Pollution and Poverty: Thorn In the Side OF Lake Atitlan
Root causes must be weeded out before real solutions can be found
By Greg Szymanski, JD
March 29, 2010
Modern western civilization has always been a big thorn in the side of indigenous cultures.
The Mayans of Guatemala are no exception.
When the west rubbed against most indigenous people in North, South and Central America, the indigenous people were rubbed out.
The Native American population map, enclosed in this article, is a perfect example of the “rubbing out” of the more than 150 cultures and Native American nations that existed before the arrival of west.
With each culture and nation, existed a language, a way of life and a spiritual belief system.
Now we see few native languages spoken, a way of life long forgotten and a spirtual belief system lost in the craziness of million dollar church steeples and Hollywood evangelistic TV shows.
The same type of westernization has occurred to the Mayans in Guatemala.
The only difference it is a poorer version of what goes on in the United States.
But the same “rubbing out’ of a once proud culture and people is still taking place to the Mayans today.
Facts tell us this and there is no getting around it, no rationalizing the fact westernization of both the United States and Guatemala have meant the possibility of extinction of both the Mayans and the Native Americans.
In Guatemala thee are roughly 13 million people, seven million being indigenous.
Poverty among the indigenous population is staggering.
On a recent local blog post translated from Spanish, here are a few words about poverty in Guatemala.
There was an article about Map International and their efforts to provide vitamins and medicines to the poor of Guatemala. According to the article ‘half of all the country’s children younger than 5 – more than 1 million boys and girls – suffer from chronic malnutrition. It is the highest malnourishment rate in Latin America. And it is the sixth-highest rate in the world.’
With the rising prices the malnutrition will surely escalate and as food and daily living expenses rise there will be more and more children whose parents are unable to send them to school. Education And More steps in to help fill that need!
The article goes on to state that figures from the World Bank show that 9 million people in Guatemala live below the poverty line. According to statistics the poverty line in Guatemala is set at $4.02 a day and the ‘absolute’ poverty line is $2.01 a day.
In the rural areas of western Guatemala many people live on $1 or $2 a day.
It is difficult to understand that kind of poverty in a country so beautiful as Guatemala.
But Guatemala is just now recovering from a 36 year civil war — yes, 36 years!
With 9 million living in poverty out of the total population of roughly 13 million it is not difficult to understand that they need help from their friends around the world.
Help is not only needed with the basic necessities of life, but at Lake Atitlan the threat to the very existence of the lake by over pollution is finally taking its toll.
Letting Lake Atitlan serve as a microcosm for the assault on all indigenous people around the world, we see this assault by the west strike at the social and spiritual well being of the Mayans, as well as the envirnoment in which they live.
A new group has formed with both local support and support from the United States to help end poverty and to help end the environmental distruction going on at Lake Atitlan that has left the water there undrinkable.
This group called Save Lake Atitlan Mission featured its new web site today http://www.savelakeatitlan.com, calling atention to the world of this werious problem as well as trying to galvanize support locally to save the lake and help the impoverished living on the shoreline.
“It’s foolish to think you can stop pollution at the lake without addressing the other problems facing the indigenous population living at Lake Atitlan,” said a spokesman for Save Lake atitlan Mission.
“You have to address the root cause of pollution and poverty while recognizing the wrongs of the past and correcting them. For example, the spiritual hi-jacking of the Mayans is just as important to understand as how they became impoverished and their lands and lakes have been polluted.
“It takes a thorough study of history, reading those books you can’t find at Barnes and Noble and searching out the books and information the elite who control this world don’t want you to read.
“Those of us in the America who have taken the time to search out hidden history, have come to realize we are all slaves, not just the Mayans, to the elite who run this world.
“It is this realization and really knowing who your enemy is that is the first step to solving problems in America and those problems facing the good people at Lake Atitlan.
Please join us in this struggle and you can start by going to our new web site and contacting us.”
Editor’s Note: Once known as the most beautiful lake in the world, now Lake Atitlan, a 1000′ deep volcanic lake 130 square km in size, has been taken over by a massive bloom of cyanobacteria that is now entering its toxic phase ending the basic source of water for the thousands of lake shore inhabitants as well as halting the livelihood of indigenous fisherman. Authorities on lake pollution in a recent gathering at Istanbul listed Lake Atitlan as the world’s most threatened lake in 2009.
With haphazard garbage collection and no raw sewage and water treatment, the once crystal clear water is now undrinkable.
In October 2009, 85 per cent of the lake’s surface was covered with a green algae scum, cutting tourism by 75 per cent, according to local reports.
Also, see more of Greg’s stories below on Atitlan. If you want to help raise money, awareness and meet the immediate needs of the Mayans, contact firstname.lastname@example.org