Tag Archives: Kary vannice

Reducing Water Consumption in Your Home & Life

By Kary Vannice

Elsewhere in this issue, Randy Jackson’s article, “Huatulco’s Water System: In Survival Mode?” makes a very compelling case for residents of Huatulco to become more conscientious about their water consumption. As residents living within the FONATUR potable water system, each individual consumer plays a vital role in the state of Huatulco’s current and future water situation.

If you’ve experienced some of the water shortages that Randy reported on, instead of pointing the finger at commercial users, real estate developers, or the people living in other sectors, which does nothing to improve the situation, take empowered action. Evaluate your own daily water use and choose to reduce your consumption where you can. Lead by example and demonstrate to others how we all can pitch in and make a difference, in both big and small ways. Every drop counts!

Even if you’re already taking small steps to conserve water in your home, such as shutting the water off when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your hands, there are more but lesser-known ways you can contribute to community water saving efforts. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some examples on how you can adapt your household and your lifestyle to be less water consumptive.

In the bathroom:

· Check your toilet for leaks. This is easily done. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank and wait to see if the dye shows up in the bowl without being flushed. Toilet leaks can waste up to 100 gallons of water per day!
· Put a plastic bottle filled with sand and water in your toilet tank to displace some of the water so it uses less with each flush.
· Time your showers. A fun way to do this is to listen to music as you bathe. Allow yourself one or two songs to get your body clean and then turn the water off and get out!
· Consider taking only cold showers. Not only has this been proven to be better for your overall health, but it will also deter you from languishing in the shower.

In the kitchen and utility room:

· Today, dishwashers consume less water than hand washing, but most users still rinse every single dish before putting it into the dishwasher. Most modern dishwashers don’t require this. Only pre-rinse a dish if it still has enough food on it to make your pet happy!
· Don’t leave the faucet on when cleaning vegetables. Fill the sink or a large tub and soak all the vegetables at once.
· Store a jug of water in the fridge instead of running the tap to let the water get cold before filling your glass.
· Wait to run your washing machine or dish washer until you have a full load. If your machine has an “eco” mode, use it!
· Instead of pouring half full glasses of water or left-over ice cubes down the drain, pour them into one of your house plants instead.

Around the house:

· Get out your broom! Instead of using the hose and excessive amount of water to clean off your driveway, sidewalk or deck space, use a broom instead. And, on the rare occasion when you do use your hose to clean outdoor space, be sure to attach a squeeze nozzle, so that when not in use, you’re not wasting water.
· Water outdoor plants either very early in the morning or in the evening. Less of the water will evaporate into the atmosphere.
· Select plants and landscaping vegetation that don’t require excessive amounts of water.
· Consider finding a way to reuse the water your AC pulls from the air. Because the water is fresh water, it can be diverted to water outdoor vegetation or be captured and used for cleaning.

Lifestyle changes that will help with global water conservation:

· Adopt meatless Monday. The commercial meat production industry consumes a tremendous amount of water. Some statistics claim you could save 133 gallons of water with each meatless meal!
· Invest in reusable water bottles and take them with you when you head out to enjoy the beach or the surrounding area. On average, it requires twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount contained in the bottle.
· Extend the lifecycle of your products. Nearly every product you buy requires water to produce or transport. Try to buy fewer single-use products and more products that last. And when you decide that product is no longer useful to you, consider donating it or recycling it instead of sending it to the landfill.

Mexico’s Rabbits – Many Are Endangered

By Kary Vannice

Mexico is home to 15 different species of rabbits and hares. Of the 15 distinct species, eight are endemic within its borders. Wild rabbits and hares play a vital role in the check-and-balance system of ecosystems. Like other rodents, rabbits must constantly be consuming. Their front top and bottom teeth never stop growing their entire lives, so it takes a lot of daily gnawing and chewing to keep them worn down to usable lengths. This means they contribute to the control of vegetation within their habitat. In turn, they provide food for animals further up the food chain, such as coyotes, weasels, wild cats, hawks, eagles, owls, and some snakes.

According to an article published by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, it is illegal to hunt wild hares and rabbits to sell commercially in Mexico. However, it is a common practice in some rural areas to hunt these animals for subsistence.

For most of us, any hunting of hares we’re doing is with our eyes. After all, in many cultures, it is considered good luck to see a rabbit in the wild. However, you would be fortunate indeed to see any of the following species in the wild during your travels here in Mexico. They are all either on the threatened or endangered species list.

If you happen to be in the mountains of central Mexico, keep an eye out for a Zacatuche, or volcano rabbit. They are officially on the endangered species list here in Mexico, but if you did catch sight of one, you would know it by its tiny brown body and distinctive small ears and small tail. It’s also likely you’ll spot them with or near others in their small familial group. But, if you want to have any chance at all of catching sight of this rare rodent, you’ll have to head up to the high alpine meadows because its habitat is similar to that of the northern pika.

Spotting an Omilteme cottontail rabbit would not only be lucky, it might just make you famous. They are one of the most endangered rabbit species on the planet. In fact, they may already be extinct. Thought to have gone extinct over 100 years ago, there were two specimens officially confirmed in 1998 that gave biologists hope that perhaps this Sierra-Madre-mountain dweller was making a comeback. But there’s been no evidence since to substantiate that theory, except one inconclusive photo taken in 2011. That was the last time anyone claims ever to have seen an Omilteme rabbit. Despite multiple expeditions in 2019 in search of evidence that the Omilteme were still living, there have been no confirmed sightings or DNA evidence gathered in almost 25 years.

The San José Island scrub, or brush, rabbit is also on the endangered list, and its continued survival is further threatened because its only habitat is San José Island off the coast of Baja California. Essentially “landlocked,” not much is known about this little bunny. Still, because it shares its limited home range with many other animal species and humans, it will take considerable conservation efforts to keep it from going extinct.

If you venture into the pine-oak forests of the Sierra de la Madera in Coahuila, you might mistake a Davis rabbit sighting for a common cottontail. Again, not much is known about this species because, until 1998, it was considered a subspecies of the Castilian rabbit. Now that it has the distinction of being recognized as a unique species, it also has the distinction of being on the threatened list.

If you’re not planning to travel much further than your own backyard, you still might catch site of one of Mexico’s most endangered species, the Tehuantepec hare. If you do happen to spot one, you’ll know it by its most distinctive feature – two black stripes that run from the base of each ear to the nape of its neck.

This endemic species only has two pups per litter, reproduces only once a year, and is only currently found in the state of Oaxaca. You’ll have to have a keen eye to spot one, however, because they are well adapted to their environment. At rest, they look gray, but when they run to flee, they expose their belly and their white sides become visible, but as they change direction, they once again appear gray. This helps them to blend in with the surrounding vegetation and evade predators – and perhaps even those simply hoping to catch a glimpse of a very rare hare.

Ocean-Saving Innovations

By Kary Vannice

The Eye has published any number of articles on threats faced by our oceans – here’s a review of progress achieved with the use of innovative technologies.

Restoring Our Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are critical underwater ecosystems that contribute to the overall health of our planet, not to mention the global economy. Coral reefs are major harbingers of biodiversity. Even though they occupy less than one percent of the ocean floor, they are home to more than 25% of all marine life. And more than 500 million people worldwide rely on reefs for their livelihood, food, and protection from natural disaster. Economically speaking, the value of coral reefs is around $7 billion US annually.

Because of their environmental and economic importance, protecting, regenerating, and restoring ocean reefs has become a major driver of scientific innovation and design. Australian researchers have recently tested two very innovative ideas to help regenerate the Great Barrier Reef, one above the water and one below.

Hoping to prevent the coral from dying out, a team of scientists created a special turbine that sprays microscopic sea particles into the sky above a reef. This fine mist creates a cloudlike shadow over the reef, which cools the water temperature below. The idea is to use this technique during heatwaves to protect the delicate habitat below from what’s known as “coral bleaching,” which puts the coral under extreme stress and often leads to its death.

Another team of Australian scientists has been testing a unique theory based on sound. They recognized that the more damaged a reef was, the less noise it produced. So, they began playing the sounds of a healthy reef over a loudspeaker underwater in an unhealthy reef location to see if it would have any beneficial effects. After a 40-day “acoustic enrichment” experiment, the number of fish within that section of the reef doubled, and the number of other species increased by 50%.

Cleaning Up Fossil Fuels

Over the last few decades, social and political pressures have forced major oil companies to clean up their act and work to prevent large-scale oil spillage. But a “hidden” pollutant may pose an even bigger problem in this area. In September, the US-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that said land-based runoff is up to 20 times higher than it was 20 years ago. Most of that runoff comes from highways, parking lots, vehicle washing, and vehicle fluid leaks that find their way into local streams and rivers that eventually run into our oceans.

With this kind of rapidly increasing pollution, cleaning fossil fuels out of our oceans is quickly becoming an environmental priority.

In May of this year, a team of Mexican scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) made the news with a new technique that can be used to clean oil and other substances, like fertilizers, out of the oceans.

The team created nanotubes made from a combination of an aluminosilicate clay mineral (halloysite) and a highly magnetic mineral (magnetite). Once the nanotubes are deployed, they can apply a magnetic field and essentially “pull out” the oil. Their project leader, Marina Vargas Rodriguez, explained, “If the spill occurs near the beach, we will have the option of pulling the contaminant into the open sea so that it does not affect our beaches and, at the same time, the oil can be recovered and reused.”

This new technology does not adversely affect marine wildlife, and once the oil is recovered, it can be reused, so it does not go to waste.

Addressing Acidification

The ocean naturally absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) from our atmosphere. Industrial activity has steadily increased the amount of CO2 in our air, which means the ocean now absorbs significantly more than historically normal levels. As CO2 dissolves into the ocean, it combines with seawater and becomes carbonic acid. This changes the pH of the water and acidifies our oceans.

