Sunday, August 14, 2011

Merida, Mexico

Yesterday Chris Oshiro and I visited Merida. I was here in the 1970's as a very young woman, camping on the beaches and taking cheap buses with a friend. It was very rural, the town was very small. In the mid 1990's, the town was growing, a lot of fast food chains and Walmart arrived, it was dirty and crowded and disappointing. This visit reveals a beautiful city, clean, beautiful old building built in the early 1900's in French, Moorish and Spanish architecture, renovated and colorful. The streets are wide, clean, and beautiful. It feels safe, and people seem very friendly. We went to the Anthropology museum, to see beautiful stone statues and remains from the Mayan culture. We decided to go to Chichen Itza on Tuesday to see the massive stone city ourselves. The historic part of the museum was sad, with pictures of firing squads and soldiers dead in battle. I think in Mexico the Indian populations are still not treated with due respect, other than in reminders of ancient cities and ruins. The living Indios, the Mayans, tend to not be treated with due respect, nor their living cultures celebrated as much as they deserve. Our tour bus driver also told us this is so.

It bothers me to see the bones of the dead on display. I blessed them. If reincarnation is true, someone may be alive today whose bones are stores in a museum exhibit. Even so, their ritual funeral and burial was not meant to be on display in some day in the future. I'm glad archaeology has evolved to not be so barbaric and disrespectful as it once was.

We went to Katun for dinner, serving Yucatecan food. We had sopa de lima and a Yucatan fish served in banana leaves. Great corn tortillas, home made! It's easy to spend a lot of money on good food!

Wildlife: boattailed grackels, really noicy! Royal palms lining the fancy estates. Ceiba tree, sacred, beautiful, emense, great presence.

More adventures today, and preparation for the conference.

Symposia on dam construction and water conditions in Tigris Euphrates

Our second symposia is "Water and Peace: Creating a holistic perspective on the ecological and cultural restoration of the Tigris Euphrates watershed." on the water conditions in the Tigris Euphrates. Most of our invited symposia attendees could not come and sent presentations. Dicle Tubaz Kulic, Doga Dernegi, Turkey, could not attend due to lack of funds. She will be sending a presentation on the desperate condition of people on the Tigris River from dam construction (see information below). Dr. Faiza al Yamani, scientist at the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, was unable to attend and sent a powerpoint on conditions in the Kuwait. A port is proposed which will severely damage the area around Bubyon Island, a key production areas for fish and macro-invertebrates for the Gulf and Mesopotamian Marshes. We will include information on the Mesopotamian Marshes by Nature Iraq by showing a movie on the marshes. Nadia Fawzi will give an overview of the watershed. Unfortunately, only one of the guest speakers was able to attend.

It has been very frustrating, as the last UNESCO Conference in Basrah, Iraq, did not consider the boundary conditions of the water coming into the country via the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Another branch of UNESCO (United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) voiced its deep concerns about the construction of Ilusu dam as well as approximately 2,000 additional dam projects proposed in Turkey. The Committee released a report in May 2011 urging the Turkish government to review its legislative policies on evictions, resettlement, and compensation. Communities in Southeastern Turkey, primarily Kurdish, have been evicted from their homes receiving token compensation; they
have been settled in villages with no hope and no future.
The Ilusu dam on the Tigris River in Southeast Turkey will affect up to 78,000 mainly Kurdish people in Turkey and many thousands more downstream in Iraq. Almost half of the affected villagers and further affected 30.000 nomads have no land or land titles. The affected people face a future in extreme poverty, the loss of their livelihoods and history, and the disruption of their
village and family structures.

Additionally, Ilusu dam and other HEPP projects will have major environmental impacts resulting in irreversible conversion and degradation of critical natural habitats on the Tigris River. It will inundate 400 km of riverine ecosystem hosting dozens of threatened species, 300 archaeological sites and the 12,000- year- old town of Hasankeyf. Priority Areas for bio-diversity
forming a single integral ecosystem lie along the Tigris River between the Devege├židi River and the international frontier with Syria and Iraq. This is, as yet, an unaltered stretch of river and, despite dams further down- and upstream, it still has a full complement of riverine habitats and, all importantly, variable water levels and seasonal flows, according to Aysegul Ozpinar, Organizer of the Great March of Anatolia, a protest march from Hasenkeyf to Ankara. For several weeks, activists and dam affected people from all parts of the country marched towards the capital to demonstrate against the destruction of nature in Anatolia.“The right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right. We will not cease to resist the complete destruction of our waters which the government currently pushes for”.

Chapter on Eco-Cutlural Restoration of Mesopotamian Marshes publishes

Our book and an article by Tova Fleming will be out in early Sept!! "Michelle Stevens with Dr. Hamid K. Ahmed, 2011, Chapter 20: Eco-cultural Restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshes,
Southern Iraq, In Dave Egan, Evan Hjerpe, and Jesse Abrams
(editors). Integrating Nature and Culture: Exploring the Human
Dimensions of Ecological Restoration. Island Press" (In Press,
scheduled publication August 2011)

Tova Fleming and Michelle Stevens, August 2011, Ending the
Silence: Ecocide and Renewal in Iraq’s Marshlands. Earth First!
Journal (In press)

Society of Ecological Restoration in Merida Mexico

We have arrived in Merida, Mexico. The first week is vacation, the next is the conference where we have two symposia on the Mesopotamian Marshes. Dr. Nadia Fawzi, University of Basrah Marine Science Center, and I are co-facilitating two symposia. Unfortunately, our invited speakers and proposed two symposia. One is on the socioeconomics of the marshes, discussing the Marsh Arab culture, prospects for restoration, and the disabling lack of water and loss of livelihood now occurring in the marshes. For this symposia, Dr. al Fartosi, Iraqi expert on water buffalo, was unable to attend. He sent pictures and text, and Monica Dean and David Kelly helped prepare the powerpoint. Water buffalo are cultural icons to the indigenous marsh arab culture, as well as integral sources of livelihood in modern Iraq. Without water in the marshes, the reeds die, the villages are dusty, and conditions deteriorate rapidly. Talks by Dr. Nadir Salman and Dr. Nadia Fawzi show the people in the marshes suffer from poor health, inadequate sweet, clean water, high unemployment (including inability to support themselves through subsistence economies), and poor education especially for women. I will give the presentation for Dr. Nadir, who was unable to come.