(All photos courtesy of Común Tierra)
Editor’s note: In November of 2010, as I was winding down my journey through the Americas, documenting sustainability initiatives in the 10 countries I visited, my path crossed with that of Ryan Luckey and Leticia Rigatti, the couple who make up Común Tierra. They were doing exactly what I had wanted to do but ran out of time, funds and energy. They have spent the past four years creating a body of work that is unparalleled in this area, planting seeds of sustainability as they go with their workshops and seed bank and presentations. Their journey carried them throughout the Americas aboard the Minhoca, a motor home outfitted with a wide range of “ecotecnias” or ecological technologies that help the travelers live in a way that’s consistent with their values, while making their home a rolling demonstration project for sustainability.
Call of Quetzalcoatl: Materializing the Vision November 23, 2013Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Ecovillages, Healing retreats, Indigenous culture, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability , 12comments
TEMICTLA, Mexico – If there were ever any doubt that Quetzalcoatl lives, that doubt was dispelled in one moist, glistening, luminous week in the heart of Mexico.
Here in Temictla, a sacred valley, a tiny ecovillage and spiritual retreat center on the edge of Chalmita, a pilgrimage destination to millions of people of diverse traditions, a far-flung family reunited under the light of a waxing moon in November of 2013. It’s a family of many nations and many traditions, a family whose multitudinous members have dedicated themselves heart and soul to the survival of humanity and of life on Earth.
From caterpillars to butterflies: Mayan dreams for 2012 January 1, 2012Posted by Tracy in : Sustainability , 1 comment so far
The last golden rays of 2011 slipped away gloriously yesterday, lingering across the chalky face of the Pinnacles, an ancient towering limestone formation in the north of Boone County, Missouri – one of the places on this planet I will always call home.
The unseasonable warmth had us removing layers as we scrambled up to catch a glimpse of the world from on high. Another climatic oddity in a year that was full of them. Change is in the air, for those with eyes to see: We are closing the book on a year that saw vast swaths of the American Southwest go up in smoke, millions of dollars of hurricane damage in Vermont, a monster tornado that erased big chunks of Joplin, massive flooding in Australia, the Phillippines and Southeast Asia and record-breaking heat waves in Europe and much of the United States.
My mother’s garden in the Missouri countryside was cooked before it could be harvested. Where I live, in Mexico, widespread crop failure due to extended drought pushed more subsistence farmers to leave the land for the traffic-choked cities or for a desperate, life-threatening dash for El Norte, the forbidden promise of employment across the northern border. But today, on this balmy December day, global warming seems a welcome respite from the bone-chilling cold that usually accompanies us at this time of year. So I won’t complain.
Much has been written about this turning of the ages; no place on Earth is more excited about the Mayan prophecies than Mexico, birthplace of the Mayan calendar that ends this year. To me, it’s impossible not to link this prophecy with the profound changes we are facing. I’m not speaking of Armageddon – rather, a time of reckoning as we end a cycle of industrial excess. The Mayan people I have spoken with are laughing at the notion that the end of the calendar means the end of the world. It’s simply the end of a cycle, and the beginning of a new one, they reassure anyone who asks. But in more serious conversations, they shared with me their hope, as fervent as my own, that a long-awaited shift is pending, and in fact has already begun.
“After five centuries of oppression, we’re ready for a change,” Rony, a Mayan friend from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, told me. “It’s the only hope we have.”
Meet Anna and Dave, the Permacyclists July 14, 2011Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , add a comment
Meet Dave and Anna, the Permacyclists.
She was a corporate lawyer from Brussels; he was a sociologist from New York. Neither of them was happy with their chosen profession, and after a great deal of soul searching, they decided to do what many dream of but few actually do: They quit their jobs, studied permaculture, bought bicycles and headed off across Africa, pedaling and working their way through 12 countries, 12,000 kilometers and 16 months from organic farm to organic farm, sharing what they’d learned along the way.
