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How 14 Days In The Yucatan Made Me Realize The Value of Planet Earth Part 3

Posted Jul 24 2009 11:00pm

Descending into the dark abyss of cenote cavern       Sweating from the 90 degree heat, we silently descend into another world – a deep cavern below ground. Gripping the rope carefully, we rappel forty feet down through a narrow hole in the ground, feeling the cold cave air assault us.  Bats dip and dive as we inch our way down through the dark abyss, ropes burning our hands, until finally we drop into the cold waters of the cenote.

Water is the most precious resource in the world. In no place is this more clear than when swimming in an underground cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula. While most of the world-over humans have access to extensive lakes and rivers, people living in the Mexican Mayan Riviera region do not. There are virtually no above ground rivers in the Yucatan –  all the fresh water comes from an extensive limestone cave system deep within the peninsula.

Cenotes are often surface connections to subterranean water bodies. Cenote water is very clear and clean because the water comes from rain water infiltrating slowly through the ground. All the cenote systems in the Yucatan eventually connect together. Because it is a major source of fresh drinking water for the Mexican people, it is extremely important to keep the cenote’s free of chemicals Rappeling down 40 feet into a Cenote in the Mexican Yucatan and litter. Warnings are repeatedly given from tour guides on the importance of keeping the water clean so the Mayan locals will be able to drink from it.

As we drop into the cold, black water of the immense underground cave, I look up at the ceiling and see a very thin crust of earth which covers the top of the cavern. An achingly thin layer of ground stands between the top soil and the fresh water below. Roots hang forty feet deep before they touch the water. Our guides provide inner tubes to float with because the water is an additional forty feet deep below us. Tiny fish swim and nibble the dead skin on our toes and legs. In that intense moment of touching nature, a shiver of understanding touches my soul. It occurs to me that we in the United States should be following the more cautious mindset which the inhabitants of the Mayan Riviera exhibit about our own precious drinking water.

Whenever you use pesticides and chemicals on your lawns, you are allowing these chemicals to eventually percolate down into our water system. If you live in a home which has its own well, that well water is being exposed daily to chemicals and carcinogens which we have put in the water ourselves by peppering our lawns and gardens with poisons which have a long life. Therefore it Floating in the black cavern depths is possible to contaminate our water system over a period of many years, not just at the time when we apply the chemicals.

Next time you reach for a lawn chemical remember the caves and cenotes of the Yucatan. It took a trip to another part of the world for me to finally understand the connection and significant importance of my personal responsibility to our earth. Imagine if the chemicals I had put on my lawn several years ago managed to get into our eco-system and another human being somehow ingested it? Even in trace amounts? Does anyone completely understand what causes leukemia – a chemical triggered cancer? Does anyone REALLY know what is safe for humanity?

If you care about your fellow man, you have to see that this is not someone else’s problem. It is YOU who are responsible for caring for the water systems in our communities – not your neighbors, not your government - YOU. It is YOU who might be poisoning the child next door. Stop. Think. Use chemicals wisely. Now is the time to make a difference.

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!, The Green Blog -, or The Garden Blog -

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