Shaping Clean Policy for a Low-Carbon Economy is the subject of this week’s Green Solutions 2012 Summit in Mexico City. The conference focused on sustainable urban development, including such components as planning, design and architecture of new “green cities.” Sustainable urban development balances the… need to fight urban environmental deterioration while also ensuring the needs, development and wellbeing of inhabitants are met.
The Summit featured a panel on how Mexico and the United Kingdom are working together for more sustainable cities. Organizations represented on the panel (CTS, Fundación IDEA, IMCO and ITDP) addressed some of the results obtained from related projects funded by the British Embassy through the “Fondo Prosperidad” initiative. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. America is the most urbanized continent, with close to 80% of its population living in urban areas. For this reason, common solutions must be found to achieve balance in the surroundings, safeguard the environment and offer people a better quality of life.
A subsequent panel featured officials from the states of Aguascalientes, Morelos and Quintana Roo to present the public initiatives and policies of local entities to fight climate change and develop sustainable urban planning projects.
On September 24, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History hosted the world premiere event of SK Films’ “Flight of the Butterflies.” The 3D nature film was screened in the Johnson IMAX Theater. The movie premiere was attended by President Felipe Calderón and First Lady Margarita Zavala, as well as a… variety of Mexican and U.S. officials, including Mexican Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara, Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhán, and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Representatives from SK Films were also in attendance, including Executive Producer Jonathan Barker, Director Mike Slee, and Co-Executive Producer Wendy MacKeigan. The principal actor, Gordon Pinsent, was also there, as well as actor Shaun Benson and actress Patricia Phillips. Catalina Aguado, the only surviving member of the original monarch sanctuary discovery team, was a featured guest. Catalina was recognized and applauded for her journey that has dawned new discoveries in monarchs, and which led to decades of fascination with the migration.
A reception in the museum’s rotunda featured small plate Mexican cuisine and live mariachi music. Light projections of butterflies danced across the high ceilings while the attendees swayed to the traditional Mexican music. Cookies in the shape of monarchs topped off the delicious selection of Mexican dishes.
The city of Oaxaca is bustling, colorful and festive. But one of its great charms is that it has many quiet spaces where you can retreat from the hub-bub and find yourself surrounded by tranquility and beauty, manifested in art, architecture, nature, or the local people. One such tranquil spot is… the Ethnobotanical Garden, located right in the heart of Oaxaca's historical center.
The Ethnobotanical Garden is part of the Santo Domingo Cultural Center which also includes the Oaxacan Museum of Cultures, the Francisco Burgoa ancient books library, and the Nestor Sanchez periodicals library. The garden is located behind the church and former convent, and unfortunately, many visitors miss it.
Mexico is among the most biologically rich countries in the world; it is considered to be "megadiverse" because of the great number of species of plants and animals that inhabit its territory. Of all of Mexico's 31 states, Oaxaca is the one with the most biodiversity. This is no doubt because of its varied terrain, with over 500 km of coastline, as well as mountain ranges of up to 3500 meters above sea level. This also accounts for Oaxaca's great ethnic diversity: no less than 16 ethnic groups live in Oaxaca, and have since ancient times.
The garden is a microcosm of Oaxaca's rich biodiversity. Its goal is to preserve Oaxaca's endemic flora, and to allow visitors to appreciate the state's botanical diversity, as well as to gain understanding about human interaction with plants throughout history. This is the first modern, public botanical garden in the state, and the emphasis on the natural history of the local plants and their cultural importance makes this a fascinating visit even if you're not interested in botany.
The area that today serves as the garden covers about 2 hectares and was part of the property of Santo Domingo convent, which functioned from 1608 until the 1860s. When the Reform Laws were brought into effect in the 1860s, religious orders in Mexico were dissolved, and the government nationalized all church property. The entire Santo Domingo complex, including the church, convent and surrounding property then served as a military base for many years. In 1898 the church was returned to the Dominicans, but the military did not completely evacuate the premises until 1994.