Now they’ve landed in Mexico and are launching a Phase 2 of their journey, but with a difference. This time they’re bringing a video camera and sound equipment, and documenting the stories of people working on solutions to the many environmental problems they have learned about in their travels. Their goal is to make it to the Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012. And this time they’re going by bus, instead of bike, to give them time to do reporting, writing and producing for their blog.
I was inspired by their story and by their plan, since in some ways it parallels my own – so we got together and shared stories. Here’s a little bit of theirs.
At home with the Subcoyote February 21, 2010Posted by Tracy in : Ecovillages, Latin America, Mexico, Mexico City, Sustainability, Tepoztlan , add a comment
Outside in the darkness, up in the hills not far from here, a chorus of coyotes is greeting the coming of the dawn. How appropriate, I think with a smile. Here in Huehuecoyotl, place of the old, old coyote, I’ve just bid farewell to the greatest coyote of all, Subcoyote Alberto Ruz Buenfil, who is letting me use his home as a base for a few days. Now it’s his time to head into Mexico City, where he is taking the lessons of the Rainbow Caravan for Peace into the barrios of that other place of coyotes, Coyoacán.
Greening the barrios in Mexico City October 28, 2009Posted by Tracy in : Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Sustainability, Uncategorized , add a comment
Saving your garbage is a tough sell in a place where gardening is seen as peasant labor. But that doesn’t stop Dulce María Vega from rolling up her sleeves, going door-to-door and recruiting her neighbors for a grand mission.
Dulce is the friendly face of sustainability in her neighborhood. With more than 30,000 residents, Lomas de Plateros is one of Mexico City’s largest apartment complexes. When she first teamed up with Noelle Romero of Organi-K, a local environmental group, to establish a pilot Ecobarrios project at the massive complex, people thought she’d lost her senses.
A farm with art – and heart July 6, 2009Posted by tracybarnett in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , 4comments
After a month of travel, these thirsty boots were aching for something more than the road — a place to dig in and put down some roots in the heart of this vast city. And right in the heart of one of its most blighted neighborhoods, I found it.It’s a place where I can roll up my sleeves, grab a tray of squash seedlings and a shovel and put them in the ground. A place where I can reach down and run my fingers through dirt as soft and rich as that of my mother’s garden. A place that draws kindred spirits from far and wide and from right next door to work that soil. Folks like Cidette, who worked side-by-side with me to plant about 100 squash plants on Saturday, and a host of others who have contributed to an exuberantly lush expanse of vegetable abundance on a back street in Houston’s Fifth Ward.
The Last Organic Outpost is more than a garden, it’s an urban farm. It’s the brainchild and the lifework of Joe Nelson Icet, who has poured his sweat and his muscle and his life’s savings into this acreage and the other lot that surrounds his home.
“It’s not just about gardening; it’s about building a community,” Joe said.
About 10 years ago Joe was trying to figure out what to do with himself after a rough divorce. His job as a refrigeration maintenance man paid the bills, but didn’t fill the hole in his soul. He was looking for a mission, and as he began to plow up his yard and fill it with vegetables, he found it: to create an urban farm belt on the vacant lots in the inner city.
He found other abandoned lots to cultivate, and a community of people to help him. He found artists to come and lend their creative touch to the spot. And then he found the love of his life to help him – or, more accurately, she found him.
The vivacious Marcella Murff is now the red-haired, barbecue-cooking, bikini-wearing muse of the garden, and Joe’s never been happier.
I discovered the Outpost just days before departing for a monthlong global sojourn, and I lamented the fact that I wouldn’t be around to help for awhile.
“No worries,” said Marcella brightly. “Just think of how your garden will have grown when you come back.”
The whole story is here in Lisa Gray’s account in the Houston Chronicle, the article that first led me to Joe, and I’ll always be grateful.
“Fertility is the gateway to the soul,” Joe told me. “We start with the land and we heal it, and we end up healing ourselves.”
I looked around me at the assorted crew that had gathered to weed and hoe, a group as diverse as the vegetables they’d come to tend; I looked down at my own too-white, too-soft hands, and I saw that he was right. I grabbed a shovel and I dug in.