Things That Matter

Environmentalists Are Outraged At The US’s Latest Plans To Use The Galapagos Island As An Airstrip

Ecuador is receiving heavy criticism for giving the U.S. military permission to use a Galapagos island as an airfield. The proposed plan by Ecuador to allow the U.S. to use an airstrip on the Galapagos island of San Cristobal has drawn anger from local politicians and activists that say more harm than good will be done. The historic islands in Ecuador are one of the most biodiverse regions on the globe and are home to a number of species found nowhere else on the planet.

Ecuador and the U.S. plan on using the island as a way to stop drug trafficking flights.

Credit: guillaumelong/Twitter

Under the deal with Ecuador, the Pentagon will use the tiny airport on the San Cristobal island to “fight drug trafficking”, defense minister Oswaldo Jarrin told Latin American TV network Telesur.

Jarrín announced Ecuador President Lenín Moreno’s administration’s decision to expand an existing airfield on the San Cristobal Island for U.S. spy planes targeting drug traffickers on June 12. The aircrafts that would be used include a Boeing 777 and a Lockheed P-3 Orion.

According to the Los Angeles Times, multiple Latin American nations like Colombia, Peru, and Panama don’t allow the basing of U.S. anti-drug overflights controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Ecuador’s constitution, which was adopted in 2008, prohibits the installation of foreign military bases in the country.

Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa tweeted “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorian province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Following mass criticism, Jarrin said that the Galapagos Islands would not become home to a U.S. military base or any kind of permanent post. “A base means permanence, there will be no permanence,” Jarrín said.

He added that flight crews would stay a week at most on the island and activities would be monitored by Ecuadorian authorities. The Pentagon would also have to pay for any needed “readjustments” to the airfield, which some fear could lead to environmental harm.

Critics of the proposed plan say the move could threaten the fragile environment of the island.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most famous areas known for its unique array of wildlife and natural plants. Famed for its rich biodiversity, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

Many fear that construction or possible use of the island for military purposes will harm wildlife and other organisms there. The increasing number of tourists have already caused some concerns. The number of tourists visiting the islands rose from 161,000 in 2007 to over 225,000 in 2016, the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association said.

At this time, it’s unclear if Ecuador will proceed with its plans with the U.S. as many have criticized the proposed plans. The Pentagon has yet to comment or confirm any such agreement with Ecuador.

READ: New Research Shows Most Undocumented Immigrants Aren’t Coming From Mexico But Instead Central America

Our Tías’ Nacimientos Will Never Be The Same Since Mexico Has Outlawed Buying And Selling The Moss

Culture

Our Tías’ Nacimientos Will Never Be The Same Since Mexico Has Outlawed Buying And Selling The Moss

sony_a6000photos / Instagram / Pinterest

Growing up Mexican I looked forward to the Christmas season yes, tbh mostly because of presents but also because it was the time when mom and I got to go way overboard with our Nativity Scene decorations. If you’re Latino, putting up a nacimiento is just as essential a part of Christmas, as putting up a tree. If there’s one cliche that has proven to be true, time and again, it’s that Latino moms tend to be extra AF in everything they do. The representations of Jesus’s birth vary from minimal, to OTT baroque, to hyper-realistic. There’s one element that remains the most important aspect of the nacimiento across the board, in Mexico at least, the moss and other dense green clumps are usually used to adorn the decoration. So, what if we told you that buying and selling moss is actually illegal in Mexico?

Nacimiento, Pesebre, or Belen, are the names that different Latin American countries give to the traditional Nativity Scene representation under the Christmas tree.

Credit: Pinterest

The representation of Jesus’s birth, known as nacimiento in Mexico, pesebre in Colombia and other South American countries, or Belen in Spain, is a centuries-old tradition in the Catholic world. All you really need to tell the story are three basic figures: Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. But why limit yourself? 

You could make the case that the three wise men and the star that guided them to the newborn baby are also essential. Jesus was born in a stable because there was no place at the inns in Bethlehem, so naturally, there should be farm animals around, and hay, and moss —and why not a stream made of cellophane, while you’re at it? 

Nativity Scenes are usually elaborate, over the top extravaganzas that families work tirelessly on for the holiday season.

In Mexico and many other countries of Latin America, nacimientos can turn into elaborate extravaganzas, populated by all manner of animals and plants that you would never find side by side in the real world. Some scenes display pump-operated rivers with real water, others feature waterfalls and ponds. Some include whole cities built around the manger where Jesus was born. The creative license extends to the characters, which range from unrelated biblical figures such as Adam and Eve to random shepherds, farmers, and the devil. It’s clearly not an exercise in authenticity, but it’s festive and fun.

Part of the fun is the use of moss and other types of grass to add to the ‘look’. 

Credit: Pinterest

Moss is used to decorate the scene, but it also has a special symbolism. Spanish moss is of particular importance in the catholic representation of baby Jesus’s birth. A little patch of the gray grass is always placed underneath Satan —to highlight his presence and set him apart from the rest of the crowd. According to tradition, Satan should always be present in a nacimiento to remind us that although the birth of Jesus offers love and the possibility of redemption, sin and evil are always present in the world —and moss plays a big part in his representation.

As soon as November starts drawing to an end and December is around the corner, every mercado in Mexico is flooded by vendors who sell the coveted greenery of the season. 

Credit: @jjoel777 / Twitter

Every city and town has a market where, for about a month between the end of November and the first week in January, a large number of vendors offer items, especially for Christmas.  Some larger cities, like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Morelia, and others, offer several tianguis navideños (Christmas markets) where literally hundreds of vendors set up shop, to sell the infamous moss. 

But as it turns out, selling and/or buying moss is illegal.

