going to be a battle royal. The Mitsubishi Corporation and the
Mexican Government versus a disorganized group of environmentalists
from Baja California. It's about salt and whales. Laguna San
Ignacio is a perfect, absolutely perfect, place for both. At
night, when the soft winds fade, the water become glassy and
clear. Environmentalists have spent thousands of hours taping
the sighs and squeals of the huge gray whales who habitually
return here to mate and perpetuate their threatened species.
Miners and capitalists of the Japanese conglomerate, Mitsubishi,
together with the cash hungry bureaucrats of the Mexican government
have spent thousands of hours researching and have identified
this area as perfect for mining and manufacturing two of the
human species most precious commodities: salt and money, money,
The vast, barren salt flats, or desert plains, of the area easily
accommodate the enormous, shallow ponds needed. Plus, impermeable
desert soils hold water economically, so it can evaporate easily.
The daily high temperatures and windy conditions speed the evaporation.
And, just like the whales, the incoming supertankers find the
placid and easily accessible Laguna perfect for their purposes.
Of course, the salty seas of the Laguna are a unbounded and perfect
salt-water source for the plant's intake valves.
The lunar-like landscape that surrounds the Laguna has always
offered the whales a respite from
humanity, but now, as the world grows smaller and smaller, that
very aspect of serenity is creating a "worst possible"
scenario for them of pollution , congestion, and disruption.
Laguna is becoming a battleground for the growing power of environmentalists,
and a very important one. There are a few precious areas of the
earth which are today universally considered sacred by environmentalists
and Laguna San Ignacio is one of them to be sure.
If built, the saltworks may destroy the inestimably valuable
habitat by changing the characteristics of the lagoon and the
surrounding area through noise, population growth, physical disturbances
and inestimably valuable economic development. According to current
plans, 6,000 gallons of saltwater per second will be pumped out
of the lagoon by a battery of 17 loud diesel engines. Earthen
dikes created by earth-moving machinery to contain the 116 square
miles of evaporating ponds will radically alter rainfall drainage
patterns. A 1.25 mile-long pier for transporting the salt to
ocean-going ships will be built in a key abalone and lobster
fisheries area, and in the whales' migration paths.
The Gray whale (Eschrichtius Robustus) is believed by scientists
to play an intricate part in the web of life that is not fully
understood. Yet, people chose to exploit whales for their resources,
not taking into consideration the long-term effects it may have.
Humans have twice driven the Gray Whales to near extinction for
the convenience of oil or other superficial needs. Fortunately,
with the help of the moratorium on commercial whaling and other
environmentalist groups, the Gray Whale numbers are at pre-exploitation,
somewhere around 21,000. This salt expansion project could once
again cause damage to the Gray Whale population along with the
rich biodiversity that inhabits Laguna San Ignacio. The Laguna
San Ignacio is the last undeveloped lagoon that Gray Whales can
still visit without the interference of man's progress.
So, the questions are, as always: Who cares? Who doesn't care?
Which group has the horsepower to stop the other? And, there's
one more thing, after two days of research and writing this brief
expose: are we, as a species, going to define ourselves by the
capitalistic or by the democratic? In other words are we going
to be a species that works together as a group for the good of
all we encounter and encompass? Or, are we going to be a species
of individuals, each pursuing his or her own interests, and what
emerges in the aggregate, will be what it will be? Philosophers
of all ages have struggled with this one. But nature, God, science,
social laws, natural laws -- call it what you will -- have, like
Hansel and Gretel, left little crumbs along the way for us to
find our way home. Here, in closing are some I found digging
around in the beautiful, pristine, Laguna San Ignacio.
That's another Gray under the water.
Environmentalists petting the Grays who come to the surface,
see the friendly faces and
come over to the boats to be petted and kissed. These mating
Grays are famous for their
open affection. Really.