After the military departure, the former convent underwent an extensive restoration project which finished in 1998, when the Santo Domingo Cultural Center was inaugurated, but the work on the garden was just beginning. The first plants were put in during the summer of 1998, and the garden opened to the public in 1999. The plants come from all around Oaxaca state. There are over one thousand species of plants in the collection, but this is just a fraction of the wide variety of plants that can be found in Oaxaca. It is a relatively new garden; but several large and old plants have been successfully transplanted here, including an impressive Biznaga cactus which is several centuries old.
The garden is divided into several different zones. There's one section for food plants, where you can see corn along with its ancestor teosinte, as well as squash, beans and chiles and other less well-known plants that are used in Oaxacan cuisine. You'll learn about the domestication of plants, which began in Mesoamerica around 10,000 years ago; the evidence for this was found not far away, in the cave of Guila Naquitz, which is included within the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla. There is a zone which shows plants that were in use in very ancient times, a humid tropical forest zone, a pine and oak forest zone, and a dry zone.
A water catchment system collects rain water from the roof of the former convent, which is channeled to an underground cistern with a capacity of over one million litres. The collected water is used to irrigate the humid zones of the garden. Since Oaxaca has issues with water supply, this ensures that the garden is not dependent on outside sources of water.
The Ethnobotanical Garden is a lovely and serene green space, within the bustling Oaxaca city center. A visit here is both enjoyable and enlightening.
If you go:
The Ethnobotanical Garden may only be visited as part of a guided tour. Tours are offered in English on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11 am; in French on Tuesdays at 5 pm; and daily in Spanish at 10 am, 12 noon AND 5 pm, except Sundays. Arrive ten minutes in advance to purchase your tickets. The entrance is on the corner of Reforma and ConstituciÛn streets.
Consult the website for details: http://www.jardinoaxaca.org.mx/
The monarchs are coming!
As the cold weather sweeps down from Canada in September, millions of monarch will take flight to escape it. In three pathways, monarch butterflies will flood from the United States into central Mexico. One group flies from the west through Arizona and New Mexico. Another migrates from central Canada, the Midwest and Great Plains through central Texas. The final cluster will travel along the Appalachian Mountains and Atlantic seaboard to follow the Texas coast to Mexico.
When the autumn season brings shorter daylight and cooler temperatures, the monarchs read these as signs that they need to stop reproducing and head to their winter home in Mexico.
The butterflies will reach Texas by late September, and the number will peak during October. The largest migration concentrations will cross into Mexico around Del Rio in the last half of October. By Thanksgiving, most will have settled into their reserves in the mountainous oyamel fir forests.
There was a drought through the Midwest and parts of central Texas this year. This resulted in sparse wildflowers and few natural nectar sources, which is what the butterflies are dependent on. The southern rains in southeast Texas, however, have produced many nectar-rich flowers. This means the monarchs will – thankfully – have sufficient food to nourish them when they arrive.
Latest articles on the monarch butterfly migration
Three thousand miles stretch between where monarch butterflies migrate to spend their summers and winters. Every fall, the tens of millions of these nearly threatened species that live east of the Rocky Mountains must fly to warmer weather. While some hibernate in southern California, the majority of monarchs travel to central Mexico to rest in the mountain forests. There are only around a dozen sites in Mexico that the monarchs thrive in. In order to reach their destination before the weather becomes too cold, the butterflies travel up to 80 miles a day. They stop to feed on nectar, and to rest.
The cold weather is the most obvious threat to these delicate creatures, but many other obstacles lie in their way to Mexico. Habitat destruction and harm to their food sources damage the travel paths and destinations, with many being ruined by new roads, housing developments and expanding agriculture. The larvae has only one food source: milkweed. It is frequently pulled by gardeners, believing it to be a harmful weed.
Despite the challenges, these vibrantly colored beauties flock to Mexico yearly. The monarch migration begins in August, and is finally completed in October. Their brilliant orange-red wings, decorated with black and white, seem to melt together to form a striking cloud of color as they fly across the country. Those lucky enough to see a cloud of monarchs say it is a marvelous natural phenomenon. Hopefully you will be able to spot them, and appreciate the unique beauty of nature the migration offers, as the monarchs flutters past.