Credit: losconfites_organicfarm / Instagram

This type of grass is essential for the survival of Mexican forests. The species is protected by the country, which makes its trade ilegal —and you might want to think twice before you buy it. 

Mosses are actually essential for the health and wellbeing of many ecosystems and all the organisms that inhabit them.

Credit: sony_a6000photos / Instagram

The term moss encompasses any of at least 12,000 species of small land plants. Mosses are distributed throughout the world except in saltwater and are commonly found in moist shady locations. They are best known as those species that carpet woodland and forest floors. Ecologically, mosses capture water and filter it to underground streams, or substrata, releasing nutrients for the use of more complex plants that succeed them. They also aid in soil erosion control by providing surface cover and absorbing water, and they are important in the nutrient and water economy of some vegetation types. Essentially, they are the pulse of forests and ecosystems everywhere.

Protection and conservation are relatively novel concepts in Mexican bryology, the branch of botany that studies mosses. 

Credit: @elbigdatamx / Twitter

Mexico is home to more than 900 recorded species of moss —and much of the country’s territory is yet to be explored thoroughly for more flora. However, local mosses face habitat destruction and over-harvesting as their major threat. 

In 1993, a diagnostic study of mosses that required protection Mexico was conducted, and supported by the federal government as well as other international agencies. At the time, six species were recognized as ‘rare’ or ‘endangered’ and were placed under official protection. 

The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico regulates the extraction and trade of moss. 

Credit: @iinfodeac / Twitter

In order to extract moss from its natural habitat, and furthermore, to commercialize it, vendors must follow strict requirements in order to attain a license. According to Mexican Forest Law 001 expedited by SEMARNAT (The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources of Mexico), the extraction of moss is only permitted when the plant is in a mature state and ready for harvest, other conditions require that moss must be extracted in parcels of no more than 2 meters of width and that only 50 percent of each patch of moss may be extracted, etc. 

During this time of year, Mexican police are on high alert. 

Credit: @mimorelia / Twitter

Around the holiday season, police in Mexico double up on their patrolling. Authorities will be on high alert, inspecting those establishments who are authorized to sell moss and searching for those who aren’t. The Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection will be watching —so you might want to tell your mom and tias to avoid shopping for moss in Mexico this year.

READ: Check Out Some Of The Most Tiny And Adorable Nacimientos

Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

Things That Matter

Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

Inhabitat

One of the biggest assets of the great and complex country known as Mexico is the creative and even ludic way in which people reuse materials. This is done on an everyday basis. You just have to go to a traditional mercado to see, for example, Barbie doll dresses made with scraps from old clothes. Need a swing for the backyard? No worries, that used tire will do! 

But sometimes this sort of creativity extends to public works that set a good example that other governments can follow. 

Introducing the world’s very first eco-highway! Recycled plastic on the road! 

Credit: Mexico News Daily

The state of Guanajuato in central Mexico is home to the first ever highway paved with recycled materials. The effort is modest at the moment and involved a 4 kilometer stretch that required 1.7 tons of plastic. The stretch communicates the municipalities of Irapuato and Cuerámaro. If we don’t continue to implement solutions like these, the only highway that we will be paving as humanity is a highway to climate hell!

The number of plastic packages required to accumulate 1.7 tons will surprise you!

According to Dow Plastics Technology Mexico, the 1.7 tons of eco-pavement equal up to 425,000 plastic packaging units. The development of the highway plastic was a private affair that involved the companies Dow, Vise, Surfax, Lasfalto and Omnigreen, and its use in the highway was championed by the federal body Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT). Regardless of the politics that are surely involved in the project (governments loooove to take credit for this sort of initiatives and present themselves as super eco-friendly), this project sets a great precedent. 

And the new recycled material is much more durable too!

Credit: Inhabitat

Through a press release, Dow praised the durability of the new eco-material, which could become the standard in the years to come: “This new technology not only offers a possible solution to the management of plastic waste, it also theoretically prolongs the life span of highways by 50% compared to conventional asphalt. The advantage of using recycled plastic products is that they can be used on all types of highways, not only in high-performance products, which can extend the life span of any paved road”.

It is important to note that the world at large is facing a crisis when it comes to the management of recycling materials. Many developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand traditionally send their plastics to China to be recycled. However, China is no longer accepting them and a lot of plastic is either being stored (a costly and not very useful solution) or, worse, it ends up in landfill. This was a pilot study, but it will surely at least trigger the curiosity of other governments and companies. And remember: they both love good PR, and what could be better PR than being eco-friendly in these times of true environmental distress? 

Mexicans have done some other pretty cool eco-friendly things with roads!

Credit: Elite Readers

If you have been to Mexico City chances are that you have been stuck in traffic. If the traffic lasts for more than, say, 45 minutes, chances are then that you are in the infamous Periferico. This artery, which connects the city’s Sur y Norte, was so busy that the government decided to build a second floor on top of it. This was a very controversial project then championed by now president AMLO.

A new project, Via Verde, is creating vertical gardens on the pillars that support “El Segundo Piso”. This is intended not only to provide a pretty view for tired drivers, but also to alleviate some of the air pollution caused by the thousands of cars that cross “El Peri” every day in what is perhaps one of the world’s busiest commutes. We only hope that CDMX becomes a truly green megalopolis… 

And don’t forget the nopal leather made by a duo of Mexican superstars!

Credit: The Mind Unleashed

A few days ago this wonderful invention made its rounds on the media: Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, two Mexican inventors, have created an alternative to plastic faux leather by using nopal, a cactus variety that is as delicious to eat as it is durable when used as a material. If this vegan and eco-friendly is commercialized on a large scale it will not only provide more fashion alternatives to vegans, but it will also have an impact on the cattle industry, which is one of the main culprits of climate change. The material is also much more breathable than plastic faux leather… seriously, that things makes you sweat like there is no tomorrow!