The Paris Disagreement

The Paris Disagreement

The kinds of governments and national attitudes in the United States of America and Nicaragua rarely coincide, lately. In fact, it would be unusual and even surprising that Nicaragua and the United States of America would find themselves united against the rest of the nations of the world on any particular world policy or political stance. Even more bizarre would be that the two countries would find themselves formally differing from all of the countries of all the continents in the world, save Syria. Nonetheless, this is what appears to have happened, recently.

At the Paris summit on climate change, held in 2016, a collection of environmental objectives were established, with commitments made by the respective nations for compliance. Most countries have formally signed on, and virtually all the nations in the world participated and agreed on the formal outcome of the summit. The countries which did not, were Syria, a failed state, and Nicaragua, which argued that poor nations are obliged to shoulder an incommensurate burden regarding carbon dioxide, especially when considering that most wealthy nations developed their infrastructure and economies by destroying their forests, centuries ago in most cases.

It merits mention that Nicaragua, which openly opposed the final version of the consensus 2016 agreement, is among the very poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Its carbon footprint, however, is exceedingly low: close to half its electricity is generated by renewable energy sources, and there are far fewer automobiles than in other, more prosperous countries. Furthermore, air travel through the country is a fraction of comparable countries such as Costa Rica. Even the proposed Nicaragua Canal is billed as providing a huge greenhouse gas dividend to the world, if and when it is built.

The USA position, on the other hand, has recently changed dramatically. A guiding force in the agreement just a year ago, the government, now under the control of President Donald Trump, has summarily discounted the agreement as bad for US interests, and has already begun pulling away from the commitments made by the country to comply with the agreement.

Stranger bedfellows were never known than these: Nicaragua, Syria, and the United States, all found outside the Paris Agreement.

Follow the link to an essay in Spanish by Jeffrey McCrary on this subject, published 15 June, 2017, in El Nuevo Diario.

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Remembering Benjamin Linder

Remembering Benjamin Linder

A version of this essay appeared first in El Nuevo Diario, 28 April 2007, the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of two Nicaraguans, Sergio Hernández and Pablo Rosales, and a US citizen, Benjamin Linder, in San José de Bocay, Nicaragua.


From the first moment I was aware of Nicaragua, decades ago, he was in my consciousness, although until much later would I recognize its importance and the repercussions that would result. That day in which Benjamin Linder, a young North American, engineer, clown complete with a big, red nose, makeup and unicycle, died, assassinated in San José de Bocay, Nicaragua, 28 April, 1987.

I didn’t even know that this marvelous young man existed until weeks after his murder, when his parents visited my then-home city, Houston, Texas. His parents narrated to a small group of people, in simple and direct terms, a brief history of Ben’s life in Nicaragua. An engineer by training, he served as a volunteer in sustainable energy projects that brought electricity to remote towns for the first time. Through the efforts of Ben and a small team of Nicaraguan engineers, the town of El Cuá had already been connected, and a second hydroelectric project had begun further down the road, in San José de Bocay. I felt moved when they described his efforts to bring progress to people living under the immense oppression of poverty, ignorance and injustice, and how his life had been cut short when he was targeted by one side fighting against another, in a savage war that consumed innocent and guilty with equal ferocity. He lost his life by a gunshot at short range, after falling wounded from the impact of a mortar; with his death, other brave souls had to resume the work to bring electricity to San José.

For a lot of US citizens such as myself, Nicaragua was a crucible of ideas and ideologies, of strategies of resistance and of combat, of peaceful protests interrupted by the flow of human blood. Ben, and many others on both sides in this decade of conflict, were converted into heroes, their images touted to promote their respective sacred causes. But the story of Ben, who was not a soldier and never intended to die or kill, called to my own, private sentiments. Like another Jew centuries before who turned water to wine, Ben used water to bring light to dark and backward villages. I was enthralled that Ben used his skills to serve others, as much as I was angered and dismayed at the bittersweet results of his efforts.

