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Recently Posted Articles List
My filmmaker/photographer friend Valery Lyman has recently had photo essays published in The Guardian and LA Times, part of a project she's working on about boom towns in American history. These latest are part of the oil-and-gas "gold rush" going on in places like North Dakota and Montana. (The LA Times ran this piece as a full page op-ed in the Sunday edition of August 17.) The links are below, including an 8 minute version of her audio piece in The Guardian, which appears about halfway down the article. I think you'll be as impressed with Valery's work as I am. - Dick Russell
An important new piece by Mexico's leading poet/environmental activist, Homero Aridjis...
Migrants Ride a 'Train of Death' to Get to America
& We're Ignoring the Root of the Problem
by Homero Aridjis
The World Post July 8/2014
The evening news in Mexico regularly features footage of a ramshackle freight train known as La Bestia (The Beast) making its way across the country bearing a cargo of illegal immigrants trying to reach the United States's southern border. One can see hundreds of men, women and children perched on the roof, crammed between the boxcars, clinging to the sides. The trains are loaded with cement, iron, quartz, wheat, corn, diesel, vegetable oil, fertilizer, or wood, but the human cattle along for the ride have no food, drink or guarantee of safety.
To reach the depot at Arriaga, in the state of Chiapas, across the border from Guatemala, from which La Bestia departs every two or three days, migrants walk for days, even skirting mountains to avoid immigration checkpoints and roadblocks. The U.S. border is two weeks from here on the back of the Beast. Along the way pregnant women, mothers with infants, teenagers and adults will sleep on the streets or, if lucky, in makeshift or more permanent church-run shelters. During the long journey, accidents often happen, and passengers tumbling off the roof have their limbs severed. An aid group in Honduras has counted more than 450 migrants who have returned mutilated. Derailments are common, with cars flying off the tracks, leading to injuries and death.
Murders, muggings, extortions, gang rapes of women and kidnappings (some 20,000 a year) are committed by the rapidly expanding Central American Mara Salvatrucha gangs or by Mexican drug traffickers such as the bloodthirsty Zetas. They often infiltrate the groups of travelling migrants on the trains or in shelters, selling them drugs, tricking girls into prostitution, luring boys into gangs or murdering perceived informers. And at each stop, the migrants are prey to local police, who demand bribes up to several hundred dollars a head in exchange for allowing them to continue on their way.
At crowded safe houses along the Beast's route, the migrants' smugglers may coach their charges in how to reply to questioning or fake a Mexican accent. Forged birth certificates and other documents are available at a price, either to migrants or to their traffickers. Everyone knows the road to the American dream runs through the Mexican nightmare and that many passengers on "the train of death" will either perish during the journey, disappear by the wayside or be wounded, robbed or mutilated.
Who reaps the profits from La Bestia? Why do officials turn a blind eye while thousands of women are trafficked inside Mexico or abroad? What laws are broken to allow the transport of undocumented aliens across the country by tri-national smugglers acting as travel agents, risking lives and creating a humanitarian crisis? How much do the railroad engineers charge? Human despair has been turned into a commodity, a flourishing business for illicit enrichment.
The Bestia line once belonged to Genesee & Wyoming Inc., which bought the 1,119-mile Ferrocarriles Chiapas-Mayab freight concession in 1999 during the presidency of Ernesto Zedillo, when the government-owned Ferrocarriles Nacionales was privatized. After the havoc wrought on the track by Hurricane Stan in 2005, GWI sought to end its 30-year concession and suspend freight service. The government threatened sanctions and transferred service to the semi-public Ferrocarril del Istmo de Tehuantepec, and after years of legal wrangling, extended the latter's concession to fifty years. The concession clearly states that it is for carrying freight, not passengers, so the company is in constant violation of the law.
These days many migrants prefer to take a bus and risk detection at a checkpoint, where a payoff may allow them to continue. Others are crammed into airless trucks for the trip north. A former National Migration Institute agent reported that the going fee at each checkpoint for a truckload of migrants is around $20,000 dollars, divvied up "fairly" among the employees. Coyotes and polleros (literally "chicken herders") charge upwards of $5,000 dollars per migrant to shepherd him or her across the U.S. border.
For years refugees have started their journey north by crossing the Suchiate River, the border between Guatemala and Ciudad Hidalgo, in Chiapas. Lately the number of unaccompanied children who pay $1.50 to cross on an inner-tube raft has grown, as has the business that services them. Three ad hoc unions control the crossing, and the rafters, who are also money changers, are on call 7/24 for U.S.-bound migrants or mere shoppers, as well as for running drugs, guns and cash. A Catholic priest working with migrants estimates that 60 percent of the underage children come from Honduras, mostly driven out by extortion or running from gang recruitment. These thousands of migrant children, some barely able to understand Spanish due to their Indian heritage, have been an easy prey.
In Tapachula, half an hour's drive from the border, up to 1000 migrants are held at a time (or "lodged," in official parlance) at the Siglo XXI Migratory Station prior to being repatriated (read: "deported"). Mexico deports 250,000 foreigners a year to Central America. Meanwhile countless girls, young women and boys who have been sold into prostitution are working in Tapachula, which the founder of the Center for Investigation and National Security has compared to Sodom and Gomorrha. Elsewhere in Mexico, corpses of migrants have been found with their organs harvested.
Smugglers have been spreading false rumors about lenient U.S. policies to drum up business for themselves, convincing parents that after their children turn themselves into the Border Patrol, they will be allowed to remain in the country if they can furnish the name of a relative already in the U.S. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the border since the start of the year, more than twice last year's total of 24,000.
Chronic illegal migration and trafficking of persons can only be tackled if the U.S., Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala work together on combatting the underlying causes: a reign of terror and violence imposed by organized crime, relentless poverty in the migrants' home countries, lack of opportunities and employment, and weak law enforcement and corruption at the official level. Family businesses close as owners can no longer pay off the criminals who threaten them, and even street vendors have to hand over some of their earnings. Teenagers face a future of gangs, prostitution, and drugs. Perhaps the time has come for a Central American Marshall Plan. And what about UNICEF, and the UN Refugee Program?
The situation is very complex. What are the options? Deporting 52,000 children, at least two thirds from Central American countries embroiled in violence tantamount to civil war, to become victims of gangs or sex slaves, with slim chances of survival? They are war refugees and deserve treatment guaranteed by international agreements to which the U.S. is a signatory. Or allowing them to join family members already in the United States, legally or not, sending a message that this is the way to go? And turn the U.S. border into Lampedusa?
The Obama administration has not looked south of the border at failing states.
Human rights experts estimate that 10,000 undocumented immigrants are kidnapped every year during their passage through Mexico. Mexico is legally obliged to guarantee the safety of these migrants. Should Mexico close down the border crossing at the Suchiate River?
Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans escape from hell, journeying through the limbo of Mexico to be held in the purgatory of shelters at the U.S. border, always striving towards the paradise of rejoining family members in the promised land.
Is it morally acceptable -- or even legal -- to send thousands of children back to hell?
Mr. Obama, while you ride in the comfort and safety of The Beast (as the Secret Service calls the armored presidential limousine), give some thought to the hopeful passengers on the Bestia.
Victory for Baja's Sea of Cortez
|Following an amazing public outcry (millions of web hits and hundreds of thousands of tweets and emails over the past several weeks), Mexico's SEMARNAT environmental agency has rejected the current Cabo Dorado development plan and environmental impact statement from the Chinese developers.
The Chinese must now return to square one, completely redesign their proposal and development and draft a completely new environmental impact statement. This is a huge setback for them and a clear message that the tide is turning against irresponsible mega-developments in the Baja.
