Alternative Energy Scenarios and Friendship in Mayan Mexico: An ERGie adventure!

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Written by Diego Ponce de León Baridó, Lindsay Holiday and Rebekah Shirley

This winter, Ranjit, Sasha, Felix, Ana, Grace, Sharada and ourselves (Diego, Lindsay, and Rebekah) traveled to the Yucatan state of Mexico to enjoy the warm water and sunshine of Central America and to work with Alex Eaton, Ranjit’s long-time friend and social entrepreneur. Alex is the CEO of Sistema Biobolsa and our aim was to help install five biogas-digesters that we helped fund in the Mayan community of Mani. The Mayan people of Mani continue to speak their indigenous language, eat traditional foods, use their traditional medicine, and seemed to hold unique, communal values that have lasted through time and seem to bind the community together.

It was incredible to work as a team, to travel with other ERGies and to see the components of a fantastic trip unfold: nature, sustainable development, friendship, love and adventure go hand in hand! For instance, the group spent the first three days of our time in Tulum, a quaint coastal town that is part of the karst landscape of the peninsula. Here water flowing through the limestone over hundreds of years has led to the formation of many connected underground caverns, called cenotes, along the Riviera Maya. The three of us had the opportunity to scuba dive through two cenotes. Down in the deep, quiet depths of the cave, the mystery of nature imposes itself on you. The ivory stalagmites like crumbling, ancient Grecian pillars were almost a stage for some Shakespearean tragedy. The eerie scene demands your attention, and your awe. It reminded us that even here, in the forgotten darkness, nature is beautiful, bold, teeming and alive. We were inspired by the sheer weight of that experience and it geared us up for the work ahead. In our own ways, all of us experienced new things through photography, diving, snorkeling, swimming, language, food, and culture. Indeed, the novelty in life blooms when surrounded by a positive and challenging environment, and new friendships.
Diving in the deep blue waters of Cenote ‘Dos Ojos’ was a ‘one in a life time’ opportunity for several of us! It is amazing to know that there is a lot in the world that is yet to be experienced and seen with our own eyes, development work and friendships from all over the world make this not only meaningful, but possible as well! Photo Credit: expertvagabond.com
Diego, Rebekah and Lindsay after the dive in ‘Dos Ojos’. After we finished our work in Yucatan and Quintana Roo we traveled to Mexico City to continue discovering the country and held stakeholder meetings for another ERGie project measuring the energy embedded in household water consumption in Mexico.

While in Mani we were hosted by a local agriculture and ecology training center (Mayan: ‘U Yits Ka’an, Escuela de Agricultura Ecologica). Being in this peaceful, gorgeous oasis of warm smiles, lush green forest and amazing home cooked Mexican meals was worth a trip in itself. In a matter of only five days, our ERG group managed to learn the mechanics of the biogas-digester system, inspected four households where they were currently installed, and installed five new systems. We also designed and built a hot water heating system for the school’s shower. We created a routine of helping and working together with each other and the community, and were immersed in a supportive space for collaboration and boundless ideation. Lindsay, often reflected on the similarities to existing social, political, cultural and infrastructural challenges that exist in her own Navajo reservation in Arizona. Diego, a Mexican himself, was blown away by a Mexico that he was only beginning to discover, and Rebekah, who hails from the Caribbean was touched by the friendships she formed with strangers of the village. It was a reminder that our differences do not divide us. Rather, the glue of curiosity binds us together. Needless to say, we had an amazing time of revelation and learning and we hope to have many more experiences like this again in the future together. 
Grace with women involved in the BioBolsa project, Woman Power in Mexico!

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