A Newfoundland-based non-profit called GreenWave has developed a system of ocean farming that regenerates underwater ecosystems by creating carbon and nitrogen sinks. This trapping of excess carbon and nitrogen helps to reduce ocean acidification. This innovative underwater framing model focuses on vertical farming of scallops, mussels, oysters, and clams, all for human consumption, and seaweed that is turned into animal feed, fertilizers, and plastic alternatives.

This project not only helps to reduce acidification, but it also produces environmentally friendly farmed shellfish and other organic byproducts to help reduce environmental pollutants like chemical fertilizers and single-use plastics.

Another, perhaps less practical, but equally innovative attempt at acidification reduction comes from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Vesta. With a team of scientists with a range of disciplines, Vesta proposes to cover 2% of the world’s beaches with crushed olivine – the area required to offset 100% of human CO2 emissions. Olivine is a green volcanic mineral that naturally absorbs CO2, which means it’s basically an air purifier, naturally sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky and ocean, locking it inside, and eventually becoming part of beneficial marine environments such as coral reefs.

Olivine can absorb up to 1.25 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of olivine, but this process normally takes millions of years. However, Vesta researchers theorize that if they grind the olivine into a fine sand and distribute it on beaches, wave action can accelerate the process and help reduce acidification more quickly. There are already four strikingly green olivine beaches that occur naturally in Hawaii, the Galápagos Islands, Guam and Norway.

These are just a few of the thousands of innovative projects focused on saving our ocean ecosystems. If you’re interested in learning more about creative innovations that aim to solve our current climate crisis, you can check out the World Economic Forum’s open innovation platform, https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/, which facilitates entrepreneurial “positive systemic change for people and the planet.”

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Kary Vannice
Kary began writing for The Eye a few months after the initial publication. Her deep curiosity about the world around her led her to contribute a wide range of articles, including a series of articles – each on a different topic but all under the title “Rattlesnakes and Scorpions.”

Kary was born in Moscow, Idaho, which frequently led to scrutiny at international borders. She was raised and educated in Grass Range, population 110, located in the geographical center of Montana. After high school, Kary matriculated at a junior college in Wyoming for two years and then went on to the University of Montana, Missoula, graduating with a BS degree in Forestry with a concentration in recreation and resource management. In the following years, Kary was employed by the US Forest Service in a number of national forests including Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington, Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, Earthquake Lake, just west of Yellowstone National Park, and Gallatin National Forest, both in Montana. Her roles ranged from resource education, giving tours and talks to visitors, to fire fighting. To supplement her income Kary started a private outdoor educational camp and worked at the Big Sky Ski School.

While fighting a fire in Montana, Kary noticed another fire fighter, a handsome boy from Chile. Naturally, the relationship heated up and Kary moved with him to land that his parents owned in Patagonia. After about 18 months, the couple moved to Seattle where they bought and lived on a sail boat. Kary’s first trip to the Pacific Coast of Mexico was on that boat. While sailing to Chile, the mast on the boat failed, which required
extensive repairs at Easter Island. Once back in Chile and the boat was docked, the five-year relationship cooled and Kary headed back to Montana with a knowledge of Spanish and refined and tested nautical skills.

Kary exercised those skills by teaching English in Mexico in Orizaba, Veracruz, for three years. It was on a school break that she revisited the Oaxacan coast and realized that she would like to live in Puerto Escondido during most of the year. During the summer, Kary headed to Alaska where she worked on fishing boats and was often second in command, gaining the respect of boat captains and seasoned seamen alike.

During a trip to Huatulco to work on a project to create all natural health clinics, Kary participated in a Red Cross fundraiser where she met a resident of Huatulco who had started a business teaching people how to work online while living in other countries. Impressed with how Kary rapidly organized the fundraiser participants, the businessman
hired her. When the business began to increase rapidly, commuting from Puerto Escondido became cumbersome and Kary moved to Huatulco over nine years ago, first living on a boat in the Chahué Marina.

Today Kary has her own company, Rambladera Inc., which teaches people what they need to know to work while living in other countries. She also is a life coach for women and practices emotional vibrational healing. Outside of work, Kary loves to travel and has been throughout the Americas and Europe but not yet Asia, Africa or Antarctica. She also enjoys water sports and, like the other women of The Eye, reading. Kary thinks her Eye article, “Violence Against Women in Mexico” (February 2017) may be the most important she contributed, since she herself was affected by the distressing research results she presented and believes it is vital for other people to have this information.

Don Miguel Ruiz Writes of Toltec Wisdom

By Kary Vannice

Don Miguel Ruiz was born in Guadalajara in 1952 into a long line of Toltec healers and shamans. He is most famous for his book The Four Agreements, originally published in 1997. Today, it still holds the #34 spot on Amazon’s best-seller list and appears at #3 in Mental Health, #3 in Success/Self-Help, and #4 in Personal Transformation.

Since his first publication, don Miguel has added ten other titles to his Toltec Wisdom series of writings.