Here's a link to the announcement (in Spanish): Inversionistas retiran Proyecto Cabo Dorado en BCS
Here's a slightly jumbled machine translation of the story into English including quotes from a former minister of the environment:
MEXICO CITY, May 30 - Investors in Cabo Dorado Friday announced publicly that they were removing their application to the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the controversial tourism development intended to be built near the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park in Baja California Sur.
In a letter sent to scientists and civil society to Excelsior, Victor Lichtinger Waisman, in charge of Semarnat during the administration of Vicente Fox Quesada, revealed that the American-Chinese consortium behind the project took this decision after considering as "devastating" the arguments in recent months against Cabo Dorado.
"And it has been thought that as the situation is not worth continuing in this environmental assessment process," he said.
Lichtinger, who led the country's environmental policy from 2000 to 2003, said the idea is to redefine the proposal and resubmit an EIA "totally new for approval of SEMARNAT."
The Ph.D. in Agricultural and Natural Resources stressed that his conviction that "any new proposals should be worked on completely different to what the promoters of this project have done so far, and the project should be radically different and of considerably less magnitude".
Victor Lichtinger added that he recommended investors to withdraw all legal procedures and remedies of the previous project known as Cabo Cortés, as this only creates distrust and decreases the chances of having a proposal that "have a clear social license."
New Chinese Mega-Resort Plan
Threatens Baja Coral Reef
By Dick Russell
In mid-June of 2012, following months of protests by environmentalists, the Mexican government announced the cancellation of permits to build a massive resort complex along the shoreline of the only productive coral reef in Baja’s Gulf of California. At the time, a Spanish developer had plans for some 30,000 hotel rooms, golf courses and a marina beside the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. But scientific studies showed that marine life had exploded since the reef received protection from overfishing in 1995. This, coupled with Madrid builder Hansa Urbana’s financial instability, resulted in the project’s being abandoned.
But not for long, it turns out. Cabo Cortés has now reared its ugly head as Cabo Dorado. In mid-March, a Chinese consortium submitted an environmental impact statement to Mexican authorities, seeking to construct an “integrally planned development….of 9 hotels totaling 4,080 rooms and 6,141 residences” over a ten-year period. Not to mention 4,380 commercial spaces, restaurants and condos; an improved airfield, a shopping center, several beach clubs, two golf courses, a shooting range and a wellness center. An investment that the developers say will reach $3.6 billion will be scattered across some 9,316 acres. The builders’ press release claims they “will employ directly and indirectly around 18,000 people” and “will have an economic spillover of around $900 million dollars per annum.”
On the “plus side,” the Cabo Dorado plan doesn’t include a marina or a desalination plant – both on the drawing board for the earlier Cabo Cortés project, and both considered to pose huge risks to the marine reserve. The latest developer alleges that the Cabo Dorado Project will maintain “around 67% of the land….as a natural reserve dedicated to the conservation of the environment.” But it’s all to be erected adjacent to what National Geographic has called the most robust coral reserve in the world – home to more than 260 marine species including manta rays, sharks and sea turtles, and a critical stopover for migrating humpback whales. About half a million tons of food (marine nutrients and fish) are exported annually from the park’s environs. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as of 2005), and a RAMSAR global wetland of international importance (2008).
The Chinese apparently bought the water rights that its Spanish predecessor had put in place, which allow the pumping of more than four million cubic meters annually from the Santiago and Cabo Pulmo aquifers. This is a desert region where rainfall is already down dramatically. (Over the past decade, the supply of water per resident in the nearby Los Cabos municipality has dropped by half.) And the Santiago aquifer is the last remaining water reserve of consequence in all of Baja California Sur. It’s been estimated that the amount of water consumed only by Cabo Dorado’s proposed hotels – without considering water demands from any other infrastructure – would be more than 11 million cubic meters of water per year. That’s almost three times the allotted water rights.
So it makes you wonder where the rest is going to come from. Of course, even if the land deal again goes bust, the developer’s water concession would put them in a position to sell the water back to the people of the area (as the Nestle corporation did in Bolivia). If you find the notion of draining the pesos from the locals a bit diabolical, consider that the newly-elected PRI government just forced through legislation to denationalize and sell off the Mexican oil fields to the highest bidders. Consider, too, that the environmental impact statement for Cabo Dorado was prepared by the same people who did one for the previous Cabo Cortés project. And consider that the Mexican promoter is, yet again, a shadowy fellow in Mexico City named John McCarthy, who used to head up the country’s tourism development agency, Fonatur.
In this case, Mexico’s deal is with La Rivera Desarrollos BCS, holding company of Cabo Dorado properties, with the majority owner being two companies: Beijing Sansong International Trade Group and Glorious Earth Holdings. The latter is based in Irvine, California, founded as Glorious Earth Group in 2013 and privately held. An Internet search doesn’t reveal much that’s glorious. In fact, the company’s website sounds like it was put together by someone just starting to master the English language. It’s allegedly “a construction company with worldwide projection….a solid company with extensive experience in the design and implementation of infrastructure for ground transportation.” Under the heading of “Hydroelectric Plants,” we are informed that “Glorious Earth Group is known for offering our best effort in every work.” Supposedly the company “has huge experience in Renewable Energy,” although nothing is specified. The registered agent for the (not-so) Glorious Earth Group is Yurong Zhang.
As for Beijing Sansong, it’s a multimillion-dollar company whose partners include the top three international contractors by total revenue in the world. The China State Construction and Engineering Corporation, slated to build Cabo Dorado, has completed over 5,000 projects in 116 countries over the past three decades. It reported $57 billion in international revenues in 2011. Two years before that, it was one of seven companies debarred by the World Bank for attempted bid-rigging in a major bank-financed project in the Philippines.
Octavio Aburto-Oporeza is a marine biologist and Assistant Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose studies revealed that Cabo Pulmo’s biomass of marine life more than quadrupled in the decade after the reef received protection. As he describes the Cabo Dorado project: “It’s not like asking to build a bathroom in your backyard. If you look at the scale of the project in the long-term, it is building a city of 250,000 people.” Agustín Bravo, Northwest Coordinator of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, see many factors that could affect the marine reserve, including the large increase in visitors, polluted runoff from golf courses irrigated by treated water, and changes in the sediments that flow into the Sea of Cortés. Bravo has called this “a privatization of environmental services and socialization of environmental liabilities. It’s crony capitalism.”
Clearly, the latest fight to protect the reef and its surrounding environment has only begun. To keep regularly abreast of what’s going on, visit the websites of two grassroots organizations involved in the effort: www.wildcoast.net and www.cabopulmovivo.org.
Gabriel García Márquez takes his place in the pantheon
By Homero Aridjis
Los Angeles Times op-ed, April 27, 2014
In Mexico City, fans patiently awaited their chance to stand beside the urn holding the author's ashes.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," popularized the emerging Latin American literary genre known as magic realism. (Mario Guzman / EPA / April 25, 2014)
Reporting from Mexico City—
The first time I met Gabriel García Márquez, then an unknown writer in Mexico, was on July 6, 1962, in the office of the producer of Luis Buñuel's movie "Viridiana." I remember the date well because after noticing the headline, Gabo asked to borrow the evening paper I had just bought, exclaiming "Dammit, today my master died," referring to William Faulkner.
Faulkner famously detested intrusions in his private life, and the funeral in his native Oxford, Miss., was sparsely attended by several dozen family members, his publishers and a few writers. In his chronicle of the event in Life magazine, William Styron describes the "monumental heat" as the procession drove past stores closed for the event and townspeople lining the streets, although, according to a local resident, "None of them ever read a word of him." The coffin was buried "on a gentle slope between two oak trees."
