and critical than we would like to admit.
In fact, in vast territories of the Mexican Republic the social fabric is completely broken. We are not ignorant of the symbolic and physical border that separates us from the Global North, "the first world", from the United States of America. In addition to this border within Mexico there are even more terrible borders such as economic, social class, ethnic, justice, power, gender, etc. The question here is how you rebuild a social fabric that is not only broken but violent, racist, and politically motivated. Another problem that exists throughout Mexico is poor diet. It is estimated that obesity causes the death of more than 200,000 human beings a year in Mexico. The main factor related to these deaths is the diet from ultra-processed products with excess sugar, fat, sodium and calories. It should be noted that many of these products were exported, distributed and advertised by foreign multinationals, the main Coca-Cola.
The solution that we propose with community gardens addresses these problems from a regenerative perspective, but what does this mean? Well, basically, the regenerative perspective means putting life at the center of every action and decision. Community gardens are not only the reflection of the efficiency of a green and ecological urbanization, but they are centers of education, adventure, exploration, reconnection, experimentation, therapy, they are safe places for people who do not feel safe even in their own homes.
Let me give you an example. In Mexico City and its metropolitan area there is a municipality called Ecatepec. This community has a population of 1.6 million inhabitants. This zone on the city’s suburbs is a marginalized area, with a high crime rate, social exclusion and where water is used as a means of citizen oppression. The idea of community gardens is difficult to imagine but it is not something impossible if the system is adapted to its possibilities of water consumption, time and space.
Dayra Fyah, a women activist and rapper who lives in Ecatepec, said “Ecatepec is a dormitory space, this means that most of the people who live in Ecatepec do not work there and very early in the morning most of the people leave from there to work in the city and return late at night. During their absence a lot of young women and men are left alone in their homes, and they become easy prey of organized crime, drugs, marginalization, etc”. The lack of access to education, long working hours, precarious or non-existent basic services, and disadvantageous economic situation distances itself from the romantic notion of the community garden, the promotion of a better diet and the application of laws that favor the installation of community gardens requires transversal thinking.
Solving the climate crisis cannot be solved by community gardens alone but the fact is that when you talk to people about climate change, and the idea of a future existential threat is too conceptual, not to mention that most of the people in Mexico have basic priorities such as bringing food to the table, being careful when walking in the street and having enough money to pay their children's school. They do not have time or energy to fight or mitigate climate change or get to “net zero” in thirty years. Therefore, the way of solving climate change must be by addressing current human needs because if there are not tangible benefits for an individual or family you won’t have their attention. Community gardens are and can shape a significant shift towards engaging people to reverse the climate crisis and create a more practical, symbiotic relationship with nature and a world where we can fit all.
Community gardens in Mexico give a space for education to all ages, they erase and teach other people to erase food waste with composts, they create safe spaces for people in marginalized communities, lower crime and create the need to eat healthy. They also have substantial savings in food and improve food security, improve the landscape, save water by the use of rainwater, strengthen communities that are already organized, and begin to demand from the authority's improvements in security, health and infrastructure. Since they lost their fear by meeting and working together, people already have the power to move forward together. These trends are occurring all over Mexico City and Mexico.
The following are a few of the anonymous heroes who made it possible, and it is important I mention them: Huerto Tlatelolco, Cultivo de Autor, Árbol Chiquito, Huerto Urbano Jako, Siembra (IEMS), Cooperativa agraria Red de Huertos Urbanos, Huerto Romita, EarthBox México, Jardines Comestibles, Huerto Roma Verde, Huerto Comunitario San Agustin. It is a difficult and bumpy road ahead but reversing the climate crisis must be an outcome. Regenerating human health, building community gardens, security and well-being, biodiversity, strengthening communities and justice is the purpose.
As Paul Hawken said, beliefs do not change actions. Actions change beliefs and not only these, but your actions change other people’s beliefs as well. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done but today in Mexico community gardens are front a center in engaging people into action. Collectives and community gardens in México do not emerge from the government or institutions; they begin with one person and then another, an idea of seeing something going on and thinking we can do better. The Mayans say: time is not money; time is art and community gardens in Mexico are time turned into a work of art.