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Laguna San Ignacio.
Pouring salt into the wound of whale extinction?

March 11, 1999

It's 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, 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. - Legend Advertising - Search - Archives - Online Store
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