The broader impacts of 19S are not due to the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, but to the lack of a comprehensive response to emergencies, to reconstruction, and in particular due to the absence of a public risk management policy. In one of the world’s largest cities, where sociopolitical dynamics are complex, how should we understand this problem while facing the human loss and damage to homes, schools, and workplaces that disrupts daily life? How do we demand a forward-thinking approach to emergency response?
Mexico City, built on the basin of Lake Texcoco, is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. The most affected areas are located along the edges of the now-extinct lake. Geography is not the culprit; vulnerability to disasters has increased due to excessive draining of groundwater, which is exacerbated by logging on cliffsides that had once helped retain water. The risk is accentuated by the absence of regulation around people self-building homes, in oversight of new developments, and in emergency protocols. Moreover, city planning regulations primarily benefit real estate companies, and lack of risk management increases the challenges posed by geography.
Listening to and acknowledging the voices of our affected neighbors is indispensable, as is enriching them with the experiences and assessments that have emerged from NGOs, scholars, and experts on earthquakes and related responses. It’s necessary to share information and transform it into governmental action. As citizens, we must demand that reconstruction efforts account for environmental justice and the guarantee of human rights for all those who live in, work in, or visit the city.
Our Point of View
We understand Environmental Justice to mean: measures and actions seeking to benefit all living beings through the equitable distribution of the resources needed to achieve good quality of life sustainably and without harm to others. We believe that justice begins with acknowledging the problem.
On September 19, 2017 (19S), a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City, causing loss of life and extensive damage. The memory of 19S is bittersweet; even though two years have passed, reconstruction is ongoing, and in some cases it hasn’t begun. In the aftermath of the disaster, there was a major disparity between the State’s response, marked by its absence, and that of civil society, which overflowed with solidarity. Now that time has passed, neither victims nor reconstruction seem to be anyone’s priority.
The earthquake was a watershed moment in the life of Mexico City, prompting questions such as: What did we as a city learn about comprehensive risk management? What are our vulnerabilities? What path can we take towards safety? Can we rebuild in a way that will improve environmental justice?
The stories presented here were developed in collaboration with C19s, an NGO. They arose from efforts to support our affected neighbors, evaluate public policy, and attempt to influence it. Articulating and outlining the different reconstruction-related problems for both students and the general public has been a challenge, but we believe we have managed to shed light on important points in the midst of such uncertainty.
—Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa