Intentional disruption of path-dependencies in the Anthropocene: Gray versus green water infrastructure regimes in Mexico City, Mexico

David Manuel-Navarrete, Christopher Morehart, Beth Tellman, Hallie Eakin, J. Mario Siqueiros-García, Bertha Hernández Aguilar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Cities are urged to promote green infrastructures to reduce their global environmental impacts, while simultaneously adapting to the global climatic variability that such impacts generate. Human Niche Construction theory, however, predicts evolutionary pressures acting over social groups that, this paper contends, tend to favor gray over green infrastructure. This conflict is due to competitive advantages of gray infrastructure, such as their higher capacity to concentrate and intensively use natural resources. Cities need to intentionally override these evolutionary pressures to allow emergence of regimes where green solutions are the normal way of responding to infrastructure-related challenges and development. The override calls for understanding how infrastructure regime dynamics are historically constructed, and cultivating collective intentions capable of harnessing such dynamics. After conceptualizing the roles of evolution versus collective intentionality in infrastructure regime dynamics, we apply Foucauldian genealogical analysis to critically understand how and why the superiority of gray infrastructure became naturalized as truth in Mexico City, Mexico. The analysis explores how gray infrastructure momentum was built over history and the sporadic emergence of collective intentions to break it. Findings show that shifting to a green- infrastructure-dominated regime in Mexico City today would benefit from strategies that simultaneously promote technical, political and subjective changes. Purely technical efforts to promote regime shifts are doomed to fail. Decentralization, democratization, and cultivating certain collective intentions are key factors to override evolutionary pressures. In the context of the anthropocene and growing recognition of the importance of artificially created environments, we remphasize subjectivity and intentionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100209
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Climate variability
  • Deliberate transformations
  • Green
  • Human niche construction theory
  • Infrastructure
  • Mexico City
  • Path-dependencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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