Page 28


to provoke controversy on all sides. “What argument could anyone make to a Tzeltal corn farmer if he perceived that his family’s welfare depended on chopping down the forest? From their vantage point, slash-andburn corn farming, small-scale cattle ranching, and logging the region’s mahogany still offer the most security.” Yet when Simon “does the math,” he finds there are no solutions to the Zapatistas’ demand for land; even redistribution at this point will not result in long-term, sustainable agriculture, he concludes. Although extensively researched, Endangered Mexico is above all an informed travelogue, with the author as the intrepid adventurer dashing off to see where Mexico City’s waste water ends up \(irrigating the vegetable farms of Hidalgo’s impoverished canyons and forests with Tarahumara Indians to drink a local brew called tesguino, and guzzle beer with a priest of questionable virtue. Simon is occasionally given to touches of self-deprecating humor, as when he describes his introduction to “gun culture” in the Sierra Madreand to the tiny black seeds that pour into his hand when one of his guides picks up a flower and shakes it. \(“Where had I seen these seeds For someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, Simon is scrupulously fair in his reporting, never failing to point out the peasant who made a killing in land speculation in the . Yucatan, or to describe the ambivalence of those like Eladio Castelieda, who “watched as the lake that had sustained him, his village, and his ancestors slowly dried up.” “It was like a dream,” Casterieda tells Simon, “one day we woke up and it was gone.” But when Simon asks Casteneda’s neighbor, Taurino Ariscorreta, whether he misses the lakes, he is ambivalent. “It was a beautiful life,” he says. “But we were very, very poor.” Throughout Endangered Mexico, there is a subtext: the author’s warning to urban environmentalists and international ecologists, that sound environmental policy is not about the creation of pristine nature reserves, but a matter of using the na tion’s natural wealth to benefit its population. With or without the fishing culture of Castefieda’s childhood, too many people here remain “very, very poor.” Endangered Mexico ends with a poetic invocation of optimism, but no real solutions. Perhaps there are none. At heart Simon is talking about another approach to development, one that requires environmentalists and economists to develop a dialogue across the economic divide that runs through Mexican society. Unfortunately, the upcoming battles over NAFTA’s extension and the inclusion of Chile in the trade agreement only promise more of the same old, same old. Unlike Simon, I am not sure that the “destruction of the country’s environment” is the root of so many seemingly unrelated problems. It is a lack of imagination that plagues both sides of the border and makes us incapable of conceiving another way of being. Barbara Belejack lives, writes, and tries to breathe in Mexico City. CLASSIFIEDS ORGANIZATIONS THE TEXAS OBSERVER is seeking volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. Volunteers need not live in Austin. If you can spare some time, call WORK for single-payer National Health Care. Join GRAY PANTHERS, intergenerational advocates against ageism and for progressive policies promoting social and economic justice. $20 individual, $35 family. 3710 Cedar, TEXAS AIDS NETWORK dedicated to improving HIV/AIDS policy and funding in Texas. Individual membership $25, P.O. Box 2395, Austin, TX REVOLTED BY EXECUTIONS? Join the Amnesty International Campaign Against the Death Penalty. WORK FOR OPEN, responsible government in Texas. Join Common Cause/Texas, 1615 Guadalupe, #204, TEXAS TENANTS’ UNION. Membership $1 0/six months, $18/year, $30 or more/sponsor. Receive handbook on tenants’ rights, newsletter, and more. 5405 East Grand, Dallas, TX 75223. END LOGGING OF ANCIENT FORESTS and roadless areas, stop clearcutting of our National Forests. Join the nationwide campaign to protect and restore America’s wild and natural forests. For a free brochure contact Save America’s Forests, 4 Library Court SE, Washington, D.C. CENTRAL TEXAS CHAPTER of the ACLU invites you to our noon Forum, the last Friday of every month, at Furr’s Cafeteria Banquet Room in Northcross Mall, Austin. For information call LIBERTARIAN PARTY liberal on personal freedoms, but conservative in NATIONAL WRITERS UNION. We give working writers a fighting chance. Collective bargaining. Grievance procedures. Health insurance. Journalists, authors, poets, commercial writers. Forming locals in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Noelle E-mail: [email protected] PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS. Join the Texas Civil Rights Project, 2212 E. MLK, Austin, TX 78702. $25/year. Volunteers also needed. Contact Jim HarringTHE HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION EXCHANGE needs volunteers immediately to work 3-6 hours a week during regular business hours. Volunteers will clip, copy and file newspapers, as well as process human rights materials for library files. For more information, please call the Volunteer SERVICES MARY NELL MATHIS, CPA, 20 years’ experience in tax, litigation support, and other analyses. 901 Rio Grande, HOUSEBUYERS, The Consumer’s Agent. Specialists in representing central Austin residential buyers. WORLDWISE DESIGN, awardwinning graphic design studio. For creative, effective and professional designs for your educational and promotional materials, call TAOS SKIING AND MORE. Little Tree Bed & Breakfast. Authentic adobe hacienda near the slopes. See home page URL hotel/littletree/. CLASSIFIED RATES: Minimum ten words. One time, 50 cents per word; three times, 45 cents per word; six times, 40 cents per word; 12 times, 35 cents per word; 25 times, 30 cents per word. Telephone and box numbers count as two words, abbreviations and zip codes as one. Payment must accompany order for all classified ads. Deadline is three weeks before cover date. Address orders and inquiries to Advertising Director, The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th, Austin, TX JULY 4, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29