Chances are, the average U.S. citizen has no idea that their demand for electricity might require that a Mexican village be flooded for a hydroelectric dam. The question is: if the environmental and human costs were known, would we consume just a little bit less?
As part of my own personal battle against under-estimating people, I’m betting that a little bit of knowledge would go a long way. That high environmental cost, which goes hand-in-hand with a slew of human rights abuses, is not likely to sit right, even if that average U.S. citizen is comfortably sipping a Coke in an air-conditioned movie theatre.
Come for a quick tour south of the border to hear how the Mexican countryside is being flooded to beef up our grid and what Mexican grassroots organizations are doing about it.
Food Sovereignty: Resistance and a Way Forward
Just outside of the city of Oaxaca, I spoke with Aldo Gonzalez from the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO). He hikes through the Sierra Juarez mountains, lending a hand to Zapotec communities seeking food sovereignty. On the one hand, UNOSJO keeps an eye out for companies preying on community resources—whether water, timber, minerals, or seed stock. On the other hand, UNOSJO promotes agroecological techniques so that families can grow adequate food for themselves and, in good years, sell surplus in local markets—core principles of food soverignty. This work, supported by organizations like Grassroots International includes educating children and adults in simple terms about globalization’s threats, the policy environment that has eroded public support to small farmers and Zapotec techniques and traditions of caring for shared water and land.
Aldo was one of the first indigenous leaders in Mexico to detect genetically modified corn strains in Oaxacan fields and has seen firsthand that dams, mining, and maize don’t mix. “For the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, corn is our blood, our bones, our flesh,” Aldo told me. “Without corn, we’re nothing. For that reason, we’re not going to let anyone disfigure corn, rob it of its essence, kill it or kill us.” UNOSJO shares a vision of autonomy and sovereignty with other indigenous and peasant allies across Mesoamerica with which they work.