Although I knew almost nothing of Nicaragua before the moment of Ben’s death, his parents gave me the first step into a world that has occupied the majority of the intervening years. I have accumulated many experiences upon which I can refer to reflect on Ben’s life. Among the many elements of being Nicaraguan I have learned to respect and admire is the great capacity to forgive. It is almost impossible to conceive that so many of those same men and women that I know, could have ordered and executed, or fallen victim to, barbarous actions during a decade of war, just a couple of decades ago. I am astonished each time I contemplate the capacity to heal the old wounds among people who suffered enormous loss, and my astonishment is multiplied when I see people who were once divided by so much loss, join hands in common cause today. Resolving the suffering of campesinos has now become a banner under which all Nicaraguans are more united than ever. The partisan connotations of the work of Ben Linder have faded with time and with the development of an agenda which unites people more than divides them today. Ben, once considered the enemy by some groups here, today unites the great majority with his mission.

Another element of being Nicaraguan that is so attractive is the sense of cause that drove the revolution and continues to motivate so many people toward vocations that compensate the spirit much more than the pocketbook. An entire lifestyle can be noted among Nicaraguans who work in not-for-profit enterprises, teach in classrooms, and serve the medical needs of people, often in abysmal conditions. Many of these people spend uncountable hours in constant struggle to make Nicaragua a decent country for everyone, and in their daily lives can be seen the dignity of every man and woman. Compassion toward oppressed and suffering people is so invariably manifested by Nicaraguans in so many dimensions in their lives, from their job preferences to their treatment of the children begging at streetlights.

Benjamin Linder was not the first, nor will he be the last, person to work selflessly for less fortunate people, but he was the one who awakened in me the idea that I could do something, however small, for others in this country. Ben’s time in Nicaragua, however short, has inspired many people who, like myself, admire his story. Maybe I would never make children laugh as he did, nonetheless, I am grateful for taking the path which began with Ben, accompanying this country and its people all these years. You never knew me, but your brought me here, and I thank you, Ben.

Ben Linder

Reflections on Fidel

This article by Jeffrey McCrary originally appeared in El Nuevo Diario, Managua, 27 November 2016, in Spanish. Here is an English fidel_castro_washington_1959version, followed by the Spanish text.

I had the good fortune to be in the company of Fidel Castro on a half-dozen occasions, more than twenty years ago, always accompanying one or both of two Baptist ministers Raúl Suárez from Cuba, and Lucius Walker, from the United States. Upon meeting each other in Nicaragua, Lucius and Raúl decided to launch an interchange between Christians in the two countries. This meant, in reality ,that the US counterparts would conduct a kind of pilgrimage to Cuba. I was part of the first delegations they organized.

I saw Fidel up close, for the first time, during a church service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Havana. In a country where and at a moment when being a Christian by confession and attend a church of any denomination was not looked upon well by the neighbors, I was impressed by the way Fidel entered, greeted the members, and even preached, in a way that was very much Fidel. He utilized the articles of faith, to make a brief overview of the history of the role of the church in oppression of man against man, of the injustices that were never denounced, and the silence of the church in the face of evil. From the pulpit, Fidel called on the congregation, and on us few visitors from the US, to use the church to make the world more just and not to justify what is wrong in the world.

I never forgot the things Fidel said that night, because not often are clergy so forthright before the faithful. But I remember more clearly two impressions that I gathered that first encounter with Fidel, both of which were further demonstrated during other encounters. Fidel was not afraid. That is, the things that made other people afraid did not affect him. Surely, he was conscious that at any moment some agent or tool of the empire would end his life. One evening, the anniversary of his arrival in the Granma, Fidel recounted his adventures, enthusiastically and in detail, among a small group of persons. During his retelling of this event, it was clear that Fidel knew his life had entered, in the terms of soccer matches, sudden death overtime. Fidel lived with violent death, or worse disgraces, always just beyond any door.

My other impression was that Fidel firmly believed in what he was doing. Among the principal topics for Fidel was the US embargo against Cuba, in all its diverse dimensions. At one moment, it meant, for him, a geopolitical puzzle, a gambit that required precise, astute strategy to remain viable. At another, it was a sin against the common Cuban who suffered from the lack of access to medicines under the control of US companies. At yet another moment, it was a call to vigilance to forestall the threats of terrorism conducted by people from the US and their lackeys such as Luis Posada Carriles. And eventually, Fidel understood, thanks to the influence of Raúl Suárez, the pain and moral pressure that families face when a member departs from Cuba to the US.

Foreign relations are complex, and life for a Cuban is complicated. Nonetheless, as everyone who has visited the island knows, Cuba has something that is missing in other countries. In part that “something” that accompanies being Cuban is measurable, and in part, not. There is something mystical about being Cuban, thanks to the Revolution which in great measure is connected to Fidel, who shines brightly in contrast to the cheap politicians in Miami who have bartered in hate.

