Ecocide in Cancun

January 29, 2016

By Ruben D. Arvizu*

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“The destruction of vital mangroves, or any critical coastal habitat, is absolutely devastating to the planet, communities in Cancun, Mexico and around the world. To destroy mangroves – which support rich ocean biodiversity, protect the coastlines from hurricanes and storms, and cleanse our water supply – is an absolute absurdity. In the past, we did not know. Now we do. We must stop cutting mangroves anywhere in the world, we must stop undermining the health of our life-support system.”
– Jean-Michel Cousteau


The Tajamar mangrove - August 2015. Image Courtesy LoQueSigue

In the very well publicized COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, nearly 200 Nations committed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and make their best efforts to reinforce the environmental laws.

On paper and in photo ops all reads and looks terrific, but unfortunately it is an Agreement and not a Treaty, therefore it is not mandatory and mostly will depend on the goodwill of Governments.

We humans are part of this wonderful world that we share with other animals and plants. As the self proclaimed “King of Creation”, our conduct has not been the best for the Planet and our fellow earthlings. We continue with the Damocles sword of Nuclear weapons hanging over our heads. We know well that the power to vaporize all life on Earth exists with the touch of a button. But at the same time, other ways to vanish our presence on this beautiful Blue Marble continues with no stop, with or without Agreements.


The Tajamar mangrove - January 12, 2016. Image Courtesy LoQueSigue

On January 20, 2016, NASA made the announcement jointly with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that 2015 shattered 2014’s record to become the hottest year ever recorded. Revealing another sign that Earth is heating up causing the undeniable Climate Change. But even with all the indisputable data, the destruction of forests, rivers, lakes and green areas advance without stop.

An example of this, at the famous beach resort of Cancun, in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico, an ecocide was committed with the support and compliance of the authorities. In a quick operation in the early dawn of January 16, enormous excavators and earth moving equipment started leveling the vibrant and full of life ancient mangrove swamp of Tajamar, an oasis in the middle of a sea of cement and glass. Riot police forces barricaded citizens protesting the appalling destruction. There were daunting scenes similar to the ones in the Amazon where people confronted the excavators. In Cancun, people with their children tried in vain to stop the ecocide. Their weapons were their voices and their bodies, and the children carrying signs with the question: “What will be left for us?”


The Tajamar mangrove - January 19, 2016. Image Courtesy LoQueSigue

The Governor of the State of Quintana Roo, Roberto Borge, justified the devastation of the mangroves. He states that FONATUR (National Funds for Tourism) has permission from SEMARNAT (Secretary of Ecology) to continue with the plan of urban development “to ensure sustainability and orderly growth.”

That development will include condominiums, shops, hotels and even a Basilica that will house 1500 people. The Bishop of Cancun, Pedro Elizondo, has promoted the construction. It will be part of the destructive forces that are annihilating an ancient and vital green area. This is a total contradiction of what Pope Francis stated for the protection of the environment in his Encyclical letter “Laudatto-Si” “On care of Our Common Home.” In the letter the Pope states: “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet.”


The Tajamar mangrove - January 19, 2016. Image Courtesy LoQueSigue

The Mexican newspaper El Economista has published the list of the companies and individuals, including the Municipality who claimed ownership of this natural area. This area was vital not only for the flora and fauna that existed there but also as a buffer zone for hurricanes.

Dr. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation commented: “The images of this unfortunate event shows a microcosm of how we humans are fouling our nest and destroying our planet.  It is appalling and very disturbing.  One is left asking: What is wrong with us?  When will we ever learn?  When will greed be replaced with love and compassion?

Thank You,
Ruben D. Arvizu

*Ruben D. Arvizu is Director General for Latin America of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. Ambassador of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate and Director for Latin America of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF)