An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of October 22, 2007
Written at Yerba Buena Clinic and issued from a ciber in
Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO

REVOLUTION, EDUCATION
& SUSTAINABILITY

You might wonder why the Mexican government would let groups of campesinos take over land the way they have here.

First, remember that many consider that the Mexican Revolution is still underway. A central feature of the Revolution and the resulting Constitution of 1917 has been that large landholdings are broken up and redistributed to the agricultural masses who may have no land of their own. Sometimes payment, at least partial payment, has been paid for confiscated land, sometimes not.

At least here in Chiapas and I suppose other states as well there's been a legal process by which campesinos could petition to take possession of "unused" land, even when someone else legally owns it. The petition process is long and can be denied at different stages. Here local campesinos did petition for reserve land they considered to be unused but the petition was denied. Some people, unimpressed by the notion that the reserve was "used" as a watershed and refuge for biological diversity, didn't accept the judgment and took the land anyway.

I can see both sides of the argument. If you are the father in a family living from one meal to the next, you know how to produce your own food but have no land, and you see land lying "unused" right down the road, you might come up with a different definition of what "used" means yourself.

Of course the root of the problem is overpopulation. Too many people are competing for too little land. In the past disease, wars, starvation and emigration kept things here on a sustainable basis but now all that has changed. Now the situation, with more and more people wanting more and more dwindling resources, is unsustainable.

I'm fascinated by something I heard this week on the BBC -- that Italy now has the lowest birthrate in Europe. I think Spain probably has the next lowest. When I was traveling in these countries in the 70s and 80s seeing their large families, I never dreamed such a change could come about so quickly. Some people say the change has been caused by education. Once people think about how much children cost and reflect on the dynamic of quality verses quantity, they want fewer children.

Here, people need more access to education but education can't be the cure-all. The problem is that here poverty trumps everything. Italy and Spain had economic support from outside their borders, from the rest of the European Union, but Chiapas doesn't have any such benefactor. Even if a corn-planting father is educated all about watersheds and biological diversity, he still needs to put beans and tortillas on the table, and Brussels, Washington or Mexico City don't seem to be offering many alternatives to "taking" what land is needed.

So, there seems to be a layered pyramid of challenges human communities must ascend before accomplishing a sustainable equilibrium with Nature.

At the pyramid's base lies overpopulation, atop which all other problems rest.

Then there's poverty, the removal of which affords people the luxury of considering the next-up layer, which is:

Education. Educated people understand the value of forested watersheds and biological diversity.

But, knowing isn't enough. One must be sensitized to the surrounding world before caring whether other living things survive or not. Thus sensitization is the next-to-the-top pyramid layer a people must rise to, and to get there they must be encouraged and guided by inspired teachers, artists and philosophers.

At the pyramid's top is spirituality (not religion) enabling thinking, feeling people to know the joy of harmonizing with the majesty and beauty of the Universe as it is. It is my experience that the spiritual person does not destroy what is lovely, or crave more than Nature freely provides. Facebook Icon.