My wife, Betty, and I would occasionally run into Gabo at the Café Tirol, a writers' and artists' hangout in the Zona Rosa here. One afternoon in 1963, he gave us a ride home. When we got out of the car, he asked if I had read "Big Mama's Funeral." I had never seen the book anywhere. Throwing open the trunk to reveal stacks of copies, he said, "Take as many as you want; at least someone intelligent will read it."
One day in 1964, Ramón Xirau, editor of the literary magazine Diálogos, where I was assistant editor, invited Gabo and me to a fancy restaurant for lunch. For an hour Gabo and I stood waiting by the cash register, until Gabo suggested that I invite him to lunch myself. I didn't have a cent, as Xirau was supposed to pay me that day. Gabo didn't have any cash either. Finally we called Xirau's house, to be told by the maid that he was lunching with his in-laws. Gabo and I went to our homes to eat alone, for our wives had made other plans.
Everything changed for Gabo in 1967 with the publication of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," greeted with rabid enthusiasm by readers and reviewers. In New York, I saw a Puerto Rican talking to a lion in the Central Park Zoo, shouting "Hey, Charlie, hey Charlie" as he pounded on a copy of "Cien Años de Soledad." Aracataca, Gabo's birthplace in Colombia, had metamorphosed into Macondo, midwifed by Rabelais and Kafka, Faulkner and Juan Rulfo, whose "Pedro Páramo" and "The Burning Plain" had been pressed on him by the Colombian novelist Álvaro Mutis with the admonition to read them and learn how to write.
During the first Ibero-American Summit, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991, Gabo and I presented a proposal for a continental environmental alliance to the assembled heads of state, including King Juan Carlos of Spain, Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. Protection of forests and a pact to save the Amazon were among our priorities, along with migratory species such as sea turtles and birds.
On Aug. 24, 2005, we met in the Church of Santo Domingo at the funeral service for Natasha Fuentes Lemus, Carlos Fuentes' younger daughter, who had been found dead two days earlier. Gabo turned to me and said, "Damn, I'm not going to write anymore." His wife, Mercedes Barcha, asked, "Why do you tell Homero that?" to which he replied, "If I don't tell Homero, whom should I tell?" And indeed, "Memories of My Melancholy Whores," published in 2004, was his last book.
At 3:18 p.m. today, April 21, the funeral procession with Gabo's ashes departed from his home of the last 30 years on Fuego Street, escorted by a phalanx of traffic police on motorcycles for the 12-mile drive to the ornate Palace of Fine Arts in downtown Mexico City, where long lines of fans patiently awaited their chance to stand guard beside the urn for a moment, after passing through strict security procedures. Prolonged applause greeted the urn when it was placed on a pedestal shortly after 4 p.m.
Live coverage on national TV had begun in midafternoon. Inside the palace a string quartet played excerpts from Gabo's favorites: Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Dvorák and Mendelssohn, while outside a trio playing the popular Colombian folk music known as vallenato alternated with readings from Gabo's books. A storm broke as luminaries from the world of literature and politics gathered in the palace waiting for Enrique Peña Nieto, president of Mexico, and Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, to make their entrances and give their speeches. Absent from the cultural diplomacy and presidential homage was Fidel Castro, Gabo's friend since the 1960s.
As the special guests exited the Palace of Fine Arts, a blizzard of yellow paper butterflies was blown over the crowd, still looking forward to a few seconds of Gabo's magical aura.
Word has it that as a son of both countries, Gabo's ashes will be shared by Mexico and Colombia, unlike those of his great friend Carlos Fuentes, who chose to be buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, where the remains of Natasha and his son, Carlos, already lay, or those of his fellow Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz, thought to still be in the possession of his widow.
Another Latin American Nobel winner, poet Pablo Neruda, died in Santiago, Chile, on Sept. 23, 1973, 12 days after the CIA-backed military coup against Salvador Allende's government. All public meetings were forbidden, but when his widow, Matilde Urrutia, set out from their house, which had been vandalized during the coup, with his coffin and a military escort, she was joined along the way by some 2,000 people. Upon arriving at the cemetery, they began to sing the socialist anthem "The Internationale." Neruda's death had prompted the first open protest against Augusto Pinochet.
When Victor Hugo died in 1885, he was hailed as a hero of the Third Republic and his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe and military regiments and bands escorted the funeral carriage down the Champs-Élysées, past chestnut trees in blossom, and across the Pont de la Concorde to his final resting place in the Panthéon. Two million people were reported to have followed its progress.
Surely that many and more followed today's homage to Gabo on television. One thing is for certain, however: Magic realism has died with its most wildly imaginative practitioner.
Homero Aridjis is a poet, novelist, environmentalist and former Mexican ambassador to UNESCO, and the author of "A Time of Angels." This essay was translated by Betty Ferber from the Spanish.
Monarch Butterfly Update
Latest update on the efforts to preserve the monarch butterflies, translated from the Spanish
Newspaper: La Jornada, Saturday, March 1st. 2014, p.34:
Trilateral group ready to protect
monarch butterfly migration
by Arturo Sánchez Jiménez
As stated by the director of SEMARNAT Juan José Guerra Abud: NGOs, scientists and specialists in Mexico, USA and Canada will be part of a working group that will be established to protect and conserve the migration of the monarch butterfly.
The creation of a trinational group is a consequence of the commitments that the presidents of Mexico, USA and Canada agreed upon during the 2014 North American leaders´ summit that was held in Mexico on February 19th, 2014.
The working team will be formed by WWF, Nature Conservancy and the Group of 100, all NGOs with a presence in the three countries.
Each nation will designate scientists who will join the team. Mexico has proposed Blanca Verónica Juárez Jaimes (Researcher at UNAM); Gloria Tavera (Director of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve) and Carlos Galindo from CONABIO to be part of the team.
The director for Wildlife at SEMARNAT Jorge Maksabedian and the Commissioner of CONANP Luis Fueyo Mac Donald will also be part of the team, as well as representatives of the National Forestry Commission and the Federal Attorney's Office for Environmental Protection.
Guerra Abud was in Washington early this week where he met with environmental authorities from the US and Canada with whom he agreed to form this working group.
He said that a meeting with wildlife representatives from the three countries will be held in May in Queretaro. He said that by then, they hope to have concrete proposals that will be presented to a high level group (formed by environmental authorities from Canada, USA and Mexico) during the meeting of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (NAFTA) that will be held in Canada in July.
On the other hand, Fueyo Mac Donald said that the monarch butterfly is not going to disappear. This species is widely distributed and will continue to exist on the planet. What is in danger, is that they might no longer arrive to Mexico or that the migratory phenomenon will cease to exist. It is this phenomenon that is registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list, he pointed out.
Here's the link to the article in Spanish.
and here's a link to the SEMARNAT press release
(with photos) covering the first meeting.
- Dick Russell
The Last Word on the Assassination
At the end of January, I participated in a historic event in Las Vegas. Before a live audience, producer John Barbour showed his remarkable documentary about the investigation of Jim Garrison into who really assassinated JFK, followed by a panel discussion among myself, Jim Marrs, and Joan Mellen. The DVD is now available through Amazon, and today cracked their top 100 best-selling documentaries. You can obtain a copy from the link below. - Dick Russell
The Last Word on the Assassination: John Barbour: Movies & TV
Monarch Butterfly Update
The White House recently released a joint statement from the presidents of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, following their meeting in Toluca to discuss "building the most competitive and dynamic region in the world." Thanks to the petition campaign organized by Mexican poet/activist Homero Aridjis, and signed by dozens of scientists and writers from the three nations, the leaders' official statement included these words:
"Our governments will establish a working group to ensure the conservation of the Monarch butterfly, a species that symbolizes our association."