Certainly, all Cubans have paid a price for having the name of their country written in all the history books. If the world were really fair, this price would be shared by the people of other nations, both great and small, for learning the lesson that in real life, Goliath does not always beat David. Thanks to Fidel, openings within and among nations are greater and more equitable, particularly in self-determination, in social issues, and in the rejection of fascism and all its ideological offspring. After so many years of isolation between Cuba and practically the entire continent, the countries have, one by one, accepted Cuba’s right to make its own path, over the imposition of the United States. And now, the US has also begun to recognize that the Cubans, and not the government of the US, must determine the destiny of this country.

Jeffrey McCrary

Tuve la buena fortuna de estar en la compañía de Fidel Castro en una media docena de ocasiones, hace más de veinte años, acompañando siempre a uno u otro de dos pastores bautistas, el cubano Raúl Suárez o el norteamericano Lucius Walker. Al conocerse en Nicaragua, Lucius y Raúl habían decidido lanzar una campaña de intercambio entre los cristianos norteamericanos y los cubanos, lo que significaba organizar un tipo de peregrinaje a Cuba de parte de norteamericanos. Fui parte de los primeros viajes organizados por ellos.

Vi por primera vez a Fidel de cerca, durante un culto de la iglesia Bautista Ebenezer, en la Habana. En un país y en un momento en los cuales ser cristiano de confesión e asistir a la iglesia, de cualquier religión o denominación, no era bien visto entre los vecinos, me impresionaba como Fidel hizo su entrada, saludó y hasta predicó en su manera que era muy de Fidel. Él ocupaba de los elementos de fe cristiana, para dar un resumen abreviado de la historia de la Iglesia en la opresión de algunos hombres sobre los otros, de las injusticias no reclamadas y silencio de la Iglesia frente al mal. Desde el púlpito, Fidel llamó a la congregación a usar la Iglesia para hacer el mundo más justo y no para justificar lo injustificable en el mundo.

Las cosas que Fidel dijo aquella noche, nunca olvidé, porque pocas veces es tan franco un clérigo ante sus devotos. Pero mejor recuerdo dos impresiones de esta primera vez de estar cerca de él, las que fueron confirmadas durante otros encuentros. Fidel no tuvo ningún miedo. Es decir, los miedos de nosotros demás no le afectaban. Sin duda, él vivía con la expectativa que un agente o tonto útil del imperio, en cualquier momento, le fulmine. Una noche, el aniversario de su llegada a Cuba en el Granma, por ejemplo, vi a Fidel recordar en voz alta sus hazañas, con detalles y lleno de fulgor, toda la noche, con un pequeño grupo de personas. En ese recuento, se anotó que Fidel supo que el su saldo de vida ya entró, en términos de futbolista, en el período de muerte súbita. Fidel vivía con la muerte violenta, o peores desgracias, siempre al otro lado de la puerta.

La otra impresión es que Fidel creía firmemente en lo que hacía. Entre sus temas principales siempre estuvo el embargo de Estados Unidos contra Cuba, en todas las dimensiones. En turno, el embargo significaba para él, una jugada geopolítica; en otro, un pecado contra el cubano común y corriente que sufre por falta de acceso a medicina bajo el control de empresas norteamericanas; más tarde, una necesidad de vigilar contra actos terroristas cometidas por los norteamericanos y sus servidores como Luis Posada Carriles; y luego, Fidel apreció, por la influencia de Raúl Suárez, el dolor de y presión moral sobre la familia que sucede cuando un cubano migra a Estados Unidos.

La política internacional es compleja y que la vida del cubano común y corriente es complicada. Sin embargo, como todos que han visitado a la isla saben, Cuba tiene algo por la revolución que falta en otros países, en algunos aspectos medibles, en otros no. La mística de ser cubano es palpable y es producto de la revolución que es en gran parte de Fidel, quien ha brillado siempre ante los politiqueros que mercadean el odio desde Miami.

