Theory and practice are two completely different dimensions. Two worlds that function in a different way. Having received some background in Sustainable Development, I realized the necessity for a more sustainable living on an individual level. In my eyes, it was necessary, but very difficult to achieve, especially in the framework of the consumption society we are part of. The challenge for me came from the fact that in theory I knew what could be done, but I had never seen it in practice. But then the realization happened. After visiting the eco-center CEDER found by the organization GRUPEDSAC in Mexico, my eyes were opened by the powerful force of reality.
CEDER answered all the questions I had previously asked myself about how people can live in a sustainable manner. Situated in a mountainous region in Mexico, the eco-center was found in 1993- a few years after a report on pollution stated that Mexico City had the highest pollution in the globe. 26 after that, CEDER keeps revealing how a person can live in unison with nature in the 21st century.
One of the milestones of CEDER’s philosophy is to live within nature without taking away from it. This idea illustrates a full closed cycle where people plant their own food, build their own houses from soil, gather rain water during the rain season in cisterns and degrade their waste which is later used for fertilization. I was surprised to see how the basic human needs can be satisfied without causing harm to nature. The houses in CEDER are built using the method of rammed earth construction. This means that sand, gravel, silt, clay and a bit of cement are compressed and placed between formwork (flat panels). The walls are later painted with a paint obtained from a type of cactus grown within the eco-space. The building technology is not only helpful for the environment as it uses minimal amounts of cement, but is also anti-seismic. Margarita who is the founder of the eco-center is the portrayal of a person whose goal is Sustainability. Except for building the center where she organizes workshops about sustainable living, she also helps people living in poverty by educating them how to build their own houses and how to obtain resources from the environment without taking away from it. Margarita shares that 30 square meters of land are sufficient to feed a 5 member family. The concept that she advocates and tries to pass down as knowledge to the poor is how to use minimum amount of land for maximum amount of resources.
Transferring the knowledge to the poor, according to CEDER’s beliefs, consists of training and supervising people in the process of construction and adoption of sustainable practices. This approach encompasses the idea behind Sustainability in its three dimensions-economic, environmental, and social. CEDER’s community aid those in need to create better living conditions by using wisely the natural surroundings. And what is even more philanthropic on the side of CEDER is that they provide others with a set of very useful skills which can be later utilized for future work opportunities.
Walking around the eco-center and constructing a fruit drier out of pieces of wood and net with the fellow Carlos who was talking to us in Spanish and teaching us how to assemble the different parts together, living sustainably seemed realistic and possible to me. It even looked easy. It only had to be embedded as an idea in our daily life. I couldn’t say it better than Margarita, a wise and inspiring lady, driving change in her community, “People need to be educated. Not just how to read and write, but how to live in harmony with Mother Nature.”
*Go to https://vimeo.com/222603086?ref=fb-share&1 to see CEDER’s mission