The Toltecs were a culture of Mesoamerican people who preceded the Aztecs and inhabited the region of Mexico from 700 to 1100 CE. Often asked about his Toltec roots, in an interview Ruiz once explained, “They were artists and spiritual seekers who thrived in Mexico hundreds of years ago before they were forced to hide their ancestral wisdom from European conquerors.”

Despite having to hide these traditions for centuries at the risk of persecution or even death, Ruiz’s family passed down ancient spiritual knowledge and healing generation after generation. His grandfather and mother both practiced Toltec healing and teaching when he was a child. As a young man, however, don Miguel favored modern healing over ancient wisdom and decided his path to helping others would be through becoming a doctor.

In his final year at medical school, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and drove himself and two of his friends into a concrete wall. When retelling the story, Ruiz reports feeling his consciousness leave his physical body. He says he looked down to see his body pulling his two friends out of the vehicle just before everything went black. When he woke up in a nearby hospital, he was astonished to learn that none of the young men were seriously injured. That was the day he started to truly believe in the spiritual teaching of his mother and grandfather.

Don Miguel went on to complete medical school and become a practicing surgeon, and at the same time, he dove deeply into Toltec spiritual tradition. After six years of practicing medicine, he decided to leave the field and begin teaching Toltec wisdom with his mother in Southern California.

Ten years later, he wrote The Four Agreements, which outlines four simple principles to live by steeped in Toltec wisdom. Don Miguel says if you can master these four agreements, you can set yourself free of anxiety, fear, and worry.

The four agreements are:

1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best

Ruiz admits to the simplicity of these statements and yet speaks of the subtle power they hold, acknowledging that, while these may be simple, they are not always easy words to live by. One of the main reasons is one’s own internal dialog. Most minds are dominated by the inner critic, which, ironically, Ruiz refers to as “the voice of knowledge.” He says, “Most of the time, the voice of the spirit is silent, and the voice of the internal storyteller is very loud.”

Talking about his book The Voice of Knowledge (2004) in an interview, don Miguel explained it this way…

“The voice of knowledge is the voice in our mind that is always talking — the voice that comes from all that we know. But that voice is usually lying because we have learned so many lies, mainly about ourselves. Every time we judge ourselves, find ourselves guilty and punish ourselves, it’s because the voice in our head is telling us lies. Every time we have a conflict with our parents, our children, or our beloved, it’s because we believe in these lies, and they believe in them, too. So much of the knowledge in our minds is based on lies and superstitions that come from thousands of years ago. Humans create stories long before we are born, and we inherit those stories, we adopt them, and we live in those stories.”

Don Miguel Ruiz’s books help his readers navigate the sometimes-tricky waters of self-awareness in a world that tries to tell you who you are instead of encouraging you to listen to your own inner wisdom and discover your true self.

His message is simple…

“I can tell you that we have only one mission, and that is to make ourselves happy. The only way we can be happy is by being who we are. We create our own story, but society also creates its own story, and it has the right to create whatever story it wants. If you know that, whatever they say will not stop you from being what you are. Just by being what you are, other people will change—but you don’t do it because you want to change them. You do it to make your heart free.”

Pre-Hispanic Legends that Explained the Natural World*

By Kary Vannice

Historically, every culture in the world has passed down myths and legends to explain the origins of different elements of our natural world. Here are a select few that originate from the region of Mexico.

The Legend of the Bat

The story goes that, long ago, the bat was the most beautiful bird in nature. The bat, seeing that other birds also had beautiful feathers, decided to go up to heaven to ask the Creator to fill his body with the most beautiful plumage. The Creator had no feathers to give him, so instead gave him permission to go down to Earth and claim a feather from each bird.

Back on land, the bat only selected the birds with the most beautiful feathers. And soon, he had filled his body with feathers of many different colors and shapes. From that moment on, the bat boasted about its exquisite feathers in front of everyone and believed that it was superior to the rest of the birds. He even humiliated them.

The Creator perceived the proud attitude of the bat and decided to pluck its feathers. And when he flapped his wings, his plumage instantly shed from his skin. And all the other birds witnessed the shower of colored feathers.

It is for this reason the bat now has no feathers and lives in caves so as not to remember the beautiful colors it once had and lost.

The Legend of the Hummingbird

When the gods created the world, they assigned a task to everything that inhabited it. Stones, trees, and animals all had a mission. But when they finished creating the universe, they realized that they had forgotten something essential: a being who had the task of carrying wishes and thoughts from one place to another, a messenger.

The gods then realized that they had run out of corn and mud, materials with which they had created all the other beings. It was then that they found a piece of jade and carved it into the shape of a small arrow. Then they blew on it, and it went flying off at full speed. The small piece of jade became a hummingbird.

Legend has it that the delicacy of this being allowed it to approach the flowers without moving a single one of its petals and that all the colors of the rainbow shone in its plumage. In addition to being the messengers of the gods, hummingbirds also became the bearers of human thoughts and desires, including messages from the dead.

The men then tried to capture the bird and adorn themselves with its feathers. But the gods got angry and forbade it, telling them that any man who caught a hummingbird would be punished. That is why hummingbirds have never been captive birds of man.

