Who Killed Creativity? How Can We Get Creativity Back?

From the ashes: Mexico Neza Rubbish Dump


Why the Mexico rubbish dump dwellers might just save the planet.

Who Killed Creativity? (excerpt from book by Andrew & Gaia Grant)

If ever there was a place to abandon hope for civilisation, it would be found on the outskirts of one of the largest and most polluted cities in the world, in one of the poorest areas on earth. We still have a clear image in our heads of two nine-year-old children flying homemade kites, running as fast as they can.

Their kites soar four metres above our heads before suddenly plummeting onto a stinking pile of rubbish.

But this was not just an isolated tip. This mound was actually just a small part of a huge mountain of rubbish that stretched as far as the eye could see, at least a mile or two in each direction.

This constantly smouldering rubbish mountain is home to a whole community of people who fossick for scraps of food and collect recyclable materials to sell. Hundreds of people live here in houses knocked together out of discarded bits of tin and wood — people who have moved from the country looking for work, people who have fallen on hard times. And this is just one of four such rubbish mountain communities that ring Mexico City, between them housing literally thousands of impoverished people.

For the first time in history more people now live in cities than in rural areas. As we race into the future the pace of urbanisation will continue to increase. Billions more people will move into cities over this century, and as they do these fringe communities will continue to grow and evolve. The changes are too large and too fast to allow planners and policymakers to respond adequately. The down side of urbanisation is not inescapable, and it’s going to be a race between sigmoidal growth that could lead to an unavoidable reset and possible death and new growth from creative intervention and deliberate regeneration (back-burning).

As much as the Mexico City rubbish dump might sound like an exceptionally depressing place, we found there a vibrant community of purposeful people with winning smiles and positive attitudes. The houses were positioned along tidy streets carved through the piles of garbage and swept meticulously daily to give some semblance of order in chaos. Small ‘gardens’ (struggling plant cuttings in rusty old tins, old painted salsa jars and tyres) epitomised the spirit of hope and creative playfulness of the community. Although the children worked hard each day collecting the recyclables to contribute to the family income, they also had time to play — and to create. They made their kites out of discarded plastic and sticks, they constructed original playthings from toys wealthy children had discarded, putting together bits and pieces that other children would have found useless. Having nothing, and possibly because they had nothing, they were original and inventive. Rather than watching ready-made stories on TV and playing with ready-made toys, they worked from a clean slate, using their imagination to create what they did not have.

(Excerpt from book by Andrew & Gaia Grant. This video suppliments the book – made in 1991)