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Save the whales, don’t buy Mitsubishi

You probably would not think twice, when shopping for an electronics product or automobile, if you had to decide between a Mitsubishi and some other brand.

But you should.

You should make some new connections -- between a beautiful Mexican lagoon, its population of gray whales and the giant Japanese conglomerate.

San Ignacio Lagoon is a heavenly preserve to which wintering geese flock. Herons, egrets and other birds swoop down to feed in the shallows. It is also a breeding ground for gray whales where tourists come to see the beautiful giants spout mist and jump from the water.

This protected place, tucked about halfway down the Pacific Coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, is the last untarnished winter refuge of the gray whale, a once-endangered mammal that journeys to these southern waters each year from Alaska to mate and give birth.

For six years now, a company jointly owned by the Mexican government and Mitsubishi has proposed to build a sprawling salt-producing facility on the shore of the lagoon. The project would be the largest of its kind in the world. It would be devastating to the whales and other wildlife.

In the latest effort to save this pristine refugee from development, the National Resources Defense Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have launched the “Mitsubishi. Don’t buy it!” campaign. It is aimed at forcing the multinational giant to abandon its plans to build the plant.

It is said the lagoon is the only remaining location where gray whales can mate, give birth and nurse their young in a wilderness setting, free from deadly predators, shipping traffic and human pollution.

Environmentalists say Mitsubishi’s planned salt factory would turn 116 square miles of the lagoon’s tidal flats into a wasteland of diked evaporation ponds, fed by giant engines pumping 6,000 gallons of water out of the lagoon every second. They say the ponds would produce 1 billion gallons of deadly brine waste each year, and ocean-going tankers would dock at a new mile-long concrete pier, risking fuel spills and collisions with migrating whales.

Last year a group of 34 scientists, including nine Nobel laureates, after studying the controversy, concluded that Mitsubishi’s scheme would pose “an unacceptable risk” to the lagoon’s biological resources.

“This is a most transcendental precedent,” Alberto Szekely, a Mexico City lawyer and career Mexican diplomat who is representing the coalition of environmentalists opposed to the San Ignacio project told the Houston Chronicle recently. “The future of environmental justice will depend on [it].”

Consumers are being asked by the National Resources Defense Council to sign pledges not to buy Mitsubishi products until it abandons the plan. For more information, visit the council’s Web site at www.nrdc.org

National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2000