Por cierto, los cubanos han pagado cierto precio para ver a su país escrito en todos los libros de historia. Este precio, si el mundo fuera realmente justo, debe ser costeado por los demás ciudadanos de países grandes y pequeños, por haber aprendido de Fidel y de Cuba que Goliat no siempre gana a David en la vida real. Gracias a Fidel, las aperturas internas dentro de y entre los países son más amplias, particularmente hacia la autodeterminación, los temas sociales y el rechazo al fascismo y todos sus hijos ideológicos. Después de tantos años de aislamiento entre Cuba y prácticamente toda América, uno por uno los países han aceptado el derecho de Cuba de tomar su camino, sobre la imposición del Gobierno de Estados Unidos. Y ahora, el Gobierno de Estados Unidos también ha comenzado a reconocer que los cubanos y no ellos deben determinar el camino de Cuba.

The GAIA Program Wild Nature Conservation Projects

The GAIA Program Wild Nature Conservation Projects

Calocitta formosa Jeffrey McCraryProtecting the environment requires a lot more than just hugging trees. As director of the GAIA program in the Nicaraguan not-for-profit foundation, FUNDECI., Jeffrey McCrary works on technical issues to protect the environment in Nicaragua. How Nicaragua manages its environmental issues in the face of a rapidly growing economy and a deep transformation is key to the sustainability of its success as a nation, and in particular, its wild natural resources are issues of international importance.

The GAIA program works to unify efforts between local people, national and international volunteers, scientists and professionals, the international cooperation and donor communities, and the Nicaraguan government, to promote prosperity among rural Nicaraguans while protecting and improving conditions for wildlife and their habitat.

GAIA has worked on a variety of issues of importance to the conservation of natural resources in Nicaragua, such as:

Jeffrey McCrary

Blue-crowned Motmot, in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo Jen Moran.

The hydroelectric project TUMARIN

Wind energy in Nicaragua: Covensa, Blue Power, Eolo

The Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal

Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve Management Plan

Chiltepe Peninsula Nature Reserve Management Plan

Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo

Wild animal rescue and advocacy

Protection of the Natural Heritage of Nicaragua

Birdwatching

Nicaragua lies in the middle of the Mesoamerican isthmus, with year-round warm weather. Substantial numbers of migratory birds winter here, some of them just pass through Nicaragua during their extensive migrations in each direction, and a few species of birds nest here and then migrate southward during the non-breeding period.

Jeffrey McCrary bird

Other birds, such as the pictured Chestnut-capped warbler (Basileuterus delattrii), are strictly resident species. That means that they never move particularly far from the area where they were born, possibly only excepting what is called dispersal, which occurs as birds mature and depart from parental assistance. Of the more than seven hundred bird species documented in Nicaragua, about a third of them are found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. One of the more important bird species there is the Chestnut-capped Warbler.

Birds from this location have been reported in a pair of scholarly articles on new and novel reports of birds in Nicaragua. In the first of the two new bird species reports, co-authored by Wayne J. Arendt, Salvadora Morales, Joseph T. Arengi and Lorenzo J. Lopez, first documentations in the scientific literature for ten species were given: Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), Nazca Booby (Sula granti), Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa), Sanderling (Calidris alba), Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), among others.

 

Introduced Predator Elicits Deficient Brood Defence Behaviour in a Crater Lake Fish

A little more than twenty years ago, a new fish species was introduced into Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. The bigmouth sleeper, Gobiomorus dormitor,  is found in the Nicaraguan Great Lakes and rivers throughout the Caribbean slope of Nicaragua, but did not inhabit Laguna de Apoyo in recorded time. How the Midas cichlids present in this lake respond to the new, voracious predator is the topic of this article, co-authored by Topi Lehtonen, Axel Meyer and Jeffrey McCrarypublished in PLoS One.

In this study, the responses of two fish to predators at the nest were compared: Amphilophus zaliosus from Laguna de Apoyo, where the bigmouth sleeper is a recent invader to its habitat, and Amphilophus sagittae from Laguna de Xiloá, where the bigmouth sleeper has been present, apparently, for thousands of years. The two cichlid fish species studied are superficially very similar, but the milenia of exposure to the devastating predatory capacity of the bigmouth sleeper has honed its skills at recognizing the threat of its presence at a greater distance and to respond defensively at a greater distance than the evolutionarily naive Amphilophus zaliosus.

The results of this study have immediate relevance to conservation biology as a science and to the protection of wild nature in Nicaragua. The victim of evolutionary naivete in this study is the arrow cichlid (A. zaliosus), which was discovered by George Barlow and Jeffrey Munsey at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1976. This species is now known to occupy only Lake Apoyo,