Since then, it is said that the proximity of a hummingbird is good luck. But not only that, its presence also indicates that someone has wished you well and that the bird, as light as it, would carry your thoughts and desires from one place to another.

The Legend of the Cempasúchil (Mexican Marigold)

An old story says that, many years ago, there lived two young people in love: the girl Xóchitl and the boy Huitzilin.

One day, the boy climbed to the top of a mountain seeking the blessing of the Sun God to ensure their love story would last forever. There, Tonatiuh fulfilled the couple’s wish and blessed their love.

Sometime later, Huitzilin had to go to war, and Xóchitl waited for his return. But the young man never returned, and Xóchitl spent her days grieving.

Legend has it that, seeing that the girl was so sad, the Sun God decided to transform her into a beautiful flower. Soon, a hummingbird perched on the petals of the flower, yellow as the sun. The flower immediately recognized her beloved Huitzilin, who returned transformed into a precious bird.

The Legend of the Firefly

A long, long time ago in the Mayab (Earth in its beginnings), there was a man who could cure all diseases. The news spread, and soon many people came to him seeking healing. To cure their ills, he would take out a small green stone from his pocket and whisper a few words to it. This was enough to cure them.

But one day, the man went out for a walk in the jungle. He walked so much that he became very tired. So, he decided to sleep for a while under a tree. But after a few minutes, a heavy rain woke him up, and he ran toward his house, and in his haste, the green stone fell out of his pocket.

Arriving at his house, he found a woman was waiting for him. She needed him to heal her child. But when he went looking for his stone, he didn’t find it. And he began to wonder how he would find something so small in such a big jungle.

“I know!” said the hopeful man, “I’ll ask Cocay to help!”

Cocay was a small but very agile and fast-flying insect. And he knew every corner of the jungle very well!

Cocay gladly volunteered to look for the stone. He searched in every corner of the jungle among the leaves and grass. He searched among the branches of the trees and the water of the creek. And despite being exhausted, Cocay did not want to stop. When night fell, Cocay cried inconsolably because he wanted to keep looking, but he could no longer see. Then, all of a sudden, his little body began to glow and light up, and the tiny insect was able to keep searching … until he found the little green stone.

Very happy, Cocay took the stone to its owner. The healer, upon seeing the little insect shine, felt so proud that he told him: “You have shown your dedication, effort, and perseverance. You have your own light, little Cocay, and from now on, you will always have it. Your body will shine in the middle of the night.”

And from that day on, Cocay and all his family turned into fireflies.

The Legend of the Toads and the Rain

One day, some farmers had planted corn, and they waited for it to rain. But the water never came. So, they thought to send a bird named Papán to go for the rain. And Papán the bird said “Yes,” and took off to bring the water back.

When the bird, Papán, got to where the rain was, he said, “”Hey, rain! The men who have planted corn need you.”

And the rain answered, “Yes, come on, of course. We will go together at the same time.

And the rain and Papán began the journey to where the corn was planted. But on the way, Papán couldn’t stand the rain because it was so thick. Papán fell from the sky with wet wings.

When Papán did not arrive with the water, the farmers thought to send another bird for the rain. It was a bird named Cheque Cheque.

When Cheque Cheque got to where the rain was, he said, “Hey, rain. I have come for you. You are sorely missed where the farmers have planted the corn.”

Then the rain replied, “Okay, I’ll go where I’m needed. Only we must go together at the same time.”

And the two set out for the sown field. But, along the journey, Cheque Cheque couldn’t stand the rain either; and he too fell from the sky with soaked wings.

So, the farmers thought and thought about who to send for the water. After much thought, they decided to invite the toads.

The toads agreed to go for the rain. And, as they were organized, they advised each other.

“Let’s see, big-footed toad. You are going to put yourself on the hill of that hill. You, dwarf toad, are going to stand on the top of the next hill. And you, big-mouthed toad, will stand on the last hill of the road.”

When the chubby-cheeked toad arrived to where the rain was, he said, “I’ve come for you, rain. They need you a lot where the corn is planted.”

“But how will we go together? Do you fly like a bird?” asked the rain.

“I don’t fly like the birds. But I jump very high. And, from jump to jump, I will take you to where the corn has been planted. And so that you know the way, I will sing on each hill. Wherever you listen to my song, there you will go.”

The rain agreed, and the two began the journey. The chubby-cheeked toad jumped very high and lost sight of the rain.

Then, the rain heard the song of the big-footed toad on the first hill. And there he went. Next, the same rain heard the song of the dwarf toad on the next hill, and she continued her journey there. Finally, the rain heard another song. It was the song of the big-mouthed toad waiting for her on the last hill. And that is where the water went.

Thus, singing to the rain, among all the toads, they took the water to where it was needed. And the farmers were very grateful to them.

Since then, every time it’s going to rain, the toads begin to sing.

*Translated from various sources on the internet.

