Friday, October 14, 2016

The Importance of Mangroves

…for Social and Environmental Preservation

This past month, September 2016, we, the planet, have officially passed the threshold (400 ppm) of carbon in our atmosphere.  If we, in spite of everything are lucky enough to finish out our lives with enough clean air to breathe, history books will look back on this moment in time as the major event marking the world’s deteriorating environment; to be specific, AIR…number one importance to the existence of life.  Remember, without oxygen for us to breath, we have approximately 7 minutes before our hearts fail to pump and we die…7 minutes at its maximum.

Latest news from meteorologist researching the atmosphere, explain that Arctic stored methane is being released now from under the ice caps, from the bottom of the seas, unnoticed to the eye.  This phenomenon is called deglaciation. It is intensified by global warming. This results in the ‘methane release effect’.  Methane is itself a most powerful greenhouse gas, and these gases trap heat in our atmosphere, with a snowball effect…a process that started gaining momentum a few decades ago.

While methane doesn’t linger as long as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both types of emissions must be addressed if we want to effectively reduce the impact of climate change.
This methane and carbon is not just limited to the arctic seas, but also is stored in Mexico’s coastal mangroves… in the leaves, the stems, the trunk, the roots and the mud.  Mangroves are natural carbon-scrubbers, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it away.  These mangrove forests then return to us this precious and most important to our lives, clean perfect oxygen, sequestering carbon for millennia in their rich soils. We must give thanks to that word “sequestered”.

From the dwarf trees in the deserts of Baja California to 40 meter giants in the coastal forests of Chiapas to the shoreline of the Riviera Maya, the coast of Mexico has more than 700,000 hectares of mangroves, 5% of the world total, making it the fourth country in the world, after Indonesia, Brazil and Australia.
Studies on the Meso-american reef showed that there are as many as 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down, filled in, and destroyed.   This makes mangrove forests vitally important to coral reef and commercial fisheries as well.
In a time of out of control global warming, as being seen with the latest super storm Hurricane Matthew leaving death and destruction in its path, mangrove shorelines will protect the land, the buildings and the people from these damaging winds, waves, and floods.

Mangrove forests are the breeding and nursery grounds for many marine species.  An example is the shark, who will lay their young in the mangrove and there their young will stay until they are 2 years of age.  They will be then strong enough to fend in the open sea for themselves. Hence, loss of mangroves not only affects us indirectly but there are direct economic repercussions through loss of fishing industry and of course for the tourism that Quintana Roo is known for.
if you poke the mangrove mud  slowly with a stick and then pull the stick out, you can light the hole with a match, and a tall flame will burn.  This is the methane gas escaping.  As long as the atmosphere is healthy, mangrove trees will live, making our mangrove forests almost certainly over 10,000 years old, from the era of the last ice age, and thus tons of carbon sequestering by the mangroves has resulted.  With all these carbons ‘C’s hanging out in the mud, just add hydrogen (which is the water) and these ‘C’s now change to methane, stored methane, lots of stored methane.  Methane is deadly.  Methane will blow up as in bombs.

Along the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula, to date more than 100,000 hectares of mangrove have been destroyed by fill to make way for coastal hotels.  Close to 90,000 rooms have now been built and more coming every day, mangroves are on the verge of extinction.  Yet these are the most important real estate we have in Mexico today.

Protection: there are laws….perfect laws, but sadly, non-enforced laws.  Non-enforced as developers have bribe money to make the government turn and look away.  Laws protecting these most important forests stating it is crime, to hurt a mangrove, to fill a mangrove, to touch a mangrove, yet, the laws are NOT followed by the people elected to protect us and our country.

We ask why there is a Chapter in the Criminal Federal Law (Codigo Penal Federal) making it a criminal offense with jail to violators, if this law is NEVER enforced…. only one person to date in the Yucatan has ever been accused of mangrove filling, and that is this author.  My fabricated crime was filling in a 20X30 meter piece of mangrove, which after nearly 5 years, the case was dropped.  During these years, this author could only spend time in her defense, putting her activism on the shelf, while mangrove after mangrove was annihilated.  This was actually what my neighboring Spanish hotel wanted, the stopping of activism, and the stopping of ecocide photos.  It’s called SLAPP.  A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

Spanning the years from 1996 to present, filling in mangroves has been a crime.  To name the most recent, SEMARNAT supports and has given permissions to destroy the mangrove, at Punta Moroma, a beautiful beach just south of Cancun, the project called Dream Works:  a new Disneyworld project #23QR2016T0012,  8 Agosta 2016.  One of the most spectacular beaches on this touristic coastline; we don’t need or want a coastal Disneyland. We need a healthy State instead.
Although the news of this Peninsula does not readily reach the rest of the country, you will all remember the destruction in Cancun called Tajamar, just a few months ago, which made world news.

In just one weekend, 57 hectares of mangrove and animals were destroyed, for the construction of a housing development in accordance with the authorities again.  Please note there are plenty of empty lands to build housing developments, malls, hotels and Disneylands on this Peninsula that are safe and out of harm’s way to our planet.

But now we come to the saddest of all, a lagoon called Cenote Manati, located 10kms north of Tulum, and where the underground river Nohoch Na Chic connects one of the longest underwater Cave Systems in the world with the ocean. It is one of the few surface rivers on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Draining into the Caribe, this cenote is full of life, harboring fish, crabs, snook, manatees, also enjoyed by both snorkelers and divers. But Cenote Manari will soon be destroyed. This river system is so beautiful and alive; it gives the diver and snorkeler the feeling of diving underneath the jungle.

Yes, plans are to build yet another hotel…so once again, SEMARNAT will give its unlawful approval and this mangrove with disappear.   As previous owner of this no building green zone piece of property, Glaston Alegre and sole proprietor of the monopoly of all radio in this State of Quintana Roo, has just sold this mangrove and one of the last lagoons opened to the ocean.  Of course, although it is a crime against this country, SEMARNAT will give permissions for this destruction…as this is what they do!

Semarnat in total, or the persons responsible for signing these wetlands off, should go to jail? just like the law states.  It is the law. The law was not made for foolish or mindless reasons, but for the protection of our country Article 60 Ter of the  Wild Life General Law (Ley General de Vida Silvestre) says,
Queda prohibida la remoción, relleno, transplante, poda, o cualquier obra o actividad que afecte la integralidad del flujo hidrológico del manglar; del ecosistema y su zona de influencia; de su productividad natural; de la capacidad de carga natural del ecosistema para los proyectos turísticos; de las zonas de anidación, reproducción, refugio, alimentación y alevinaje; o bien de las interacciones entre el manglar, los ríos, la duna, la zona marítima adyacente y los corales, o que provoque cambios en las características y servicios ecológicos.

Mexico has one of the highest mangrove deforestation rates in the world. Is it really necessary that the idea of progress should validate destroying our ecosystems? If we continue on this reckless path we will face destruction from strong climate change fueled weather and we as a species are putting the lives of our children and next generations under serious danger. We need to start thinking in the long term and not being driven by the short-term profit and the destruction that comes along.

In the centuries to come will our future families be able to breathe?  The time to act is now.

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