Definitely a step in the right direction. - Dick Russell
Last Call For the Monarchs
My friend Homero Aridjis, Mexico's leading poet and environmental activist, recently wrote this devastating piece about the monarch butterfly that he's known and loved observing since he was a boy. I visited the monarch sanctuaries with Homero in 2000, and now it appears that they may not even exist for much longer - unless the governments of the U.S. and Mexico act quickly. On February 19-20, President Obama has been meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the state of Toluca. A letter has been delivered by Homero personally to the Mexican Secretary of the Environment and the U.S. and Canadian embassies. It was signed by prominent scientists and writers from both countries (including myself), calling for mitigation of breeding habitat loss for the butterflies as well as combating illegal logging that's continuing in the area of the sanctuaries. Please read Homero's article for the tragic story of what is unfolding for the monarchs, as well as the letter itself with the signatories below. - Dick Russell
The World Post
Feb. 20, 2014
Last Call For Monarchs
By HOMERO ARIDJIS
|Homero Aridjis is a Mexican poet and environmental activist. His seminal work is "1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezón of Castile." In 1985, he organized the Group of 100 -- a group of prominent artists and writers, including Octavio Paz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Rufino Tamayo -- to defend biodiversity in Mexico and Latin America.
MEXICO CITY -- Every winter of my childhood in Contepec, Michoacan, millions of orange and black monarch butterflies magically arrived to the oyamel fir forest at the summit of Altamirano Hill. When the sun was out, rivers of butterflies would stream through the streets in search of water. Altamirano was one of the five mountain ranges protected by the original 1986 decree that created the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve, for which I had petitioned Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid. In 2000, another decree enlarged the reserve's size and added protection for more butterfly colony sites.
I was born in 1940 and grew up with (and wrote about) the monarchs, but it was only in 1975 that their overwintering forests in central Mexico's Transvolcanic Belt were "discovered" by Canadian scientists.
On Jan. 29, news was released of a dramatic plunge in the monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico after flying thousands of miles south from the northern and eastern United States and southern Canada. This season's population, calculated by measuring the area of occupied trees, covers a tiny 0.67 hectares -- the smallest ever since these measurements began 20 years ago -- and a huge drop from the 1996 high of 21 hectares. The population has plummeted from an estimated 1 billion in 1996 to 33 million this year, scattered over seven sites. There have been no monarchs in Contepec for years.
In the past, most of the blame for the steady decline in monarch numbers has been placed on logging in the core and buffer zones of the reserve, out-of-control tourism and devastating climate events such as the 2002 storms in Michoacan or the severe 2011 drought in Texas. Now, it has become all too apparent that industrial agriculture in the U.S. Corn Belt (and less in Canada) is largely responsible for the dizzying drop in butterfly numbers. In the last decade, there has been a huge increase in additional land planted with corn to satisfy the demand for federally-mandated corn-based ethanol.
The main culprits are the herbicides relentlessly applied to genetically modified corn and soybean plants (grown from Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds, among others) that guarantee sterile fields where only the engineered crops are allowed to flourish. Ninety-three percent of total soybean acreage in the United States is now herbicide tolerant (HT), while 85 percent of corn is HT. Graphs show an alarming correlation between increased planting of HT crops and dwindling monarch populations, for milkweed -- the only plant on which adult monarch butterflies lay their eggs and the only one the hatched larvae (caterpillars) will eat after devouring their own eggshells -- is a main victim of these deadly glyphosate herbicides.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), so named for the sticky white sap that oozes from broken stalks, branches or leaves, is a summer-blooming perennial pollinated by insects such as bees, butterflies, moths or ants that land on the fragrant pinkish-purple flowers to suck the sweet nectar. The sap itself is toxic, and when the monarch larvae feed on the leaves, they become toxic to monarch butterfly predators.
Until now, the Mexican government has denied that the monarch butterfly migratory phenomenon is in jeopardy, despite warnings since the 1990s from preeminent monarch expert Lincoln Brower, but for the first time has acknowledged the possibility of its disappearance.
When I was Mexico's ambassador to UNESCO and lobbied representatives of the 21 countries on the World Heritage Committee to vote in favor of including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve on the World Heritage List, my colleagues from the United States and Canada were reluctant to do so, alleging opposition from their governments. They finally did give their votes, as a personal favor to me, along with the other 19, and the reserve is now listed.
During negotiations for the inclusion of the environment in the North American Free Trade Agreement, as head of the environmentalist group the Group of 100, I proposed the adoption of the monarch butterfly as the ideal symbol of tri-national interdependence and cooperation. Now, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, I (and all who cherish the monarch butterfly) am urging Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put monarch survival on the agenda of their February 19-20 summit meeting in Toluca, in the state of Mexico, a scant thirty miles from the Piedra Herrada monarch colony at San Mateo Almomoloa.
To make up for the vast loss of grasslands to crops and urban development, we need a milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch -- with plantings on roadsides, in fields and ditches, along railroad tracks, in pastures and meadows and gardens, in parks and public spaces -- so that successive generations of monarchs can breed during their journey north. An abundance of nectar patches with flowering plants for the great-grandchildren of the previous year's butterflies to feed on as they fly southward to Mexico should not be so difficult to arrange.
The decline in monarch population since 1994 coincides with the NAFTA years. If our three countries cannot prevent the extraordinary monarch butterfly migratory phenomenon from disappearing, then what's the point of this agreement?
We cannot allow the monarch butterfly to figure in the coming era of extinctions.
Monarch Decline and Changes in U.S. Agriculture Figures from EH Williams Feb 7. 2014
Fig. 1. Decline in monarch overwintering area compared to rise in US acreage planted in corn and rise is usage of glyphosate herbicide. To compare these on a similar scale, the monarch hectares have been multiplied by 5, and the glyphosate usage has been divided by 2 data sources: epa, ers.usda
Fig. 2. Figure from USDA showing rise in percentage of genetically modified crops. ers.usda
The World Post
Feb. 17, 2014
These Three Amigos Can Save The Monarch:
An Appeal From Margaret Atwood, Laura Esquivel, Junot Diaz And Others
|On Feb. 19, Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto, U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting in Toluca, Mexico, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The following is an appeal from 150 prominent scientists and intellectuals to the three leaders asking them to take urgent steps to stem the collapsing population of Monarch butterflies that migrate annually across North America.
President Barack Obama
President Enrique Peña Nieto
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Among the countless organisms that have evolved during the history of life on earth, monarch butterflies are among the most extraordinary. Sadly, their unique multigenerational migration across our large continent, their spectacular overwintering aggregations on the volcanic mountains in central Mexico, and their educational value to children in Canada, the United States, and Mexico are all threatened.
Monitoring of the butterfly population over the past two decades indicates a grim situation. Following a long-term decline, the total area occupied by the overwintering butterflies plunged from the 20-year average of 6.7 hectares to a record low of 0.67 hectares in the current season, a 90% decrease. This winter, only seven of twelve traditional sites had any butterflies at all, and only one of those (El Rosario, 0.5 hectares) was substantial in size.
The decline has two main causes:
1. Loss of breeding habitat. The major summer breeding area of the monarch butterfly is in the floristically rich grasslands of central North America, where the monarch’s milkweed food plants grow in abundance.
However, over the past decade the planting of corn and soybean varieties that have been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant has risen to 90%. Shortly after the corn or soy seeds germinate, the fields are sprayed with herbicides that kill all other plant life including the milkweeds, the only plants that monarch caterpillars can eat.
Furthermore, with economic incentives for producing corn ethanol, the planting of corn in the U.S. has expanded from 78 million acres in 2006 to 97 million acres in 2013. Fallow fields, row crops and roadsides that used to support the growth of milkweeds and substantial acreage of land previously set aside in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program have been converted to monoculture crops. Further loss of habitat has resulted from urban sprawl and development. More generally, the current chemical-intensive agriculture is threatening monarchs and other native pollinators and unraveling the fabric of our ecosystems.
