CERES Conference on Energy and Sustainable Development

The reason for my trip to Puebla last week was to participate, as a late addition, in a conference entitled Energía para el Desarolla Sustentable en América del Norte, or Energy for Sustainable Development in North America.  The conference was hosted by CERES, the Centro de Estudios de Desarollo Regional y Estratégicos (Center for Regional and Strategic Development), which is a working group organized by professors at the local universities in Puebla — I’m tempted to write UDLA, la Universidad de las Americas, but I’m not positive.  Now that the acronyms are out of the way….

The conference had a dual focus on energy and sustainability, but, from the outset, it wasn’t clear as to how the boundaries that define “sustainability” had been set.  For example, many of the speakers focused on or at least mentioned the prospects for deep water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Of course, maintaining Mexican energy “independence” (in quotes because Mexico produces enough oil to satisfy domestic demand but lacks the processing capabilities) is one part of a sustainable system, but it wasn’t until the end of the conference that climate change and global warming were highlighted.  

Perhaps it’s me, but in a world where carbon emissions are likely to be restricted and where a carbon cap of one flavor or another is likely to be eternally placed on every country, emphasizing the prospects for Mexican oil drilling seems, at least to me, unsustainable.  That said, I don’t think this was an artifact of the organizers of the conference (in fact, I thought they did a very good job), but rather a view into the general perception in Mexico, in which climate change just isn’t a part of the national debate.  After all, whereas SEMARNAT, the division of the federal government tasked with developing Mexican climate change policy, made a brief appearance at the CEDAN conference in January, they were absent here.

However, the eternal optimist in me sees reason to believe that the tides will soon change.  The Mexican economy is too dependent on the rest of the world, specifically the U.S., for Mexico to remain isolated.  If the rest of the world pursues a more “sustainable” path, I can not but see that Mexico will follow this path, as well.  The more important question that I am unable to answer is whether Mexico will win or lose as a result of a shift in global tides.  Although I am certain that Mexico can come out far ahead, as this blog is only semi-anonymous, I think it best that I stop here….

 

México, D.F.

Obama Engaging Mexico on Climate Change?

Ok, so the title is a little misleading, but the White House sent out a press release on Friday that the Obama administration is seeking to meet with and engage representatives from “major economies,” including Mexico, in preparation for the next major climate summit (December 2009, Copenhagen).  You can read about it on the NY Times environment blog.  I see it as a positive sign that the U.S. will be becoming more active in driving global climate policy.

That said, President Obama will be here in Mexico in a week or so for meetings with President Calderon… I’m sure that the drug war, economic issues, and the little tit-for-tat regarding Mexican trucks on U.S. highways will be on the top of the agenda, but it’s possible that climate change will also be discussed.  We’ll see.

 

México, D.F.

Mexico 2 – Costa Rica 0

On Saturday evening, Mexico played Costa Rica in a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and, by the good graces of a few friends, I was able to go.  The near-capacity crowd, mostly clad in the green of Mexico was incredibly loud, louder than any crowd I’ve ever heard.  From the moment we entered the stadium, nearly full an hour before the game, the noise — mostly made by artificial whistles and horns freely sold throughout the stadium — was deafening.  And although it rose and fell over the course of the next three hours (possibly as a function of the availability of beer and the prevalence of “the wave”), the omni-present drone permeated every facet of my experience.

As a fan of American football, it’s hard for me to imagine how such noise wouldn’t create a home field advantage.  Of course, in football (as opposed to fútbol), where the fields are slightly smaller and verbal communication between players is de rigueur, the noise can disrupt the coordination that is essential for gameplay.  In fútbol, however, where communication is limited in use, and even then to mostly hand gestures, I wonder what effect the noise actually has on gameplay.  Does it motivate the players?  Does it add extra adrenaline?  Does calling the opposing goalkeeper a whore (by 100,000 people in unison, mind you) get in his head?  I don’t know… though, as the noise level seemed to be independent of who had the ball, I tend to think that may be the sheer volume of the noise isn’t a deciding factor in the game as it can be with football.  Then what role does it play?