Monarch butterflies have a relatively short lifespan. Every winter, the monarchs travel from Canada to Mexico. When the weather warms up again, the butterflies in Mexico travel back north. The oldest butterflies live six to nine months, meaning they only make the return trip about halfway. …
Imagine a monarch that has traveled the 3,000 from Canada to Mexico, and then only makes it to Texas on the return journey. Say she lays an egg there, and that egg born in Texas births a monarch that flies to South Dakota and lays another egg. That monarch hatches, and manages to find her way to Mexico come autumn. How did the monarch travel to the exact same grove in Mexico that her elder monarchs did?
Some animals that migrate learn from parents. Other creatures orient by stars or landmarks. How do monarchs know where to migrate south? Scientists are still trying to find out.
Dr. Orley R. Taylor, a scientist who runs the Monarch Watch project at the University of Kansas, has studied this mystery. He has tested their ability to reorient themselves. He transported monarchs from Kansas to Washington, D.C. to see if they could still successfully navigate after a relocation of more than 1000 miles. If the monarchs are released immediately after being relocated, they take off due south as they would have from their original location. However, if they are kept in mesh cages for a few days, they watch the sun rise and set, and reset their internal compasses.
Dr. Taylor cites that monarchs are one of the only species that have the ability to orient themselves in latitude and longitude. When the sun drops to approximately 57 degrees above the southern horizon at their specific latitude, monarchs begin their migration.
Professor of neuroscience at Queens University of Canada Dr. Barrie Frost does not believe monarchs use the earth’s magnetic field or the sky’s polarized light. Rather, he thinks the sun reckoning leads the butterflies south, while mountain chains and the Gulf of Mexico funnel them towards southern Texas. Dr. Frost also believes that once in Mexico’s mountains, they are guided by the smell of last year’s corpses.
Dr. Taylor disagrees, citing that butterflies do not have odiferous fatty acids that would last a year and lead a new migration herd. Citing work by butterfly biologist William H. Calvert, Dr. Taylor says most monarchs cross central Texas. Dr. Taylor’s tagging work has also shown that a monarch tagged near the Atlantic or the gulf is just one-tenth as likely to reach Mexico as one tagged in the Great Plains.
How do you tag a small, delicate monarch? Dr. Taylor will gently pinch the butterfly in one hand, and place a tiny adhesive tag on a specific cell. He is then able to track the butterfly for the entirety of its life, and uses these tags to follow the annual migration.
Over the past six years, over 200 million olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings have been released on La Escobilla Beach. Located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, La Escobilla Beach has seen a significant increase in hatchlings over the past few decades. …
The government program that has led to this increase has seen numbers rise from 200,000 hatchlings in 1973 to over 1.5 million in 2012, indicating that the species is making a strong recovery.
La Escobilla Beach is the sanctuary with the highest number of olive ridley hatchlings; 95% of all sea turtle species in Mexico nest there. Because of this, efforts to protect female turtles and nests are carried out under the National Sea Turtle Conservation Program.
The Mexican government has spent more than 143 million pesos ($11 million) to support projects that combat threats to sea turtles. The funding also covers operating costs of mobile camps, equipment, and worker salaries. Furthermore, turtle egg extraction was made illegal and has been that way since 1927. Also, a permanent ban on capture, extraction, and the sale of sea turtles and their products was implemented in 1990.
There was a time when Tulum was little more than an archeological site, with a handful of humble lodgings and local eateries in the vicinity for the occasional visitor to munch a codzito or papadzul before catching the second-class bus on the highway to somewhere else. And this time was not so… long ago, as even we can recall clambering up the stone steps of El Castillo and exploring the Mayan paintings inside the chamber at the structure’s summit overlooking the Caribbean Sea, accompanied only by a local teen offering to tell us tales of the Mayas for two bits. No roped off areas, no throngs greased in sunblock, no digital media. Today, the Mayan archeological site remains fascinating, the beaches gorgeous and the breeze in the palms as enchanting as ever. But Tulum now is more likely to conjure images of upscale spas, international chefs and fashion designers barking into their iPhones in Italian. So when the madcap mix of yoga on the beach, honey-clay facials and house music hits a fever pitch, where can a regular Joe go to dial it back a bit?