Six-Legged Saviors

By Kary Vannice

I’ve seen visitors to Mexico visibly gag or turn away in disgust when offered a bowl of chapulines (fried grasshoppers) along with their guacamole. I’ve witnessed a few more daring travelers hesitantly touch their tongue to a margarita glass rimmed with sal de gusano (salt containing ground-up agave worm larva). But I’ve rarely seen a foreigner “chow down” on insects undeterred by their preconceived notions about eating bugs.

Most of us are disgusted by just the thought of bugs crawling around in the cabinet where we store our food and are horrified to see mealworm larva float to the top of our cereal bowl.

Eating two or four-legged creatures is fine, but add an additional pair of legs, and most westerners are “out.” “No, thank you, I’ll pass!”

But could it be that our social and cultural conditioning is preventing us from taking advantage of one of the planet’s most nutritious, eco-friendly, and sustainable sources of protein – insects?

For centuries, 80% of all the world’s cultures have been incorporating insects into their diets. Countries like the United States and Canada make up part of the 20% that are staunch holdouts to embracing the edible insect.

Over a hundred edible insect species are eaten in Mexico and there are almost 2,000 species of edible insect that humans around the world consume. Nearly two billion people eat insects as a regular part of their everyday diet. And for good reason.

Most edible insects are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and high in fiber. They contain various essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, phosphorous, iron, calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and manganese. And many are a one-stop-shop for all nine essential amino acids, and also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants. According to http://www.Hey-Planet.com, “Insects contain almost all the nutritional benefits that you get from eating meat, fish, and rye bread – all at once!”

And if the nutritional benefits alone don’t convince you to start incorporating insects into your diet, perhaps the environmental ones will. The Food and Agricultural Association (FAO) of the United Nations points out that “Crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein … and they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock.”

In our post-pandemic world, we are facing new food-system concerns like supply-chain disruptions, food scarcity, and the rising cost of food, particularly meat. This, along with the ongoing climate crisis, has led many to suggest insect farming as a viable, environmentally friendly, and lucrative solution to all of the above problems.

Last year, the BBC featured insect farming in an online series focused on the future of food. The article stated that insect cultivation uses only a fraction of the land mass, energy, and water of traditional animal farming and has a significantly lower carbon footprint.

One reason for this is that insects can be farmed vertically, meaning that large high-rise warehouses can be used to grow tons of insects on a very small parcel of land. And farmed insects can be fed on what would otherwise be considered “waste” in other food industries, such as spent grain from breweries, food scraps, and other organic waste, which solves yet another problem.

Because insect farming does not require vast tracts of land, it can be done in and around large urban centers, so there’s no need to ship this protein-rich food source to where the majority of people live. This virtually eliminates the supply chain altogether.

Before making it to the consumer, most insect protein is ground into a fine powder, making it much more palatable and easier to incorporate into a mainstream diet. Imagine eating a delicious batch of coconut cookies that just happens to contain cricket powder or enjoying a protein-packed brownie made from silkworm larva flour. You’d probably never even know you were eating an insect, yet imagine the good you’d be doing your body and the planet.

If you live in Mexico and want to give insect protein powder a try, the Mexican-based company One Chance offers delicious protein shake powders that are all available from Amazon Mexico. I recommend the matcha!

Bird Watching Guides and Resources
for the State of Oaxaca

By Kary Vannice

Of the 1,100 species of birds that live or migrate temporarily to Mexico, 736 inhabit Oaxaca. Oaxaca boasts the greatest biodiversity in the country, not just for bird life but for all plant and animal species.

For this reason, many biologists, naturalists, ornithologists, and birders flock to Oaxaca each year to explore and understand the immense diversity of bird life throughout the region. This avian diversity is attracted by Oaxaca’s vast territorial biodiversity, from 10,000-foot peaks and high mountain deserts
to coastal seashores and dense mangrove lagoons – it’s no wonder so many bird species either live or temporarily migrate through this region.

Whether you’re a serious, money-investing birder or simply a casual observer of nature, there’s a resource out there to help you enhance your appreciation and understanding of the birds of Oaxaca.

Several detailed bird books have been published dedicated to the birds of Oaxaca alone. If you’re the type that wants to have an entire encyclopedia of local birds to leaf through when out exploring, then you may wish to add these to your personal library.

Aves de la Lagunas Costeras de Oaxaca, Mexico – This detailed and beautifully published paperback book identifies 133 species of birds that live in or frequent the lagoons of the coastal waters of Oaxaca. Written by Paul Germain and Mateo Ruiz Bruce, this book was published in 2016. Paul, an Englishman who lived in the small village of Ventanilla while writing the guide, took years to painstakingly detail the characteristics of each bird species, as well as photograph them in their natural habitat. The book is written in English and Spanish. Even for those not dedicated to birding, it is a delightful book to explore and may just inspire the reader to pick up their binoculars and take to the lagoons in search of the unique species that live there.

This book is available for purchase locally in several shops in Ventanilla and the surrounding area.

