By David Norman
It was only a nine day trip that Eunice and I took to Mexico, D.F., but it was amazing. Even though there are incredible numbers of people packed into that relatively flat plateau, we saw some positive initiatives worth commenting on. We crammed into the city’s metro system that moves over 5 million people a day, and costs only 6 pesos (35 cents U.S.) to use. It’s fair to say, though, that we were not really ready for the serious pushing and shoving that goes on there during rush hours.
Another neat program being pushed by the city is the EcoBici bicycle accessibility program, which allows people to pick up a bike at any of many stations, ride it and leave it parked at another station. The cost is about 300 pesos (US $ 17) per year. As we walked around the city we would always see people making their way around on the EcoBicis. As another way to stimulate the use of bicycles the city periodically closes off some of its avenues to car traffic, allowing only the presence of bikers, skateboarders, joggers and walkers. Our first Sunday there we saw this along the big Reforma Boulevard and many thousands of Mexicans were taking advantage of it.
In such a crowded megalopolis with major waste disposal issues and so many people living on the edge, we saw what I thought was an innovative strategy to try to re-use and re-cycle waste by exchanging these items for food (tomatoes, amaranth, chickens, etc.) produced by small farmers.
Also, I couldn’t help but think about food security and environment impact issues when I saw all the stands selling the little fried minnows (called charales) and the crunchy cooked grasshoppers (called chapulines). Both were tasty, but I liked the chapulines more. When we talk about permaculture and sustainable living practices in the ICADS field course we like to emphasize how you need to “go with the flow.” So here in Mexico when farmers find great numbers of grasshoppers eating their plants they “go with the flow,” turning the insects into a food source. When we boated through the canals of Xochimilco among the man-made islands called chinampas, Eunice and I saw huge numbers of minnows in these semi eutrophic waters, and it occurred to me how a few net casts could catch a nice amount of protein.
Some parts of the D.F. are the result of long-term landscape planning, such as the rows of cypress trees (Taxodium mucronatum) planted when Moctezuma was in power. In what is today called Chapultepec Park we saw these monster trees, purportedly planted under the guidance of the noble Nezahualcoyotl, who governed the Texcoco Lake area from 1431 to 1492. When I saw the fine leaves and fruits I was reminded of the Bald Cypress in the Missouri bootheel, and only later learned that these Moctezuma cypresses belong to the very same genus.
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