Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Windpower in Oaxaca

Most of us, who are fortunate enough to have been born in an industrialized part of the world, think the utilization of renewable resources, such as sun, wind and water, to power our homes, automobiles and factories is a good thing.

I admit I have a bias toward progress, albeit progress means change, and change can be painful.  When I walk through a farmer's field, and he's busy using oxen to plow his field, I think it's quaint.  However, I also wonder about his life and the life of his children.

I assume he's happy enough, but wants a better life.  Furthermore, I'm convinced I'm correct in my assumption.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is in the state of Oaxaca, stretching a meager 120 miles from coast to coast; it’s the narrowest landmass between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Trade winds blow through the plain formed where the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca and the Sierra Madre de Chiapas meet. This is one of the best spots in the world for the development of wind power.

The people of the isthmus are Zapotec farmers; generally the land is communal property.  For a signing bonus of $650 and a 50 year contract, in which each farmer receives $50 per month, renewable energy companies are invading the area.

Farmers are told they can farm around the turbines, and yet the engineers from the Technical Institute of Tehuantepec, having studied the impact of the wind turbines, claim that the 200 tons of concrete needed to keep the turbines upright hinders the natural flow of water.  Perhaps, they say, eventually the water table will dry up.

But, I also know that big business, whose only morality is profit, can, and does, take advantage of the poor and uneducated.

The Zapotec farmers, many of whom only know their language, need to be respected, not taken advantage of.  As the Mexican and Oaxacan governments push to encourage large Multi-national Corporation into the area to increase wind power, farming may no longer be an option.

The Mexican government and the corporations need to assist the Zapotec to find a new, and profitable way of earning a living.


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