Energy justice and the consolidated informal city : sustainability and energy use in Colonias Populares, Mexico City




Reyes Sanchez, Ariadna Itzel

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Even though consolidated informal settlements constitute most of the urban land of Mexico City, there is a poor understanding of how people use energy in these communities. By examining energy consumption associated with self-help consolidation, the daily household energy consumption and people’s job commuting practices, my dissertation provides a complete energy assessment of consolidated informal settlements. My dissertation draws on energy justice theory, which states the urban poor use less energy than upper-income residents despite their lack of access to technological innovations. I conducted empirical research in Isidro Fabela, a consolidated informal settlement in Mexico City characterized by a vibrant local retail economy and excellent access to high-capacity public transportation. This prime location has triggered private-led densification, as private developers replace self-help housing units with taller residential buildings occupied by upper-income residents. At the same time, low-income residents are moving to government-financed housing developments on the outskirts of Mexico City, including the community of Los Alamos. To assess the impact of location on transportation energy use, I therefore documented commuting practices of residents in Los Alamos as well as in Isidro Fabela. The data suggests that self-help builders in Isidro Fabela implement low-energy self-help building techniques use less household energy than the average for Mexico City, while the local retail economy allows residents to stay and work in small local businesses and consume local products. The average job commuting time in Isidro Fabela is also just one-third of that in Los Alamos. However, even though Isidro Fabela is an energy-just community that allows low-income families to stay in the central city, the shortcomings of self-help consolidation pose risks to their quality of life. Because residents in Isidro Fabela contribute to sustainability and climate change mitigation, policies should center on improving residents’ quality of life and allowing them to remain in the community.



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