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.

Coca-Cola sucking wells dry in indigenous Mexican town

Harriet Agerholm writing at the Independent:

Natural supplies have run out in the indigenous town of San Felipe Ecatepec in the state of Chiapas, southern Mexico, meaning people must walk for two hours to fetch drinking water, one former local official said.

A nearby bottling plant, run by Mexican company FEMSA, consumed 1.08 million litres of water a day in 2016, according to reports.

Although Chiapas has the highest level of renewable water resources per capita in Mexico, one in three people in rural regions reportedly lack safe drinking water. Climate change and outbreaks of salmonella have exacerbated the problem.

Like many things these days, I’m finding it harder to justify why I do or consume the things I do. In this case, Coca-Cola. I really enjoyed having one every few days in Mauritania to mix up the massive amounts of water and coffee. But ignorance is bliss and I’ve learned too much.

Before the Hurricane

With Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, José, and Tropical Storm Katia in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, we need to start accepting the fact of climate change. It’s happening. Now, besides the immediate priority of reducing emissions and other strategies, how can we keep people safe?

Branko Marcetic writing for Jacobin:

“…what if I told you there was a country that has survived its last seventeen hurricanes with only thirty-five deaths? What if that country demonstrated exactly the kind of society-wide solidarity we envy the fire ants for? And what if that country had a GDP that was a fraction of the United States’?

In Marcetic’s article in the fantastic Jacobin Magazine1, Cuba’s hurricane prevention program has four facets:

  1. Cuba is always preparing for the next hurricane
  2. Everyone is mobilized.
  3. Vulnerable communities are taken care of.
  4. The protection of personal property is guaranteed, among a host of other unique measures.

We should start following Cuba’s example. Because “the effects of climate change are already upon us”.


  1. If you are at all interested in Leftism, Jacobin is a great daily read.