Of course, that’s not to say that there isn’t a huge advantage afforded to fútbol players on their home field (altitude, pollution, not traveling, familiar field, etc.), and not that having such a large noisy crowd can intimidate opponents and officials (I’m sure it does)… but it seems that, perhaps, the key role provided by the deafening sounds of the fans is to enhance the excitement and enjoyment of those same fans attending.  Well, if I am ever given the opportunity to play professional soccer, perhaps I’ll find out for sure.

 

México, D.F.

Tacos Arabes

Puebla is renown in Mexico for it’s cuisine, la comida poblana, which includes it’s own take on tacos: los tacos árabes.  A taco árabe is a flour tortilla with pork roasted on a vertical spit, as with a taco al pastor.  Tacos árabes are larger than the al pastor variants in Mexico City and use a different combination of spices including onions, avoiding the orange seasoning that is ubiquitous elsewhere.  And, most notably, tacos árabes are served rolled rather than flat.  A smaller version with a corn tortilla, called a taco oriental, is also served.

Tacos at Bajo el Cielo de Jalisco

Tacos at Bajo el Cielo de Jalisco

Tacos árabes have a nice meaty flavor, with good spice, and are very filling.  Of course, it didn’t help that I took a liking to having my árabes served with cheese.

Oh, my!

Oh, my!

Now that’s some cheesy goodness…..

 

México, D.F.

Nieve

Mexican ice cream takes many forms, one of which is the nieve (or, sometimes nieve oaxaqueño or one of a dozen other similar names).  Nieve, literally “ice,” is an ultra-smooth — think snow — soft-frozen dessert, served in a variety of fruit flavors, often from a small push cart.  As the cart is chilled by a bath of salted ice, the high-sugar nieves are often sold at just below the freezing point, which means they melt the second you taste them…. and without any cream, the flavors are sweet, bright, and fresh.

Why I left Boston: Lime nieve from a push cart on a warm afternoon.

Why I left Boston: Lime nieve from a push cart on a warm afternoon.

My initial reaction after tasting the lime nieve above, on a warm evening in Puebla, was something along the lines of “this might be one of the best things I’ve ever had.”  Of course, the down side to enjoying food from a push cart is that you can never be sure you’ll find them again.  

For those counting, this is also the only picture of the author on the blog.

 

México, D.F.

In Pictures: Puebla, Mexico

Puebla is a “town” of nearly 1.5 million people, the 4th largest in Mexico, and almost exactly two hours by bus from the Districto Federal.  Though the local poblanos may take more pride in their cuisine, the first thing that tourists are likely to notice is the number of churches… and the second is the architecture. 

Fountains on the zocalo

Fountains on the zocalo

A trip there last week for a conference (also the reason for the lack of recent posts, more in a couple of days) provided the opportunity to take a few pictures.

 

México, D.F.

(Poor) Road Signage in Mexico

Road signage in Mexico is relatively poor.  Not only are signs often incomplete or missing, but at other times, there may be too many signs or they are place in ways that confuse drivers.  I saw this over the weekend on Avenida Revolución….

I hope you're not trying to find Mixcoac

I hope you're not trying to find Mixcoac

Of course, that the sign for Mixcoac is almost completely covered is a bit of an issue, especially since Revolución is a major thoroughfare to get to Mixcoac.  But more interestingly, notwithstanding the repaving work that has been going on for several months now, Avenida Revolución is only one-way in most places… so I’m not sure what the arrow to the Centro Bicentenario is suggesting.  And then, of course, for the attention to detail award, note that the street sign on the far left includes “Revolución” but that the cross-street is completely nameless.  

If you drive in Mexico City… it’s best to have a very good sense of direction.

 

México D.F.