Throwing away organic waste and mixing it with general rubbish is one of those things you are almost physically unable to do once you have learnt to compost. Still, in most cities, this is far from a simple thing to do. Today kicks off international compost awareness week and it has reminded me that our relationship with waste is of a very personal nature and I thought I would share “my compost story.”

Our current bokashi compost system

As a child growing up in a rural part of Colombia I was raised to respect and value nature. After all, my parents had done their utmost…

Over the December break I read a book called ‘Socrates Express’ by Eric Weiner, it is a sort of life manual based on the teachings of a number of philosophers who have long ago left this earth. After a year of reckoning with the fragility of human existence, this book was most timely and reminded me how important it is to ask big questions while engaging in small actions –both essential to avoid despair.

Consider walking, a seemingly simple activity for able-bodied people, which also frames our outlook of the world in profound ways. In the book, Jean Jacques Rousseau

Photo by Lisa Burnell | Open Streets Day Observatory 2013

A group of transport academics and activists based in different parts of the Americas convened an online discussion about mobility justice on December 10th, 2020. It was inspired by a document entitled ‘Untokening 1.0 — Principles of Mobility Justice’ produced by a similar group based in the US.

The principles aim to use “‘mobility injustice’ to name the intersectional unsafeties and attacks that people from marginalized groups experience in public spaces such as streets, transit systems, and the governance processes that lay claim to regulate those spaces.”[1]

The idea of translating those principles into Spanish came up last year and…

Temporary bike lane in Bogota (Photo by IDRD)

If anyone had told me that ‘open streets’ (temporary car-free streets) would be part of the discussion in how to tackle a global pandemic, I would have not believed it 6 months ago but a look at social media or transport and urban related articles show that the concept has taken hold, and it might be here to stay.

This moment, perhaps as all crises do, has pushed many of us involved in the movement to look at ourselves in the mirror and raise difficult questions about the concept as a whole. How does it respond to needs on the…

A clock in downtown frozen in time

I recently spent a year in Bogotá, Colombia — the longest period of time in the country of my birth since leaving 23 years ago. Being back in South Africa now, the country where I’ve spent most of my adult life, has reminded me that this journey of finding a place to call home is marred with all sorts of detours. In that process, we learn interesting things about the human experience and this year has given me lessons about language, social norms and memories amongst others. Here’s a take on the ones I think I have figured out:

  1. The…

A couple of years ago I contracted a nasty type of flu during a trip, when I returned home my partner, having greater awareness than me, implemented some measures to ensure he didn’t get infected. It led to one of the biggest fights we have had. I felt alone and completely rejected by him. It didn’t matter how rational and science-based his explanations were to me. I went into a mini depression and allowed a multitude of negative and irrational thoughts to control my mood. At the end of the short period of distancing, the method worked. …

Bogota held a ‘car free day’ yesterday and I basked in the joy of seeing the city turn into a bicycle heaven, but also experienced a sense of paradox, a sentiment consistent with my overall experience living here for the past year.

There was a clear increase in bicycles and the diversity in people riding –including some young children- was truly inspiring, nevertheless, a heightened level of impatience was also palpable. In recent years, with the advent of food delivery by bicycle, cycling through the city can be a stressful endeavour and getting overtaken by reckless riders is an every…

Photo Fernando Caro

Today, 45 years ago, Ciclovia was born in Bogotá. Jaime Ortiz Mariño, Fernando Caro Restrepo and Rodrigo Castaño Valencia, successfully lobbied local government to shut down 5 kilometres of one of the major artery of Colombia’s capital. They had just changed the history of this place.

I had the fortune of meeting Jaime many years later while I was working in South Africa with a team of my own to do something similar in Cape Town. Recently, I learnt that it all started while they were visiting Amsterdam and saw masses of people on bicycles. The looked at each other…

This morning I wept as I was cycling to a meeting. It was the first time I felt deeply emotional despite the collective emotion on the streets of the city over the last five days. I had just come across a young woman with a sign on her backpack that read: “Esmad, I don’t want to die the way Dilan did.” …

The Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra in concert

My therapist used to be amused, if not slightly annoyed, at my inability to understand why we needed to talk about the same issue repeatedly. I would try to move the conversation along by saying that we had already covered it and she would remind me with kindness that this was the point of treatment, to delve into the issues over and over until there was a sense of understanding. And this would invariably take multiple iterations.

These past few days, the two places I call home are reminding me of that painful process. On the one hand, Colombia saw…

Marcela Guerrero Casas

I am passionate about cities, public space & community engagement. Born in Colombia, I have spent my adult life in the US & South Africa. Cape Town is home.

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