2. Degradation of overwintering habitat. Overwintering monarchs depend on the protective cover of undisturbed oyamel fir forest canopy in Mexico. While the Mexican government has largely stopped the major illegal logging that threatened the forests used by the wintering monarch butterflies, damaging small scale illegal logging continues.
What can be done? If the monarch butterfly migration and overwintering phenomenon is to persist in eastern North America, mitigation of breeding habitat loss must be initiated.
As Mexico is addressing the logging issues, so now must the United States and Canada address the effects of our current agricultural policies. Managing roadsides for native plants, including milkweeds, could be a significant tool to partially offset the loss of habitat.
There are 3.2 million miles of roads east of the Rocky Mountains. If 25-foot roadside strips and medians were managed to support the growth of milkweeds, then eastern U.S. roadsides could contribute more than 19 million acres of milkweed habitat. If two monarchs were produced per acre of habitat, then these roadsides could produce nearly 40 million monarchs, i.e., about one tenth of the 20 year average number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico.
Within the agricultural heartland, a second mitigation effort should promote more extensive buffers of native plant communities at field margins. Collaborative exclusion of field margins in cooperation with farming communities could add substantially and help assure the continuation of the world's most revered butterfly. An incentive program to pay farmers to set aside toxin-free areas for milkweeds and pollinators could be a move in the right direction.
A milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch butterfly through our three countries must be established. This will show the political will of our governments to save the living symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement. We the undersigned hope that you will discuss the future of the monarch butterfly during the North American leaders’ Summit that will take place on February 19-20, 2014 in Toluca, state of Mexico.
Homero Aridjis Dr. Lincoln P. Brower
President, Grupo de los Cien Sweet Briar College, USA
Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan
Co-Facilitator, Make Way for Monarchs
INTERNATIONAL MONARCH BUTTERFLY SCIENTISTS
Dr. Alfonso Alonso, Smithsonian Institution, USA;
Dr. Sonia M. Altizer, University of Georgia, USA;
Dr. Michael Boppre, University of Freiburg, Germany;
Dr. Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College, USA;
Dr. Linda S, Fink, Sweet Briar College, USA;
Dr. Barrie Frost, Queens University, Ontario, Canada;
Dr. Jordi Honey-Roses, University of British Columbia, Canada;
Dr. Pablo F. Jaramillo-López, UNAM, Michoacán, Mexico;
Dr. Stephen B. Malcolm, Western Michigan University, USA;
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, University of Minnesota, USA;
Dr. Robert M. Pyle, Grays River, Washington, USA;
Dr. Isabel Ramirez, UNAM, Michoacan, Mexico;
Dr. Daniel Slayback, Science Systems & Applications, Inc., MD, USA;
Dr. Orley R. Taylor, University of Kansas, USA;
Dr. Stuart B. Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observations, CA, USA;
Dr. Ernest H. Williams, Hamilton College, USA;
Dr. Dick Vane-Wright, the Natural History Museum, London, UK;
Dr. Myron P. Zalucki, University of Queensland, Australia
WRITERS AND ARTISTS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Kwame Anthony Appiah; John Ashbery; Paul Auster; Deirdre Bair; Russell Banks; Rick Bass; Magda Bogin; Sarah Browning; Christopher Cokinos; Robert Darnton; Alison Hawthorne Deming; Junot Diaz; Rita Dove; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Alexandra Fuller; Ross Gelbspan; Sue Halpern; Sam Hamill; Robert Hass; Tom Hayden; Edward Hirsch; Siri Hustvedt; Jewell James (Lummi Tribe); Robert Kennedy, Jr.; George Kovach; Nicole Krauss; Peter Matthiessen; Michael McClure; Bill McKibben; Askold Melnyczuk; Michael Palmer; Janisse Ray; Jerome Rothenberg; Dick Russell; Michael Scammell; Grace Schulman; Alex Shoumatoff; A. E. Stallings; Judith Thurman; Melissa Tuckey; Chase Twichell; Rosanna Warren; Eliot Weinberger; Alan Weisman; Terry Tempest Williams; Michael Wood; City Lights Books
Homero Aridjis; Lucia Alvarez; Juan Domingo Arguelles; Chloe Aridjis; Eva Aridjis; Alberto Blanco; Coral Bracho; Federico Campbell; Marco Antonio Campos; Ana Cervantes; Jennifer Clement; Elsa Cross; María José Cuevas; Ximena Cuevas; Pablo Elizondo; Laura Esquivel; Manuel Felguérez; Betty Ferber; Paz Alicia Garciadiego; Emiliano Gironella; Jose Gordon; Hugo Gutiérrez Vega; Barbara Jacobs; Daniel Krauze; León Krauze; Mario Lavista; Paulina Lavista; Silvia Lemus de Fuentes; Soledad Loaeza; Pura López Colomé; Jean Meyer; Sergio Mondragon; Angelina Muñiz-Huberman; Carmen Mutis; Gabriel Orozco; Carmen Parra; Fernando del Paso; Marie-José Paz; Elena Poniatoswka; Arturo Ripstein; Vicente Rojo; Cristina Rubalcava; Juan Carlos Rulfo; Pablo Rulfo; Alberto Ruy Sánchez; Isabel Turrent; Juan Villoro; Roger Von Gunten
Katherine Ashenburg; Margaret Atwood; Wade Davis; Gary Geddes; Graeme Gibson; Terence Gower; Emile Martel; Jann Martel; George McWhirter; Michael Ondaatje; Nicole Perron; Linda Spalding; John Ralston Saul
Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium); Ivan Alechine (Belgium); Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua); Yves Bonnefoy (France); Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa); André Brink (South Africa); Kjell Espmark (Sweden); Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (Member of Parliament, India) ; Gloria Guardia (Panama); Alejandro Jodorowsky (France/Chile); Nicholas Jose (Australia); Dr. Helga von Kügelgen (Germany); Prof. Dr. Klaus Kropfinger (Germany); Norman Manea (USA/Rumania); Hasna Moudud (Bangladesh); Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize, Turkey); Jonathon Porritt (United Kingdom); Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua); Lélia Wanick Salgado (Brazil); Sebastião Salgado (Brazil); Simon Schama (United Kingdom); Ali Smith (United Kingdom); Lasse Soderberg (Sweden); Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas, United Kingdom); Tomas Transtromer (Nobel Prize, Sweden); Lucy Vines (France); Per Wästberg, (Sweden); Fred Viebahn (Germany)
SCIENTISTS AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan (Make Way for Monarchs, U. of Arizona, USA); Dr. José Sarukhan K. (Mexico); Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute, USA); Ina Warren, (Make Way for Monarchs, USA); Scott Hoffman Black, (Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and IUCN Butterfly Specialist Group, USA); Laura Lopez Hoffman (University of Arizona, USA); Elizabeth Howard, (Journey North, USA); Don Davis, (Monarch Butterfly Fund, Toronto, Canada); Claudio Lomnitz (Center for Mexican Studies, Columbia University, USA); Amory B. Lovins (USA); Gail Morris (Southwest Monarch Study, USA); Serge Dedina (Wildcoast, USA); Eduardo Nájera Hillman (Costasalvaje, Mexico); Wallace J. Nichols (California Academy of Sciences, USA); Arturo Gómez-Pompa (University of California Riverside, Mexico/USA); Scott Slovic, (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment,University of Idaho, USA); Garrison Sposito (University of California at Berkeley, USA); Georgita Ruiz (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico); Manuel Grosselet (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico); Diana Liverman (Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, USA); Valeria Souza (UNAM, Mexico); Eduardo Farah (EspejoRed, Mexico); Daniel Gershenson (Mexico); Joaquín Bohigas Bosch (Instituto de Astronomia, UNAM, Mexico); Jo Ann Baumgartner, (Wild Farm Alliance, USA); Jack Woody(Regional Dr,Int.Programs,US Fish & Wildlife Service, Retired); Lummi Tribe; Native American Land Conservancy (includes the following participating tribal communities: Chemehuevi, Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Navajo, Paiute).