Birds & Birding in Central Oaxaca by John M. Forcey is more of a checklist than an Audubon-type field guide, although it provides some information on each bird species included. One reviewer described it this way… “This annotated checklist includes details of habitat, elevation, breeding, dates for migratory birds, and local subspecies alongside information on the best locations in the area for bird-watching.”

This guide focuses on bird species you will find in the central portion of Oaxaca, including the Sierra Madre and high desert areas that occupy the center of the state. A handy tool for serious birders to keep a running tally of species they’ve spotted in the dense jungle or wide-open spaces as they tick each one off the list. The second edition was published in 2009 and is still available via Buteo Books online.

There are also many general field guides that cover the region of Oaxaca. A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas: Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador, by Ernest Preston Edwards (3rd edition, 1998) is an illustrated guide to birds of these regions and contains 850 beautifully drawn, full-color depictions of regional birds. Many of the most common Oaxacan birds can be found in this guide.

Another popular bird book is A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, by Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb (2003, a new edition is coming out in August 2022). This book is very similar to the one mentioned above. It contains similar drawings/paintings of bird species, and it covers, generally, the same information about each individual species. Either of these books is a good choice for a general bird book for this region.

If you’re not serious enough about birding to invest in a field guide to have on hand but still enjoy identifying local birds while you are out enjoying nature, make a trip to the Mercado Orgánico de Huatulco, held in the main square in Santa Cruz Huatulco on the first and third Saturday of each month. Once there, ask for local naturalist photographer Jon Church. Jon almost always has a booth set up and sells some excellent one-page laminated bird guides that you can easily pop into your backpack or beach bag to have on hand.

If you have an excellent memory (or a good camera), you can snap a mental or real photo of the birds you see in the wild and use some of these online websites to identify the birds you’ve spotted once you get home.

Avibase – the World Bird Database is an excellent online resource that allows you to search by region (Oaxaca) and access a vast amount of detailed information about each species, including photos and recorded bird calls. (https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/)

Ebird – Much like Avibase, this is a crowd-sourcing database where birders can register and submit data, including photos, bird calls, location found, and other details about each sighting. The page dedicated to the state of Oaxaca identifies 739 different bird species from this area. (https://ebird.org/region/MX-OAX)

Naturalista – This is a Mexican website written in Spanish. Still, with the photos provided, one can easily identify the bird they are looking for and use the translation feature to learn more about the habitat and unique details about each species. This site also has an interactive map that will show you the location of each observation, if you are aiming to locate that one elusive bird, you just haven’t been able to cross off your list yet. (https://www.naturalista.mx/projects/aves-de-la-costa-oaxaca)

Of course, there are many friendly, dedicated birding guides with local knowledge that can arrange to take you to exactly where you need to go to get all the bird-watching action your heart can handle (see articles elsewhere in this issue). Checking out some of the books and websites above just might spark a passion you didn’t know you had!

Five Environmental Wins in 2021

By Kary Vannice

While climate change research is producing issuing dire assessments about the very short timetable and the very large commitments required to avoid environmental disaster, there have actually been some bright spots on the ground. Here are five of them.

1) The Monarch Butterfly Bounces Back

In the January 2017 issue of The Eye, I reported on the death of 6.2 million monarch butterflies in a freak severe winter storm in the Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca. At that time, experts were so concerned about the fate of the monarch that they speculated that they might be listed as threatened in just a few short years. In 2020, the numbers hit an all-time low.

In 2021, however, some areas along the migration route saw an increase in monarchs by as much as 4900% from the previous year. While others saw only a 25% increase from 2017, biologists and conservationists are encouraged that this is the beginning of a new era for the monarch butterfly.

2) The Giant Panda Delisted

China’s giant panda’s iconic black and white markings have long been a symbol for conservationists worldwide. The World Wildlife Fund, which has used the panda as their logo since 1958, upgraded them from endangered to vulnerable in 2021.

There are now about 1800 pandas thriving in the wild; last year, China also announced the creation of the Giant Panda National Park, which will contribute to growing numbers of wild pandas. The park will be roughly the size of the United Kingdom and will also serve to protect other threatened and endangered species such as the China tiger and the Siberian leopard.

3) Ocean Protection and Coral Reef Recovery

Fourteen countries banded together in the name of ocean conservation. Australia, Canada, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Portugal, Fiji, Jamaica, and Palau collectively committed to protecting all of the world’s oceans, not just focusing on the areas that were already in preservation status.

From shutting down illegal fishing operations to restoring depleted mangrove forests and renewing coral reefs, these 14 nations are committed to doing their part to solve the more significant climate change crisis.

Off the coast of Australia, in the Great Barrier Reef, a “coral IVF” project has aided in the birth of billions of new coral babies in 2021 alone. Australia also announced a plan to create 60 new marine reserves, with two massive reserves planned in the Indian Ocean, one of which will encompass 194,000 square miles.

4) Indigenous Peoples Recognized and Protected

The Peruvian government established a 2.7 million acre reserve specifically for “uncontacted peoples” to preserve their way of life and the land they live from. After 20 years of political debate, a new law has been enacted to protect indigenous people from oil conglomerates and other companies that seek to extract natural resources from the Amazon rainforest.

