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Hikers to the Rescue: When Environmental Awareness Drives the Regeneration of Spaces

The pandemic set a precedent for people to seek escape to nature. Thus, the hills and mountains in Mexico began to be more visited for hiking or activities related to them. In addition, social networks helped to trend ¨trepar cerros¨ as a healthy alternative and, above all, to take pictures. However, not all hikers share the same vision.

In the search for practices related to regenerative tourism, which are references for those who practice activities in nature, we approached two examples of environmental/social action in Morelia, Michoacán.

It all starts with a seed: Semcon

Salvador Ceballos has always appreciated nature and started actively hiking eight years ago. Although he somehow thought it was time to give back to the mountains for the pleasant hikes, the triggers for starting Semcon (Sowing Consciousness) were twofold. First, the drastic change in land use in the hills he visited, mainly because of the avocado trees.

"They were burning to plant it, there was transformation in the ecosystems, water scarcity... You are amazed by the mountain, but at the same time you glimpse the degradation ..."


All this, plus the increase in visitors, accelerated the changes.

As a second trigger, it came to his attention that, during his hikes, other hikers were carrying bags and picking up trash.

"... Then I came across agency signs with invitations to hike and saw that they generated some impact, I thought they could be used, but to generate environmental awareness and decided to start with Semcon at the end of 2018."


His proposal consists of installing signs on the summits of Michoacán's hills with phrases that invite people to create ecological awareness. The main idea is to set an example to other hikers. It also includes handing out garbage bags to clean up the dirtiest areas.

"Semcon does not seek to be a garbage collector, but to raise awareness about waste, even if you didn't generate it; whatever you can get down is enough.".


To do so, he created a logo, a Facebook page, bought sacks and spread the word among different groups of hikers. It was necessary to think of a friendly design for the signs that would invite the surrounding communities to create empathy for the environment, so there are signs with legends in Purépecha (the language of the native people of that state).

The project had a good response from people, many wanted to join, helped put up signs or deposited for materials. He received messages from friends saying that they had seen the signs and had picked up trash.

"There is a lot of potential in hikers, as well as a lot of work to be done... You don't need to do something of global impact when you can start local, with ourselves.".


Semcon still has many plans for the future such as generating a program to re-educate pre-school children in communities at the foot of the mountains, according to him, children are the main seedbeds.

Let's go further! With environmental will and social mobilization 

José Torres is one of the founders of Voluntariado Forestal A.C., a civil society project organized for the recovery of public and private natural spaces. His work is mainly concentrated in the Natural Protected Area-Cerro del Punhuato, a site adjacent to Morelia, where volunteers are called every week to participate in reforestation or monitoring activities (irrigation, weeding, weed removal).

logo sowing awareness

Its objective is to promote citizen participation towards a sustainable, responsible and proactive environmental culture. To this end, the association provides facilities such as transportation, tools, and training to those who wish to participate. 

"Will, heart and effort is all we ask for, according to your possibilities. I consider that no one is so small that he cannot give something of himself, every effort and person counts.".


In two years the association has reforested approximately 3500 trees and has raised the awareness of a similar number of people, who recognize the effort behind planting and maintaining a tree.

This initiative began with a group of hikers who value nature; however, they observed the rapid deterioration of the places they visited: logging, changes in the soil and overcrowding of spaces.

"Everyone wanted to go, but we didn't want anyone else to go." .


The situation was further aggravated after the pandemic with the increase of more aggressive activities with the environment (racers, motocross, to mention a few).

However, the central trigger was a large fire on the Cerro del Punhuato, burning 80% of the surface.

"First we feel frustration because the beautiful things we knew would be lost; then acceptance... everything will be lost because you can't convince or stop everyone. Under this premise, we began to visualize what we could do, so we chose the joy "...and of what is lost, whatever appears". The last feelings were the will and hope... as far as it will go"..


The association believes that as long as there are people with the "will" to do things, it will find the means to take advantage of their help. For José, many people feel hopeless because they believe that their actions are insufficient, but in reality they are just misguided.

While it took time and effort for the volunteers to figure out what to do, how to do it, and with whom, they have now built an excellent community that enjoys their activities.

"Rather than considering it a workday, we come here to share, to have breakfast here, to escape from the city"..


Some recommendations 

Salvador invites us to: ask ourselves what motivates us to climb a mountain; take responsibility for our actions; give back to the mountain for what we enjoy; consider that small actions make a difference and understand that if we do not respect these places, we will not be able to enjoy them.

José recommends that we know, live and respect the mountain. That we feel that it is ours, because without a sense of belonging it is easy to look in other directions when things are bad.

The real reforestation is in all of you. We probably won't live long enough to see the trees planted in all their splendor, but I like to think that someone will enjoy their shade and that they will have at least a chance to create a better world.¨


What can you do to improve your environment?

To learn more about the projects 




Instagram @vforestal.morelia

*Associated to the Researchers Program of COMECYT.

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