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Earth Day: "El Buen Vivir"

by Antonio Nuno on April 22, 2021


Earth Day

"The earth isn't our parent's heritage, it's our children's loan to us"
- Native American Proverb

Today we commemorate Mother Earth, the planet we live in and that gives us everything. We want to raise awareness on the way we treat it and what we can do better. Today, we fight against a myriad of problems related to the environment such as climate change, diminishing natural resources, droughts & water shortages, and even a worldwide pandemic. In Someone Somewhere, we are committed to making a long-lasting change through social entrepreneurship.

On this occasion, we talked to Enrique Rodríguez, our CFO (chief financial officer), on how to manage the problems that are arising from climate change. In his youth, Enrique started to visit rural and indigenous communities throughout Mexico and he noticed the difficulties they faced; as a result, he got a degree in Sustainable Development Engineering, so he could contribute to generating change in the world. Additionally, he co-founded Someone Somewhere, to collaborate with the artisans of these communities to generate dignified work and sustainable living wages. Nowadays, Enrique collaborates closely with the artisans which has led him to know first-hand their philosophy. Which upholds their relationship with the Earth as a central aspect of their personal lives and communities, and who they define as "el Buen Vivir". Come along and learn about this philosophy, how it can generate new perceptions on how we can relate to our environment.

Someone Somewhere (SS): What was your first contact with "El Buen Vivir"?
Enrique Rodríguez (Enrique): It was during my first trips to indigenous communities here in Mexico, I started to understand this world vision that diverges in many aspects from the western mindset. This left such an impact on me that I, slowly, started enrolling in courses about this subject and started living with different indigenous communities. I discovered that there are similarities in the mindsets shared between the rarámuris, the Wixárakas (Huicholes), the Me'phaas (Tlapenecos), the Zacatecas, the Tsotsiles, and even the Aymaras and Quechuas of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (where the academic term of El Buen Vivir was first coined). This term comes from the expression "sumak kawsay" which means "the good, the harmonious, life, existence" which to summarize, searched for ways to have a good life instead of a better one. This is because the search for a better way of living has a sense of progress, transformation, evolution, which opposes living good, which means to reach a state of harmony and peace without the need to consume the world around us. The latter is the stage we have reached as a society. We feel as if we own the earth and its natural resources, instead of feeling like we are its children and our duty is to cohabit this planet with other species; therefore, we must become managers of the Earth, not its exploiters.

SS: What do you believe we should learn from rural and indigenous communities that adhere to this philosophy, especially those communities where you have collaborated alongside the artisans for Someone Somewhere?
Enrique: One of the core community values I love is solidarity. They have a way of treating each other called tequio, faena, or "turned hand", where, if someone needs help with anything, their neighbors will come to aid. In return, the person receiving the aid will help them with whatever they might need. As a bonus, they could pay the other in-kind from their crops. I think that tradition is being lost nowadays because new generations seek payment and expect it from their favors, instead of helping for the sake of it.

SS: Which urgent environmental problems do you think we should tackle first?
Enrique: Climate change is one of them. It's today's most important issue. It's bigger than the Covid-19 pandemic and, sadly, the communities and the less developed countries are who will suffer the most from its repercussions. One of the biggest problems right now is the lack of drinking water in some communities. It's a very delicate crisis that is starting to hit Mexico: in Northern Mexico, the US and Mexico are competing for water because there isn't enough to water the crops in Colorado, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Texas. Another big problem we are facing is deforestation and ecosystems being lost to farmlands. This is where we get the greenhouse effect. Let's not get started with pollution, because the little drinking water we have, is being lost to it.

SS: How can we chip in to lessen this crisis?
Enrique: This way of life [El Buen Vivir] is living with only the necessary while avoiding resource accumulation. In the communities, for example, when they need mushrooms for their cuisine, they go and collect only enough for the day or week. That way, whenever they need them again, there's always enough in supply. This is also the case in the corn harvesting system called [Milpa], which is super sustainable because corn shares the land with beans, which in turn provides nitrogen to the soil that allows healthy corn growth. They also grow zucchini, which has big leaves that shade to the soil so the water from rainfall doesn't evaporate quickly while emitting odors that scare away insects. These three crops coexist in a symbiotic relationship; replenishing the soil with nutrients for future crops. It's foolish to crowd a plot of land with a single crop and then bombard it with fertilizers and pesticides, scarring the land, then move on to chop down a whole forest to restart the process again. All because the land isn't allowed to replenish its nutrients. Some communities have started to adopt this way of harvesting to adapt and become more competitive in the current market. We must learn that the land will give back as much it can if we take care of it, and can continue to do so for hundreds of years.

SS: Is there anything you want to add to encourage more people to join the fight against climate change?
Enrique: Earth Day serves to raise awareness, it acts to question our society, the effects we have brought upon the land, and think about the measures that we must take to secure a brighter future. The most important thing you can do is to head outdoors and immerse yourself in nature. So feel love and connection to it, and in turn, feel the need to care for it. Most of us living in cities have become disconnected from it. It's important to understand that, as Maná says, we are a generation that needs to think about where our children will play. Due to this, we have partnered with 500 other companies in the Net Zero initiative, where we have committed to offset and reduce all of our greenhouse emissions before the year 2030. In many instances, being a company means that you will negatively affect the environment, but you can also find ways to compensate or even mitigate your impact. In Someone Somewhere, over the past two years, we have been part of this pact and we have this decade to prepare ourselves for a not-so-easy but necessary change. This is the crisis we face as a civilization, and we have to be a part of its solution.

On behalf of the team in Someone Somewhere, we are glad to share this space with Enrique. His knowledge of El Buen Vivir and the environment is essential to us. Learn more about the Net Zero initiative in our Impact Report for 2020. Together we can make a change!