At last year’s United Nation global climate summit in Glasgow (COP 26, co-sponsored with Italy from 10/31 – 11/12/2021), research was presented that suggested that if tropical rainforest nations wanted to meet their Paris Agreement goals, the most effective action they could take would be to return vast sections of land back to the indigenous peoples and once again make them the land’s legal stewards.

5) Mexico Bans GMO Corn and Pledges to Phase Out Glyphosate

In January 2021, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a special decree that prohibited genetically modified corn and committed the country to phasing out glyphosate by 2024.

There are 59 distinct varieties of corn that are native to Mexico, the birthplace of corn, and many believe that planting GM corn could threaten the biodiversity of Mexico’s native corn.

Glyphosate, the herbicide used in Roundup, kills broad-leafed weeds and grasses. Glyphosate is suspected of causing illnesses such as cancer, infertility, and liver disease. In the decree signed last year, farmers and other agricultural producers will have to stop using glyphosate by 2024.

Both of these protections are important steps towards keeping the food supply in Mexico safe and healthy, as well as preserving the integrity of Mexico’s most important native food, corn.

A “Trashy” Olympic Scandal

By Kary Vannice

A pile of garbage bags sparked a very interesting (and very embarrassing) controversy for team Mexico at this year’s Olympics – a controversy that raised the question, are the Olympics really about patriotism and national pride or just another chance for athletes to compete and win worldwide fame?

How did something as mundane as a sack of trash lead to such a provocative question and spark a global debate? Well, to be fair, it was the contents of the bags that made headlines.

On July 29th, a female Mexican Olympic boxer posted a photo on her social media showing several sacks of trash thrown out by the Mexican softball team. The bags contained official Mexican Olympic team uniforms and training gear.

Along with the photo, she posted this quote:

“This uniform represents years of effort, sacrifice, and tears. All Mexican athletes yearn to wear it with dignity, and today the Mexican softball team sadly left it all in the garbage of the Olympic villages.”

This act of disrespect was made much worse because 14 of the 15 women competing for the Mexican Olympic softball team were born in the United States.

In fact, Mexico qualified for its first-ever Olympic softball appearance by recruiting American collegiate athletes of Mexican descent, a practice that is totally legal according to the International Olympic Committee, which requires that athletes be citizens or nationals of the country they compete for. Athletes with dual or multiple citizenship can choose which country they want to represent and declare a transfer of allegiance specifically and only for the Olympic games. When the games are over, they can go right back to competing professionally or collegiately in their home country.

Because each of the 200 countries that participated in the Tokyo Games has its own laws governing citizenship and residency, countries wanting a better chance at an Olympic medal can easily bend the rules by actively seeking athletes from other countries who have ancestral ties to the country.

The United States, which has more professional athletes than any other country, is a prime hunting ground for Olympic athletic talent. Only the best of the best qualify to compete on the US Olympic team, but many who don’t make the cut easily qualify to join the team of another country, where the talent pool isn’t so deep or over-crowded.

And that’s exactly what happened in the case of Mexico’s 2020 Olympic softball team, with all but one being born in the United States. This led one news outlet to publish an article titled “Mexico’s Olympic softball team is made in the USA.”

But what are the consequences of stacking a potentially winning team with players who are in it solely to compete and not to “bring home the gold”? How would the Mexican people have felt had the softball team won gold? Would they feel a sense of national pride knowing that 14 out of the 15 metals would go home to the United States and never touch down on Mexican soil? It’s very unlikely.

It also seems quite clear that the women themselves felt more allegiance to the Olympics than to Mexico, eventually admitting that they threw out the team jerseys given them by the Mexican Olympic Committee to make room for bed comforters and quilts from their rooms at Olympic Village. Essentially, they favored souvenirs with six colored rings on them over the uniforms that sported the Mexican flag.

In an official statement (after becoming an international sports scandal), a representative of the softball team said that it was simply a matter of “too much cargo.” Yet ESPN Mexico reported that sets of softball equipment, clothing from the opening ceremony, sneakers, and suitcases were also found in the garbage, begging the question, what’s it worth to represent a country that’s not your own in the greatest sports games on the planet? As it turns out, for some, not even the price of overweight luggage.

But to be fair, Mexico isn’t the only country taking advantage of the transfer of allegiance rule. In the last Olympics, nearly 200 athletes competed for countries they were not born in. Two athletes have even won medals for two different countries in the history of the games!

Each individual must, for themselves, weigh the balance of national pride vs. the chance to compete at all costs. But it’s a powerful statement that in 2016 the Olympic Committee formed the Refugee Olympic Team so that athletes who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries could still compete.

In this year’s Olympics, 29 athletes from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela competed for the Refugee Olympic Team in 12 events. They entered the Tokyo Olympic stadium under a united flag that represents refugees around the world, all 29 of them proving it’s not the flag you stand under, but solidarity that matters most.