On Friday Jan. 31, I'll be part of a panel discussion and film showing about the Kennedy assassination, scheduled as a live Webcast starting at 7 PM Pacific Time, from the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
(click to enlarge)
Here's what producer John Barbour has to say about the event:
"The 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination has come and gone, but the major questions remain. On January 31 at UNLV’s Greenspun Auditorium, a panel including some of the world’s best known and most credible assassination researchers will participate in a live, world-wide webcast about JFK, in particular, the investigation launched by former New Orleans DA Jim Garrison. Longtime TV host and producer John Barbour will screen his groundbreaking film about Garrison, and the panelists will take questions from the audience. The onstage guests will include author Jim Marrs, whose book about the JFK plot was one of the inspirations for the Oliver Stone film, longtime assassination researcher and author Dick Russell, and historian-author Joan Mellen. Barbour says the panelists will tell what they know about Garrison’s investigation which constitutes “the greatest true story never told”. The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public. Among those helping to get the word out about the UNLV event is comedian and JFK researcher Richard Belzer."
And to learn still more, here is a YouTube video about "The Last Word."
- Dick Russell
I recently did a 90-minute Podcast conversation with Michael Lerner of the New School, titled "Getting to Know James Hillman" and focusing on my biography of the archetypal psychologist published last year. Anyone interested in listening can go to this link
Here is the trailer for a new documentary by Shane O'Sullivan, "Killing Oswald," which premieres this week in Texas. It features yours truly and the whole show will be available soon on DVD. - Dick Russell
click here: Killing Oswald
My Internet radio interview with the Sync Book, on my biography of James Hillman, is now available for listening online...
click here: The Sync Book – 42 Minutes
My friend Homero Aridjis, Mexico's great poet and environmental activist, penned this tribute to Francisco "Pachico" Mayoral and the gray whales, for the Opinion page of the New York Times, October 31, 2013. - Dick Russell
Savior of the Whales
By HOMERO ARIDJIS
INTERNATIONAL NEW YORK TIMES: October 31, 2013
MEXICO CITY — Some 40 years ago a poor fisherman named Francisco Mayoral, who lived on the shores of San Ignacio Lagoon, halfway down the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur, stretched out his hand to touch a gray whale that raised its head out of the water alongside his wooden panga.
Mr. Mayoral, who went by the nickname Pachico, would liken this milestone to the birth of his first child.
“I didn’t seek out the whale, she came to my boat,” he remembered. “I was fishing with my friend and suddenly the whale came out and curiosity got the better of me and I touched her gently and saw that nothing happened. The whale went under and came out on the other side of the boat and I felt more confident and I began to stroke her and rub her head, and nothing happened.”
This transcendental encounter was, sadly, not emblematic of the troubled relationship between humans and whales.
In the 19th century gray whales — which can reach a length of 50 feet and a weight of 35 tons — fought capture so fiercely that whalers dubbed them “devil-fish.” The whales were hunted nearly to extinction until the International Whaling Commission adopted a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Pachico helped to protect the whales by convincing other fishermen that they had nothing to fear from them. Soon they were ferrying tourists into the lagoon — the last pristine breeding and calving ground for thousands of gray whales that migrate every winter from their feeding grounds in the icy Arctic seas to the warm refuge of the lagoons and bays along the Baja California peninsula.
Pachico lived in a sand-floored hut with no electricity, phone service or mail delivery, but somehow, in 1994, he got information about a plan by Exportadora de Sal, an enterprise co-owned by the Mexican government and Mitsubishi, to build a giant salt-processing plant on the shores of the lagoon.
He passed this information on to an American graduate student studying gray whales, who called me from Baja.
The proposed plant would produce seven million tons of salt annually, flooding 116 square miles of tidal flats and dense mangroves and pumping 6,000 gallons of saltwater per second out of the lagoon.
Each month oceangoing freighters would dock at a mile-long pier jutting into Bahia de Ballenas (Whale Bay) — right in the path of whales heading for the lagoon — to take on salt brought by conveyor belts across the desert from evaporation ponds and a million-ton salt pile.
As head of the Group of 100, an association of artists and writers concerned about the environment, I denounced the project to the press, and then managed to get a copy of the project’s environmental impact assessment.
I was shocked to see that a mere 23 lines out of 465 pages were devoted to the gray whale.
Six days after I published an essay entitled “The Silence of the Whales” in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the government decided that the saltworks were incompatible with the conservation of the surrounding Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, which includes the lagoon.
But the company’s owners were not about to give up. They maintained that the project could be altered to accommodate the environmentalists’ concerns, and kept up their fight. Meanwhile, groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare joined our cause.
One evening in 1997, during a visit to the lagoon, a young fisherman told me that Pachico wanted to meet me. A grizzled man with leathery skin, he shyly took my hand and related his historic encounter with the whale.
He’d say to me, “Let’s go hunt whales, bring your binoculars, bring your camera, so you can take them away and leave them there.”
Caressing a gray whale is among the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
The Group of 100 was about to make public a petition to the Mexican government — signed by dozens of writers and artists, including numerous Nobel laureates — when, on March 2, 2000, President Ernesto Zedillo suddenly and grudgingly canceled the plan for the salt factory.
The fight to save San Ignacio Lagoon was the greatest environmental battle ever in Mexico, but it was not the last. Although conservationists working with the government have been able to protect 150 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of federal land around the lagoon, the gray whale is still threatened in its feeding grounds by offshore gas and oil development, and by climate change everywhere it swims.
Grass-roots activism has become more perilous in Mexico, as a result of the breakdown of the rule of law in areas where the drug cartels are influential. Some advocates have defended forests, farmlands and rivers at the cost of their own lives, with the killers never brought to justice.
On Oct. 22, Pachico, the man who used to say he would give his life to save a whale, died of a stroke at the age of 72.
This winter, when the gray whales return, his sons will be taking visitors out into the water to the thrill of watching up close — and, with luck, even touching — this magnificent creature with whom we share the oceans of the earth.
Homero Aridjis is a poet, novelist, environmentalist and former Mexican ambassador to Unesco. This essay was translated by Betty Ferber from the Spanish.
Guardian of the Gray Whales
FRANCISCO (PACHICO) MAYORAL, R.I.P.
“Pachico,” as he was known to all in the small village that surrounds Baja’s San Ignacio Lagoon, changed my life. He changed the lives of thousands who have journeyed in recent years to this magical place to see and even pet whales in the wild. The guardian of the lagoon, Pachico “called” the Eastern Pacific gray whales to us for a generation. In 1973 he’d been out fishing alone when a group of whales surrounded him and, overcoming his fear, Pachico reached out a hand. “It was like breaking through some kind of invisible wall,” he once told me, as he became the first human being known to have touched a whale in its habitat.
That moment marked the beginning of what’s today called “the friendly gray whale phenomenon” – their approaches to winter boatloads of visitors at the Mexican lagoon where they’ve been coming to give birth for millennia. Only a little more than a century earlier, the gray whales’ ancestors had fallen victim by the thousands to whalers’ harpoons. Now they responded, with unspoken forgiveness, to our outstretched hands.
I will always remember: Perhaps a hundred yards off our bow, a massive torpedo shape rises to the surface like an island being formed. Pachico, the wizened captain of our small motorized panga, cuts back on the throttle and begins a gradual approach. A fan-shaped geyser of seawater erupts ahead and subsides with a whoosh. As the whale dives, arching its heart-shaped flukes, a sparkling waterfall beckons us forward. Pachico leans over the side and starts rapping his knuckles in a rhythmic pattern against the boat’s metal hull.