Actually, just a couple kilometers down the road from Tulum, where a simple stone arch signals the entrance to the magnificently beautiful – and peaceful – Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Considering the boom in popularity of Tulum in recent years, it is remarkable that the nearby reserve has maintained its Lost Continent atmosphere. This may be due in part to the molar-jarring unpaved road through the reserve, but it most likely a result of the joint efforts of government, NGOs and conservationists to recover and preserve this unique ecosystem.
Sian Ka’an, or “Where the sky is born” in the area’s native Maya language, covers 1.3 million acres along the Caribbean coast of the state of Quintana Roo, in the southeastern corner of Mexico. The reserve, approximately 75 miles long and 20 miles across at its widest point, was established as a protected area in 1986 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. A significant portion of the area is covered by wetlands such as mangrove swamps, savannas and lagoons, which share the reserve with miles of white sand beaches, tropical forests, dunes and 68 miles of the world’s second largest barrier reef. The area is also home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and crustaceans and over 1,000 species of flora, as well as 23 known Mayan archeological sites, some of which have yielded artifacts dating back 2,300 years. Descendants of the ancient Mayas still live within the confines of the park.
As an early adopter of the now popular “eco-tourism” concept, a prime objective of the Sian Ka’an project has been to incorporate human activity into the area to provide employment for the indigenous communities in a way that is sustainable and in harmony with the natural environment. This effort has resulted in two particularly noteworthy projects: CESiaK and Community Tours. The Centro Ecológico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK) operates a restaurant and provides tourism services such as beach bungalows, boat and kayak tours and fishing. The proceeds from the tourism operations are used to finance a wide range of pro-environmental activities including biological research, education, community outreach, dune restoration, native plant nurseries and revegetation of disturbed lands, among others. At the CESiaK Visitors Center, located approximately four miles from the entrance to the reserve at the south end of Tulum, visitors can arrange tours, rent rustic bungalows on the beach, lounge under beachfront palapas and swim in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, followed by a delicious Yucatecan style lunch or dinner at the center’s restaurant. The crowning jewel of the center, however, has to be the multi-level terrace atop the building, which in addition to a full bar boasts the singular attraction of offering sweeping views of both the Caribbean Sea to the east and the shimmering lagoon to the west. It’s no wonder that guests at the center congregate for cocktails on the terrace in late afternoon to enjoy one of the world’s most spectacular sunset experiences.
Alternatively to CESiaK, visitors to the area can arrange activities with another locally-run enterprise, Community Tours Sian Ka’an. Organized in 1988 as a means for incorporating members of the local Maya community into the conservation and education efforts in the reserve, Community Tours offers guided tours of the area’s archeological sites as well as activities such as bird watching, sport fishing, kayaking, hiking and snorkeling. On a recent visit to Sian Ka’an with Community Tours, guide Manuel Galindo mesmerized us with intriguing detail about the endless varieties of trees, flowers and insects all around us as we threaded our way through the forest before coming upon the thousand year old temple of Chunyaxché. But the moment of sublime relaxation was yet to come: floating weightlessly along the cool, clear waters of an ancient Mayan trading canal through the dense mangrove wetlands alongside the Muyil lagoon. Almost enough to make you want to stay and skip the lunch of Yucatecan tamales, salbutes and empanadas that followed. Almost.
Aaaahhh…that lunch… Anyway. So if you’re searching for inner peace on a budget and the $200 moon papaya therapy up the road in Tulum isn’t getting the job done, try sipping a margarita at sunset on the terrace at CESiaK. Now that’s enlightenment.
The Embassy of Mexico in Canada has partnered with the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Ottawa to present the exhibition “On the Trail of the Monarch Butterfly.” The display portrays the 72-day journey of Francisco Gutiérrez, a Mexican filmmaker and pilot. …
The beauty of the monarch butterfly migration attracted the attention of Francisco long ago. Francisco grew up in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, which plays the winter home to these delicate creatures. He spent countless hours of his childhood staring at the forest trees laced with butterflies. Sometimes, he says, there would be so many butterflies on a single tree that a branch would actually break.
During the summer of 2005, Francisco decided to follow the monarchs’ 3,000 mile journey from Montreal, Canada to the state of Michoacán. Traveling in an ultra-light aircraft painted to look identical to the wings of a giant monarch, Francisco aimed to portray the migration from the butterfly’s point of view. Through unique photographs and film, he is able to recreate his unique journey to help share his love and appreciation for the monarchs.
This breathtaking exhibit will be featured in the museum from July to October. It is open to the public daily from 9:30 to 4:00.
As the monarch butterflies begin their annual migration to Mexico, the government of Mexico is taking steps to protect the environment of the nesting grounds of the monarch. Recent government announcements declared that efforts aimed at eliminating illegal logging have been quite successful. For the… first time since the forests west of Mexico City were labeled a nature reserve in 2000, logging has not be found in measurable amounts.
Many obstacles lie between the origin and destination locations for the monarch butterflies’ migration. There are plenty of predators. The cold weather is sweeping in. Food supplies are spread apart. The distance is up to 3,000 miles. But what hurts the monarchs the most is damage to their environment. Illegal logging, specifically, has caused unparalleled damage to their hibernating grounds in Mexico.
At the peak of logging in 2005, it ruined upwards of 1,140 acres annually in the reserve. It was considered the reserve’s largest threat. In the early- to mid-2000s, armed police began patrolling reserves for logging operations, and donor groups started local nurseries to help grow for hopeful reforestation. The improved governmental stand against logging helped cut down the deforestation, however individual tree removal remains practically undetectable. During the past couple years, the thinning of forests is still noticeable, and will continue unless year-round monitoring and guarding is enforced.
Additional reserve harm is coming from climate change. Droughts cause the trees stress, and make them vulnerable to bark beetles. Heavy rain and windstorms can create mudslides. Mistletoe strangles trees. These conditions wipe out acres of forest that the butterflies need for shelter.
The number of monarchs wintering in Mexico dropped 28 percent this year. Some experts attribute the loss to drought in the northern parts of the Americas, where monarchs spend their summers. But it is clear that measures still need to be taken to ensure ample migration space in Mexico.
Migration is a trait inherited by monarchs. A monarch’s lifespan is so short, that no butterfly lives to make the round-trip. These delicate creatures need their winter refuge in Mexico, where millions of the species cluster so densely on tree boughs that researchers count them in acres rather than individually. The number of trees lost annually to logging has decreased, but must continue to decrease to help the monarchs. Officials and locals in Mexico are continuing to work to protect the forests, and the orange and black butterflies that call them home.
SK Film’s Flight of the Butterflies is a masterpiece that cannot be missed. After its official film premiere in Washington, DC on September 24, the film will begin playing in select theaters across the United States. Below are the listings for October – look for the monarchs in a theater near you! …
Premiering in the United States
Houston, TX: Houston Museum of Science and Industry, October 1
Louisville, KY: Louisville Science Center, October 1
Omaha, NB: Henry Doorly Zoo, October 1
Raleigh, NC: Marbles Kids Museum, October 1
Seattle, WA: Pacific Science Center, October 1
St. Augustine, FL: World Golf Hall of Fame, October 1
Baltimore, MD: Maryland Science Center, October 5
Chattanooga, MN: Tennessee Aquarium, October 5
Galveston, TX: Moody Gardens, October 5
Jersey City, NJ: Liberty Science Center, October 5
Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, October 5
Premiering in Canada
Edmonton, AB, Canada: Edmonton Science Center, October 1
Hull/Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Museum of Civilization, October 12
Premiering in Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico: Papalote Museo del Nino, October 12
Tijuana, Mexico: Mexico Centro Cultural Tijuana, October 15
SK Films is proud to present Flight of the Butterflies, an opportunity to experience the natural phenomenon that is the annual monarch butterfly migration through film. The iconic monarch is truly a marvel of nature. It weighs less than a penny, and manages to make one of the longest migrations on Earth across a continent to a… destination they have never been. With pinpoint navigational accuracy, monarchs travel these 3,000 miles to the sanctuaries in Mexico.
Follow the monarchs’ perilous and extraordinary journey, and join hundreds of millions of real butterflies in the remote mountain peaks of Mexico. For the very first time, witness the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. This includes being able to see inside a chrysalis, due to advanced MRI and micro CT scans. Become lost in the compelling story of a courageous scientist’s 40-year search to find the secret migration destination of monarchs.
This award-winning film team – including Oscar winner Peter Parks – followed the year-long migration cycle of the monarch butterflies. Experience the journey from Canada, through the United States, to a few remote, 10,000 foot high peaks in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, and back. This film captures the awe and wonder of the breathtaking sanctuaries, and interweaves spellbinding natural history with an uplifting human story.
Experience the phenomenon. Unravel the mysteries. Witness the journey. Flight of the butterflies.
Over the past few years, environmental issues have taken center stage in Mexico. Citizens and elected officials continue to look for ways to help build a more energy sustainable community. However, there is still work to be done to help Mexico’s ongoing environmental stewardship and combating climate change in… Mexico. Mexico's new president will hold a great deal of power in transforming Mexico into a clean energy economy, thanks to the country's sweeping new climate law.
Outgoing President Felipe Calderón signed the legislation into law just days before June's G-20 Summit in Mexico and the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. The new General Law on Climate Change allows Mexico to deploy economically efficient mechanisms (like the development of emissions trading) that offer enormous opportunities for reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and could truly transform Mexico into a 21st century, clean energy economy.
The law is a landmark, as it sets large national targets for reducing emissions and the option to develop a domestic emissions trading system. With the implementation of this law, Mexico is taking a firm stand against climate change that would make it the second nation after the United Kingdom to institute legally binding carbon targets.
Mexico is a heavyweight in oil production and built their energy independence through offshore oil refining. Now with the growing confidence that renewable energy can spur economic growth, Mexico could become a world leader in alternative energy and environmental sustainability.
Coca-Cola Co. and half a dozen of its Mexican bottlers are investing $34 million to double the capacity of the recycling facility in Toluca, 40 miles west of Mexico City.
In a news release, Coca-Cola Mexico said the expansion will enable the plant to recycle 120 million pounds of PET per year, making it tone of the largest recycling facilities in Latin America. PET is the abbreviation of “polyethylene terephthalate,” which is the plastic material used for consumer packaging. Bottles made of PET are recycled to reuse the material out of which they are made to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.
When this facility first opened in 2009, the plant could reprocess about 64 million pounds of PET, roughly the equivalent of 1 billion bottles, a year and employed 70 workers. These upgrades will more than double the production and facility employment will increase dramatically.
According to PetStar Chairman Miguel Ángel Rabago, speaking at a foundation stone-laying ceremony, the expansion will help create 500 direct and 6,000 indirect jobs.
At the same event, Brian Smith, president of Coca-Cola Mexico, described PetStar as “a vital part” of the Atlanta beverages giant’s sustainable initiatives in Mexico in the area of sustainable packaging - “one of the pillars of our global platform”
The expansion, he said, “will make PetStar the largest food-grade PET recycling project in Latin America. By integrating [operations], from the collection of bottles to the incorporation of new, recycled bottles for our beverage products, [it will be] one of the most relevant projects in the world.”
A new solar project is currently being developed in Mexico by the Mexican company, Socios Energeticos de Mexico Verde (SEMV). American Electric… Technologies (AETI)’s solar inverter has been selected for the new solar project in Mexico because of the potential productivity of the inverter. The 1 MW Integrated Solar Inversion Station (ISIS) has the ability to function even in some of Mexico’s harshest desert climates.
The Executive Director of Socios Energeticos de Mexico, George Gonzalez stated, “We selected the ISIS solar inverter for our project requirements based on its high-performance capabilities and AETI's proven history of deploying reliable, megawatt-class power systems in harsh desert climates.” The system is anticipated to launch in the autumn of 2012 and marks a great environmental development in the energy sector of the economy of Mexico. This shows a trend of Mexico and the United States working together in developing energy alternatives and promoting sustainability.