Leave No Plastic Behind, Merida, Mexico, Begins

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by Cheryl Lohrmann

Just before leaving the beautiful Baja Peninsula near the end of my self-designated vacation time, I came upon a copy of Log Book from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck. A collaboration between Steinbeck and a research scientist to create a pictorial representation of the vast life among the region’s coral reefs, the project began with humble means and ambitious intentions. In the first pages of Cortez, Steinbeck writes of his self-consciousness towards this undertaking. One important task was to charter a boat for the project. He felt ridiculous asking the fisherman whose livelihoods depended upon the sea. With vacant looks in response to his inquiries, most could not comprehend the purpose of the project and he surmised that there was no room for it in their focused operations. They did not have time to consider the reasons why anyone might do such a thing.

When I began to ask people to take a plastic-free challenge and make art out of the plastic they saved because even if you avoid it, you get it and then we have an art show (see, there’s no real easy way to explain it) I wondered if there was something else I might do with my time. Yet these days more and more individuals every day are taking vows to avoid the perceived conveniences of our modern lives. Now to organize these intentions into a movement of building the infrastructure of alternatives, starting from the grassroots? Is it ridiculous or is it so crazy it just needs to work?

It is one thing to do this project in the United States where the green movement has been fleshed out to the point where its many facets are all but a widespread reality. To take it to Mexico feels like quite another thing and smells of a stereotypical holier-than-thou mission. Happily, it is grounded in the sense that two locals, in this case friends of mine, are presenting this project to their neighbors in a nearby Gulf village. Morgan Lange and her partner, artist Rey Pech Cetz, have spread the word to six different communities, fisherman included, who have been invited to participate in one of six workshops. We begin Thursday, and an art show will be on exhibit on March 24.

We do not know how this virgin voyage will go. I know I will stand somewhat idly by due to my level of Spanish fluency at this point. As Steinbeck did, I am approaching this as an observational study, remembering that every thing that exists as a daily reality had to start as a ridiculous idea and move through many stages of troubleshooting.

At the last minute Rey and his neighbor, an electrician, are studying how to rig up a digital projector for Power Point presentations and YouTube videos to present to the participants. There are no supplies, maybe not even tables and chairs for our workshop space, but what do we really need? The creativity in this country is evident and yet the material exists at every turn, a perfect storm for this creative awareness raising endeavor.

Stay tuned for further posts in the Logbook of Leave No Plastic Behind, Mexico through March 2010.

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2 Responses to “Leave No Plastic Behind, Merida, Mexico, Begins”

  1. matt Says:

    bravo

  2. Hart Says:

    Wonderful! I loathe plastic, and I loathe it even more when it ends up in the oceans.

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