East of an Aquatic Eden and into the Desert
The Baja Peninsula separating the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortés is a forbidding place if you don’t respect her ways. Those of us who fall in love with her landscape – mountain meets desert meets sea – do so with passion. Divers, fisher-folk, campers, surfers, kayakers, snorkelers, hikers, birders, return year after year. At the edge of the sea others clear brush to reveal Cardon, Ocotillo, Caholla, Wild Plum. We build houses, create livelihoods, and raise families.
Part of each year, I am blessed to call Cabo Pulmo my home. When I reach the 9.65 kilometer (6-mile) dirt road that winds along the coast and through a large bird-filled plain tucked into the Sierra Laguna Mountain Range, and watch the chimera of dust and sea shimmer the air, I’m grateful to be part of a place where earth, sea, and their inhabitants coexist in a sustainable ecosystem.
Here on the East Cape of the Baja Sur Peninsula north of the resort corridor of Cabo San Lucas in the Sea of Cortés, which Oceanographers Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earl call the Aquarium of the World, we are doubly blessed to have a 20,000 year-old Finger Coral Reef that protects our town of approximately 150 souls.
Like we humans who reside along its shore, a coral reef survives in community, relying on a delicate balance of sunlight and ocean salinity. If you’ve ever found a piece of coral on the beach, you have noticed its rough surface, remnants of polyps that once swelled to contain a single algae cell. Through the process of photosynthesis, algae feed oxygen and other nutrients to the coral who return carbon dioxide and other substances to the algae, a balance that not only sustains coral and algae, but nourishes 226 species of fish. Worldwide, fish feed between 30 and 40 million people per year, but also provide a livelihood for communities like Cabo Pulmo who build our infrastructures around fishing, diving, and eco-tourism.
Our reef was not always Mexico’s premiere example of conservation and preservation. By the mid-1980s, Cabo Pulmo Reef was overfished and polluted. Local residents were forced to go elsewhere to find work. Worried that they might have to abandon their way of life, residents called in experts, including marine biologist Dr. Oscar Arizpe, who in 1991, was the first scientist to perform systematic research on the marine animals living in the reef. Based on his findings and that of other scientists, a proposal integrating social, economic and environmental components was presented to the Mexican government. On June 15, 1995, then President Ernesto Zedillo declared the reef a protected natural area.
Today, the reef and community are thriving and Cabo Pulmo has committed itself to developing a sustainable model of profitable fishing and eco-tourism.
Eden nearly lost and regained.
However, Cabo Pulmo’s fragile reef is again under threat. Just north of the park, the Spanish company Hansa Urbana S.A. has purchased and received permission to break ground on the largest development in Mexican history, to be called Cabo Cortés.
So far, the Mexican government has given Hansa Urbana permission to level 1,248 hectares (3,080 acres) of desert for the construction of two 18-hole golf courses, roads, 17 kilometers (10 miles) of water pipes, a marina with 490 moorings and 27,111 guestrooms, a development bigger than all the hotel rooms in the Cabo San Lucas corridor and roughly equivalent to the total number of rooms in the Caribbean resort of Cancun, Mexico’s leading tourist destination. Scientists, researchers, conservationists, activists and organizations including Greenpeace, WiLDCOAST,NRDC, Grupo de los Cien, ACCP, Niparajá, and Cabo Pulmo Vivo have agreed that this development would directly threaten the reef.
“Construction activities of this size will absolutely have a destructive impact on the reef,” says Judith Lucero Castro, Cabo Pulmo native and founder of Cabo Pulmo Vivo. “The authorities don’t realize that the construction and arrival of workers with no infrastructure to house them will affect the reef immediately, because waste and pollution always ends up in the sea.”
According to Martin Goebel, Founder and President of Sustainable Northwest, “It’s fair to say that Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is the only protected area in Mexico that functions and does what it’s supposed to do. We’ve monitored it from the beginning and have demonstrated that the fish population and diversity are coming back in spades. It is a testament to the commitment of the community and the Mexican Park Service.
When you create an infrastructure for developments of that size such as a desalinization plant to provide water,” he adds. “The rise in salt water is instant and the reef will suffocate.” In addition, residents say, the aquifer supplying water to their and other communities in the area could run dry causing further stress.
At a press conference in Los Cabos in early March, Undersecretary for Environmental Protection of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Maurico Limón, said that, “the project has been partially banned, but it has authorization to start construction of some projects. All those works that will have a marine impact have not been authorized until we have information that will insure that Cabo Pulmo’s reef is not going to be affected.”
The organizations working to save the reef are not convinced and have joined together to create a new vision for the future of the East Cape, one in which development would include sustainable practices that respect limited fresh water and the sea’s ecosystem, one that would employ and include the voices of the local population who need work, basic services, and schools for their children.
At dawn, the first fishing boat casts off from Cabo Pulmo reef. North along the beach, land that may soon become a construction site shelters sea turtles and pelicans, snails and crabs. Just beyond the reef, the first fishing line is cast. The fishermen look up and have a vision, a new model of sustainable development that welcomes tourists, respects the land and sea, and provides a future for their community.
To learn more about the organizations working to save the Cabo Pulmo Coral Reef and sign a petition to strengthen their efforts, click here: Cabo Pulmo Vivo.
In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.
With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.
In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.
She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey. Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.
Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013). The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.
She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.
Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
COLUMNS – THE MYSTIC PEN
FOOD & DRINK – ANATOLIAN KITCHEN
FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir
LITERATURE – BOOK REVIEWS
LITERATURE – ESSAYS
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation
2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson
WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn
WRR@LARGE – WILD COVERAGE
UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul