This morning I got up early and had a nice breakfast in the inner courtyard of La Nuestra. Shortly before 9 am Andie and I left for her monthly meeting of the Newcomers Club, a group of about 170 mostly English-speaking expatriates from all different countries who have settled in Cuernavaca. Andie Grater has been the president of this volunteer organization for the last 4 years. We didn’t have to drive very far and arrived at an Episcopelian Church where several people were already setting up chairs and coffee for the monthly reunion. Two staff members from the American Consulate in Mexico City were setting up a table with information about taxation, voting and other issues relating specifically to US Citizens living in Mexico.
The Newcomers Club often invites speakers or experts on topics related directly to the expatriate community. I had a chance to speak with a few of the club members. There was a gentleman roughly in his late 50s who had emigrated from Israel three years ago and was now working in real estate and providing catering services for Middle Eastern foods. I also chatted with a young gentleman in his 30s who had emigrated from Poland and now had a wood-working company with his partner, making special wood toys that they sell throughout organic food stores in Mexico. Then I connected with a lady who was originally from Germany, and she and her husband have been working for a long time for a German charity helping blind people all over the world. She has lived all over Latin America as well as Pakistan. Cuernavaca’s Newcomers Club is definitely a very interesting and diverse group of people. Most of the members I saw were in their 50s, 60s and up, although I saw a few younger people. The majority are retirees who have settled in Cuernavaca permanently. After the initial refreshments were taken, the group settled in and Andie, as the President, made a variety of announcements. Then a lady by the name of Ana Gonzalez, talked about the special project run by an NGO called Caminamos Juntos para la Salud y el Desarollo (“Walking Together for Health and Development”).
The project was founded by Susan Smith, a Canadian woman, who has adopted a very poor Mexican village. One of the greatest problems of this village is that its water has been contaminated with arsenic, so drinking water is a real issue. The people of this village are very poor, and every month Susan asks the Newcomers Club to donate different items, from pots and pans, to blankets, toys, school supplies and much more. Then after a few more announcements, Bob Vockerath, a distinguished looking gentleman in his late seventies, originally from Vancouver, Canada, got up give a special presentation. He talked about several books he had read (Plan B and Limits to Growth) which talk about human impact on the planet and the sustainability of our human activities. He talked about population growth, resources, industrial output, pollution etc. and showed several charts of projections of where our future might take us. Limits to Growth was first published in 1972 and several experts modeled the development of these key factors and projected them well into the 3rd millennium. From about 2050 onwards their models predict a stark drop in population as resources get depleted, pollution takes on an increasingly destructive level, and industrial output multiplies. He mentioned some interesting statistics: between 1950 and 2000 the global population increased from about 2.5 billion to 6.1 billion. Average incomes tripled and so did the demand for grain. Economic output multiplied 6.6 times from $7 trillion annually to $46 trillion. The demand for grain is interesting because 1 ton of beef, for example, takes 10 tons of grain to produce, a very resource-intensive form of food production.
Bob Vockerath also went into a brief description of the book Plan B and that its author expounds on 6 basic social goals:1. Basic universal – primary education2. Adult literacy programs3. Family planning4. School lunches5. Assisting pre-schoolers6. Universal basic health care In addition these social goals are supplemented by earth restoration goals:1. Reforestation2. Protection topsoil on croplands3. Restoring rangelands4. Restoring fisheries5. Protecting biodiversity6. Stabilizing the water table. Social goals and earth restoration together are forecast to cost an additional $191 million per year over and above what is being spent already. This contrasts to annual military spending of $975 billion, apparently in the US alone every year $475 billion are spent on defense. So if we simply reallocated our spending we would be in a position to effect tremendous social and environmental change for the better.
The crowd in the room was listening attentively and asked many questions. I was really impressed by this meeting since many people in the audience were in their 60 all the way into their late 80s or beyond and they showed such a strong interest in this topic although the future consequences of these issues will have a much stronger affect on their grand and great-grand children. As someone with an interest in ecological issues, I found this presentation very informative and concluded that the immigrant community in Cuernavaca is involved in some pretty interesting things…