This story began early in 2013. Many exciting things were happening. For instance, the Mayan ‘’end’’ of the world didn't happen. I was celebrating one year with a Master’s Degree in Sciences of Renewable Energies from the Yucatan Center for Scientific Research (CICY) working on Microbial Fuel Cells. And that same year I started working as a research assistant at the State Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY), on a project to analyze underground water samples to establish peripheral protection areas in the state.
Later in the year, I started hearing about a very exciting wind energy mega-project for the state that would take place in my hometown, Dzilam de Bravo.
Dzilam de Bravo is a fishing village of about 2,400 people located in the northern region of the Yucatan Peninsula. The town is said to have been a site for some famous Caribbean Pirates and supposedly contains the remains of French pirate Jean Laffite.
Through Dzilam de Bravo.
Even when the company claims to have many years of experience in the business of the energy in Mexico, their fair retribution to the locally involved communities has been very limited to hire only foreign specialized professionals and only hiring the locals for low payments construction jobs.
Another negative example is on the rise in the price of basic goods — from food to wheelbarrows. Locals have become greedy, overcharging for their goods hoping to benefit from the economic investment in the area because everyone wants a piece of the ‘’pie’’.
After learning about this community, I began to realize the NOT that GREEN side of the renewable energy in my country. I was clear to me that I didn't want any of this to happen to my hometown.
I was the only person in the area with a graduate degree in renewable energies and also a local of the town. As part of the social impact of vive energia’s project, they needed to hire a local professional from Dzilam. I was very excited about this opportunity, but hesitant because of my research about the company and their impacts in Oaxaca and other regions of Mexico. The interview went well, but a bad feeling about the project and my responsibility to my town, made me decide not to take part in the project.
A year later I created a group with other young professionals to inform the people of my town about the ‘reality’ of the project. I became a speaker in my town. After several informational meetings with locals, we were well known by the people and the company’s representatives. This situation generates distrust between the two groups. After that the SEDUMA (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Urbano de Yucatán -The Secretary of Urban Development and the Environment of Yucatan) office review environmental impacts assessment for the project, evident technical errors in the project arose. These led to a lawsuit that delayed the project for more than two years. The lawsuit argued that the government failed to adequately consult Dzilam de Bravo inhabitants about the wind project, an obligation under a 2014 hydrocarbons law. The government broke this rule by giving permits to viveenergia, to begin with, the construction before they had fulfilled this obligation.
Since the lawsuit began, more locals got interested in the integrity of their natural resources. Some were afraid to lose the beautiful reserve that they thought to be static and indestructible. I was particularly worried about the potential damage to the migratory birds that find their home in the reserve every year, but also about the negative impacts in the wetlands and the groundwater.
It should be noted that seven years have passed since the installation of the first wind farms in Mexico. The absence of good policies in the law as well as a lack of a comprehensive evaluation of the impacts that these industries caused to the ecosystems has led to the problems in Oaxaca and now potentially in Yucatan. Since the initial promotion and initial preparations for the project, a strong debate has been generated about the pros and cons of these ‘’renewable’’ projects in Yucatan.
Today I am part of a group of professionals from almost all backgrounds in the Yucatan (social, environmental, and physical scientists but also, thinkers, lawyers, artists, and general representatives of different communities from the Yucatan). The group: Articulación social sobre energía renovable en Yucatán (Social Organization of Renewable Energies in Yucatan) has the job of supervising renewable energy companies that want to do ‘’green’’ business in Yucatan and inform and advise the local people so that both groups can have a fair agreement with mutual benefits.
Today, the plans for building the wind farm continue and the company is working on gaining the trust of the locals of Dzilam de Bravo, who are now more cautious. I am not living in Dzilam anymore, but part of my heart and mind are still there. I know that I can do something and that things can be changed if you join with the right people and work together for a better future.
Sometimes the flapping wings of a few can cause the wind to blow a different direction.
In the end, we all want a better future for that place that we call home