Cañón de Sumidero, Humanity’s Trash Problem, and Personal Footprints

One of the main draws to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas is heading to Cañón de Sumidero and taking a boat tour. It’s incredibly beautiful; huge waterfalls on the sides of the canyon, monkeys and crocodiles by the banks, a nice breeze. But halfway through the tour, we ran into a huge swath of plastic trash in the water. The boat operator said that it usually comes from the streams and rivers that run off into the canyon and river during particularly rainy periods.

Everyone in the boat shook their heads, tsk, tsk, tsk. We shouldn’t be littering, etc. At the end, where the the state of Chiapas has built a hydro plant, the boat had to turn around. But before, we connected with another boat that was selling chips and sodas in plastic bottles. After an hour or so, people wanted a snack. No one was tsk tsk tsking anymore.

Our problem with trash is systemic. It might not be enough to just throw our trash in the proper receptacle.

After seeing this, Patricia and I decided we would try even harder to abstain from buying plastic. We have Nalgene water bottles. When we are at a restaurant or tienda, we ask if we can refill our bottles (and offer to pay). Usually, they use bigger reusable water jugs. It’s not perfect but it does cut down on our personal footprint.

We can get mad, sad, (eco-)anxious, and wring our hands about the future of our planet. But let’s remember that we can take action in our own lives and communities. It might already be too late, but we can at least try.

Later, I’ll write something about our move to vegetarianism. Much later, I hope to write something about how Islam has informed my socialism, and how socialism has informed my choice for vegetarianism.


The first year of my thirties was filled with firsts. After a couple years teaching first grade, I moved over to try teaching EAL to students who needed more practice outside of their classrooms. I also tried teaching Information Technology. Admittedly, that didn’t go very well, due to equipment and wifi issues. But it was something I had wanted to try.

A few days more and it will break my longest time on the road. In 2012, I spent a few months in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. I also celebrated my 25th birthday with an epic hike near Maliville, Guinea with two Peace Corps Guinea volunteers.

My thirty-first year, starting today, will be more traveling, working towards competency in proofreading to maintain a location-independent lifestyle, and more blogging and writing. As I mentioned in a microblog post, we’ve started eating exclusively vegetarian. A place like Mauritania will be really difficult, but right now, it’s great. I’ve seen too many videos about the meat production industry, so I’m committing to it this year.

Patricia’s birthday is in two days, and we celebrate both on 23 September. We’re in Zipolite, Mexico and will head to Chiapas in a few days. We’re still in the first country on our trip, and itching to see more. Here’s to another great year.