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In Mexico City, a Green Revolution, One Lettuce at a Time

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 A green revolution is sweeping across the car and concrete jungle of Mexico City, an infamously smoggy capital that was once dubbed "Makesicko City" by novelist Carlos Fuentes.

Residents are growing vegetables on rooftops, planting trees where buildings once stood, hopping on bicycles and riding in electric taxis, defying the urban landscape in this metropolis of 20 million people and four million cars.

"This is our vote for the environment," said Elias Cattan, a 33-year-old bespectacled architect pointing to the lettuce, onions and chilies growing in a planting table and inside used tires on the balcony of his rooftop office.

"It's a window to the future and it is very important that we reconnect with the earth," he said as light rain fell on the sprouts atop the five-story building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

Like a growing number of chilangos -- as Mexico City residents are called -- Cattan bikes to work in a maze of roads renowned for their giant traffic jams.

Twenty years ago, the United Nations declared the Mexican capital the world's most polluted city. Fuentes envisioned black acid rain in his novel "Christopher Unborn," but in real life the air was so nasty that birds dropped dead in this megalopolis 2,240 meters (7,350 feet) above sea level.

While Mexico City still has high levels of pollutants, it has dropped off the top 10 blacklist, thanks to traffic restrictions and the closure of factories but also because other cities have become grimier.

The left-wing city government has carried out a "green plan" since 2007 to clean up the capital, but many citizens have also taken it upon themselves to change their habits.

The city has placed 500,000 plants across the city, expanded a popular bicycle loan program, opened a new subway line and launched an "eco" bus that runs on natural gas.

Electric, zero-emission taxis began buzzing in the city center this year. The vehicles recharge in power stations that get 25 percent of their energy from solar panels. Fully powered up, the cabs can run for six hours straight.


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