Letter to the incoming President of the United States

from Sierra, November-December, 2008

Homero Aridjis, Mexico’s ambassador to UNESCO, is a poet, novelist, and founder of the Group of 100, an international organization of writers and artists focused on Mexican environmental problems.

Mr. President:

In February 2001 your predecessor made his first trip abroad, meeting with Mexican president Vicente Fox at his ranch in Guanajuato. After September 11, 2001, the United States put Mexico on the back burner. Bring this relationship back to the fore.

Our history and destinies are entwined. Migrations play a huge role in our shared reality. In the 1990s I proposed the monarch butterfly as the symbol of NAFTA’s environmental cooperation, for nothing embodies our tri-national environment more than this fragile butterfly’s spectacular annual migration across North America. Give your full support to the North American Monarch Conservation Plan to prevent further habitat loss. Gray whales also migrate from Baja California to Alaska; safeguard them by opposing more oil drilling in the Bering Sea.

As for the human species, it’s time for comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit rather than penalize people on both sides of the border. Recognize the vital place of immigrants in U.S. society and ensure they are treated as befits your country’s democratic principles. State in your inaugural address that the science is indeed in on global warming and that the United States will accept responsibility for its share of carbon emissions and embark on a revolution in energy policy. You might begin with a wall of solar panels reaching across the border–the border fence is an offense.

Corn was first domesticated in Mexico some 7,000 years ago. Mexicans say, “Sin maíz, no hay país“–“No corn, no country.” We depend on subsidized U.S. corn, which is cheaper than Mexican corn. But as more U.S. corn goes into ethanol, tortilla prices rise, which led to the “tortilla riots” in the winter of 2007. Stop feeding corn to cars, stop subsidizing corn-based ethanol, and back research into second-generation biofuels.

Remember that what’s good for the planet is good for the USA.

Homero Aridjis