Now, a mother-and-calf pair surges toward our panga. Weighing over thirty tons, ten times the size of a large elephant, the mother dwarfs our boat, and the calf is already about one-third her size. Either whale could overturn us with a mere flick of the tail. Yet I feel no trace of fear.
The mother, using her body as a natural breakwater, seems to be coaxing the young one toward us. Slowly, they make the rounds of awestruck people bent almost double over the sides. They are surprisingly soft to the touch. Amazingly, the whales enjoy the rubbing of the long, bristly baleen plates they use to ingest their food. The mother turns on her side and gazes upward, her baseball-sized eye appearing moonstone-blue, like that of some unfathomably old, unjudging god. The look penetrates to the very depth of my being.
Because of that moment, I looked at the wonders of nature with new eyes. And I wrote a book, Eye of the Whale, about following the migration of these majestic creatures from Baja to their Arctic feeding grounds.
On the morning of October 22, 2013, Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral died after suffering a stroke. He was probably in his mid-seventies. I received word from my friend Serge Dedina, founder of the WildCoast organization, who wrote in his Email tribute: “Pachico played a major role in uncovering the plans by ESSA/Mitsubishi to build a $180 million salt facility on the shore of Laguna San Ignacio, when he gave me and Emily the blueprints to the project in early 1994. It was a courageous act, considering that he lived in a wooden shack with sand floors at the edge of the Lagoon and helped to launch a campaign that 20 years later resulted in the protection of more than 300,000 acres of lagoon habitat. It was never quite clear to me how he obtained a fresh set of blueprints for the project since he didn't drive much, had no telephone, and his only way of communicating with the outside world was via radio.
“Whether he was assisting scientists or conservationists or inspiring his sons to continue the family business of conservation and ecotourism, Pachico’s insights into the Lagoon, the wildlife there (of which he was a keen observer) and its need for protection were invaluable.
“And we could always count on Pachico to provide a moving and inspiring quote about the need to conserve the Lagoon and its whales to the New York Times, LA Times and NBC News among other media outlets from around the world that featured his inspiring message of the need to live in harmony with whales and nature.
Here is a video from NBC Nightly News with Maria Celeste where Pachico was the subject of a story about ‘Making a Difference.’
“Here is how Pulitzer winning reporter Ken Weiss ended his feature story on Laguna San Ignacio:
Mayoral said the gray whales, once hunted nearly to extinction, have much to teach humans about resolving conflicts. After all these years, he marvels how the curious cetaceans behave, the mothers sometimes boosting their calves out of the water so tourists can scratch their heads or rub their baleen gums. "They were attacked by men and yet they look to get closer to people," Mayoral said. "That is a great lesson for all of us."
Other tributes began quickly coming in. Emily Young, of the San Diego Foundation, wrote: “Pachico was such a wonderful, kind, and generous man whose love for the lagoon, whales, and the many people who knew him was boundless – his spirit certain lives on in the hearts of all those who were fortunate enough to know him.”
Beto Bedolfe, Executive Director of the Marisla Foundation, wrote: “This is a sad day but what Pachico started will live on forever. He made an incredible contribution to saving whales and nature and making life better for people.”
Fay Crevoshay, Communications and Policy Director of Wildcoast, wrote: “Pachico will certainly be missed. He was a lovely person, a great story teller, and you could hear his free spirit and boundless love for nature, the lagoon and his whales in his inspiring stories.”
Joel Reynolds, Western Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote: “This is the end of an era at Laguna San Ignacio. Pachico is one of those rare people I will always be proud to say I met, worked with, and admired for what he did for the lagoon, its communities, and our world heritage.”
Thank you, Pachico. I know in my heart that the whales will miss you deeply, too. – Dick Russell.
My talk, as described below, will take place at the CG Jung Foundation in New York City, 28 East 39th Street. They do charge $70 for non-members to get in (Jung Foundation Members $55), but I hope that some of you might still be interested in attending.
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
James Hillman, is considered the founder of archetypal psychology, an important post-Jungian school of thought. With Hillman's authorization, Dick Russell has been working on his biography for more than seven years. Volume One of Russell's The Life and Ideas of James Hillman was published in June by Helios Press. This workshop will include the personal story of Russell's relationship with Dr. Hillman, and he will read a number of excerpts from the book, with particular emphasis on some of the critical experiences that led Hillman to Zurich to study with Jung and on the evolution of Hillman's relationship to Jung.
a daylong program led by Dick Russell
They Killed Our President!
My fifth book with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura is being published by Skyhorse this week. "They Killed Our President! 63 Reasons to Believe There was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK" is a collaborative effort between the governor, myself, and David Wayne. It coincides with the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's death on November 22, and leaves no stone unturned in revealing that more than one gunman was involved.
I'll be speaking at two conferences, LANCER and COPA, in Dallas come November. Gov. Ventura will be appearing on numerous national and local TV and radio programs, including Piers Morgan on October 1. (see the tour schedule below)
- Dick Russell
Recently I made my debut as a "talking head" on the Web-based weekly talk show, Buzzsaw, hosted by Tyrel Ventura on LipTV. For this episode, about 40 minutes long, we talked about Syria, economic inequality, 9/11, and climate change.
- Dick Russell
MY BIOGRAPHY OF JAMES HILLMAN
The first volume of my new book, "The Life and Ideas of James Hillman," is being published in June by Helios Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Volume one of the biography is sub-titled "The Making of a Psychologist." This is the result of more than seven years of research, and I hope that even those with even a passing interest in psychology will find it of interest. I'll be updating here concerning my appearances, reviews, etc. Meantime, please check out the book cover, the publisher's press release, and an announcement concerning my upcoming lecture at the Jung Institute in Los Angeles. - Dick Russell.
The Winter of the Monarch
by Lincoln P. Brower and Homero Aridjis
In 2000, I visited the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico with Homero Aridjis, Lincoln Brower, and others. It was one of the most memorable experiences I've had in recent years - the stunning beauty of millions of these wondrous creatures festooned in the trees above us. As this piece in the New York Times by Homero and Lincoln demonstrates, the future existence of the monarchs - surely one of the great natural wonders of our planet - is theatened in several ways. This is a tragedy, and calls for action, especially on the front that Americans can fight: the proliferation of genetically modified organisms.
- Dick Russell
50 Reasons For 50 years
Recently Len Osanic interviewed me about my research into the Kennedy assassination, as part of his ongoing series "50 Reasons for 50 Years." I hope you'll check out his five-minute YouTube video.
- Dick Russell
LEGITIMACY OF THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM
|My longtime friend Randy Foote, who teaches political science at Roxbury Community College in Boston, recently gave a talk at MIT titled "Legitimacy of the U.S. Election System." As you will see, this is more of a question than a declarative statement. Harkening back to the idealism he knew as a Harvard student in the late 1960s, moving through the questionable election of George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, on to the current election and the threat of another possible theft by the Republican-controlled electronic voting machines, Foote's talk offers food-for-thought. - Dick Russell|
Click here: LEGITIMACY OF THE U.S. ELECTION SYSTEM
THE RUSSELL ARCHIVES
I have begun boxing up and donating a vast collection of research materials that I've gathered over the years in writing hundreds of articles and ten books. My extensive collection related to the Kennedy assassination and recent American history is going to Baylor University, which already has amassed material from numerous researchers in the field. (See www.baylor.edu/lib/poage) Files related to my book on "Black Genius" will be going to Northeastern University in Boston. My papers related to striped bass and fisheries conservation, utilized for my book "Striper Wars," are available at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. See the following link:
Click here: Finding aid for the Richard B. Russell striped bass and environmental journalism papers
NOT AN ACT OF GOD
My good friend Ross Gelbspan, author of two path-breaking books about climate change, has written a powerful piece about the impact of Hurricane Sandy and has given me permission to put it on my website. Go to www.heatisonline.org to keep up with Ross's up-to-the-minute postings on the climate crisis.
read: Not an act of God
November 1, 2012
BILLFISH CONSERVATION ACT
In the 1980s, along with some ocean activist friends, I made the rounds of a number of seafood restaurants in the Boston area. If we found any that served marlin on the menu – even if the fish came from a far-away place – we made a big stink. We demanded to see the manager and not-so-politely informed the restaurateur that marlin along the Eastern seaboard were endangered and that they should stop buying marlin from anywhere and take them off the menu immediately.
Generally, the restaurant manager was apologetic but defended himself by claiming that these were striped marlin from Hawaii – not white or blue marlin being taken from the Atlantic. We continued to insist, because after all, how could you really tell the difference? Besides, it was a matter of good conscience. Why create a taste for this beautiful billfish, where there hadn’t been one before?
Massachusetts did end up outlawing any sale of marlin caught in the Atlantic Ocean, and we considered that a big victory at the time. In 1989, sale of Atlantic-caught billfish was prohibited by the Federal government, and later so was any sale of striped marlin caught off the West Coast. But America remained the largest buyer in the world of foreign-caught billfish – importing a staggering 30,000 Pacific marlin and other billfish every year, along with black market fish taken from the Atlantic. These continued to be sold in mainland restaurants and seafood markets.
And populations of marlin continued to plummet. A global assessment made in 2011 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed white, blue, and striped marlin as threatened species. The only way they could recover, said the IUCN, was to reduce fishing pressure.
The U.S. has finally taken a step to do just that. Remarkably, bipartisan support in both houses of Congress resulted in passage of the Billfish Conservation Act. President Obama signed the Act into law in October, effectively banning the importation of any and all billfish into the continental U.S.
Ken Hinman, whose National Coalition for Marine Conservation had organized a nationwide “Take Marlin off the Menu” campaign, called this “a tremendous victory for these highly migratory species. Marlin, sailfish, and spearfish do not know country boundaries and travel through three of the planet’s oceans. Giving them greater protection in the United States sets the stage for better protection worldwide.”
It took more than twenty years since my friends and I invaded the restaurant scene, but what we helped put in motion finally happened. In Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea, the aging fisherman Santiago had said of the huge marlin that he’d battled: “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother.” Now, thanks to the action taken by our federal government, the noble marlin and its brethren may yet survive the greed of humankind.
Oct. 11, 2012 - The Kennedy Assassination: New Developments
Sep. 11, 2012 - The Madness of Drilling in the Chukchi Sea
Aug. 30, 2012 - Striped Bass: A Grim Update
Feb. 05, 2011 - Of Whales and Fish
Feb. 25, 2010 - Toward a New Policy for the Oceans
From a young climate activist colleague, Yoni Binstock:
"I've recently added a new feature to the Climate Scores website where I've graded the Presidential candidates on how they stand on climate change."
Click for more...
Climate Scores... where Congressmen are scored
on climate change legislation
including bills and amendments on
renewable energy, climate change mitigation, subsidies and tax policies, and greenhouse gas regulation.
Mexico Cancels Controversial Baja Resort Project
- This announcement by Mexico's President Calderon represents a huge victory for environmental activists fighting to stop a mega-resort development proposed for one of the most productive coral reefs left in the world. My friends and I, who have a residence not far away on Baja's Sea of Cortez, were very involved in the battle against a Spanish development outfit, Hansa Urbana. So were Mexico's great poet and environmental leader, Homero Aridjis, along with the NRDC and Wildcoast organizations as well as local groups from Cabo Pulmo. This is the most important grassroots achievement in Mexico since President Zedillo cancelled the proposed saltworks at the gray whales' pristine birthing habitat in Laguna San Ignacio in 2000, a story recounted in my book "Eye of the Whale." - Dick Russell
Click here: Mexico Cancels Controversial Baja Resort Project - ABC News
New From Homero Aridjis
"The Sun, the Moon, and Walmart"
My friend, the Mexican poet/environmentalist Homero Aridjis, has just released through his Group of 100 organization a petition signed by more than 150 writers and artists from 30 countries, asking Mexican President Felipe Calderon to cancel gold and silver mining concessions granted to Canadian companies in Wirikuta, the sacred territory of the Huichol people. The survival of Huichol culture is at stake. - Dick Russell
petitions: Writers Intellectuals
Dick Russell has been added to the roster of clients of the AEI Speakers Bureau. For anyone interested in booking a speaking engagement to hear Dick on any of several topics, here's a link to their website: www.aeispeakers.com
TESTIMONY OF DICK RUSSELL
Author, Striper Wars
H796, An Act relative to the conservation of Atlantic striped bass
Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture
January 14, 2010
I thank you for allowing me to testify today on what I believe is an urgent conservation measure, vital to preserving for our children and grand-children the most magnificent fish that swims our near-shore waters. I am an environmental journalist and the author of six books, including one called Striper Wars, about the fish that is the subject of this hearing. And today I hope to offer some historical perspective, along with the reasons why H796 needs to be passed during the current legislative session.
Striped bass have been called the aquatic equivalent of the American bald eagle. Without Native Americans having taught the Pilgrims about how to take striped bass, they would not have survived their first difficult winters in the Plymouth Colony. Protection of striped bass was the reason for America’s very first conservation law, in 1639, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony general court ruled they were too valuable to be ground up and used for fertilizer. The first fishery management measures, in 1776, were also drawn up on the striper’s behalf...
complete article here
Published June 23rd, 2005...
Dick Russell's latest book:
An American Fish Story
The remarkable story of how one species was brought back from the brink of extinction only to face new and even more daunting threats...
When populations of striped bass began plummeting in the early 1980s, author and fisherman Dick Russell was there to lead an Atlantic coast conservation campaign that resulted in one of the most remarkable wildlife comebacks in the history of fisheries. As any avid fisherman will tell you, the striped bass has long been a favorite at the American dinner table; in fact, we've been feasting on the fish from the time of the Pilgrims. By 1980 that feasting had turned to overfishing by commercial fishing interests. Striper Wars is Dick Russell's inspiring account of the people and events responsible for the successful preservation of one of America's favorite fish and of what has happened since...
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hardcover: 288 pages / Island Press Shearwater Books (June 23, 2005)
Now in Paperback!
Eye of the Whale
"Once in a while, a book comes along that redefines its subject to the extent that most previous works immediately become obsolete. Eye of the Whale is such a book...it will change the way you think about the natural world."
RICHARD ELLIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Named a Best Book of the Year by three major newspapers upon its initial publication, and now available for the first time in paperback, Eye of the Whale offers an exhilarating blend of adventure and natural history as Dick Russell follows the migration of the gray whale from Mexico's Baja peninsula to the Arctic's Bering Strait.
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Paperback: 688 pages / Island Press Shearwater Books (September 20, 2004)
In this collection of essays and interviews journalist Dick Russell examines the role of African Americans through two centuries of American history. He focuses primarily on the role of blacks in the cultural life of the United States. Russell writes about notable figures such as educator Mary McLeod Bethune, speaks with Harvard professor Cornel West about W. E. B. Du Bois, and discusses Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin in an essay titled "Timeless Voices, Parallel Realities." Black Genius and the American Experience, with an introduction by Alvin F. Poussaint, takes a thoughtful and fascinating look at the contributions to U.S. history made by Americans of African descent.
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Paperback: 497 pages / Carroll & Graf Publishers (February 1, 1999)