Selene Gonzales Carrillo is an environmental advocate and change-maker based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Originally born in the dry, desert-like state of Zacatecas, her family immigrated to the United States when she was four years old. While she grew up in the United States, she never lost her connection to Mexico – she visited the village where she was born every year, and found great joy in speaking Spanish.
Selene originally planned on becoming a teacher – but something in her changed when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. She was in an environmental studies class in university hundreds of miles away, and a professor showed them a picture of the hurricane and said, “This could be avoided.” This was the turning point for Selene: she realized that no one could stop natural disasters, but by working with people and their environments, she could help prevent the kind of devastation that had hit New Orleans.
And so began Selene’s lifelong passion for environmental justice. She moved to Guadalajara (in Jalisco, the state that neighbors her home state) to pursue her master’s in environmental education. However, Selene also educated herself in the streets of Guadalajara by exploring grassroots environmental initiatives. And this inspired her and a group of friends to found a collective called Ecopatío, whose mission is to bring increased visibility to community-driven environmental initiatives that were hidden across the sprawling metropolis. They bring this visibility in two ways: the first is an online guide of these community businesses and projects, and a bicycle tour of a select number of these sites called Ecopaseo (which also serves the goal of helping people lessen their fears around using bicycles as a form of transportation in the city).
Ecopatío’s approach to this form of living documentation is unique – they are not looking to be the most comprehensive or extensive guide to the city. They value quality over quantity – the volunteers take the time to get to know each individual initiative and the people behind them. They want future consumers and allies to understand the stories behind these products and projects because Selene and her colleagues believe that relationships matter. They are in no rush – they are fueled by the passion of their volunteer members, and slowly but surely are adding new initiatives to their guide and tour. This approach gives Ecopatío the time to reflect on the change they are bringing, be aware of their own processes, and help others as much as they can.
Selene believes that we need to develop more local definitions of sustainability – it isn’t enough to repeat the United Nations definition, as sustainability will mean something different in every community. She believes that humans are fundamentally good at heart, and with some time and forgiveness and love, we can figure this out together. And she believes the people who will accomplish this will be ordinary people who discover that they have the power to protect their families, their communities, and their environment.