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10. Mexico’s current progress toward Sustainable Development.


10.1 Overview.


We are certain that México can become a fully developed country without experiencing the negative consequences of the (un)sustainable development of the mostly consumer-focussed, over-developed, countries of the G8 (the Group of 8 financially richest industrialised countries on Earth). “Overdeveloped world” is a wonderful turn of phrase on the so-called “developed world”; a phrase we learnt through Patrick Curry’s book on Ecological Ethics.[71]

Our sincerest belief is that Mexicans and our country’s leaders have matured from years past, to have now reached a point in our national lives where we are confident enough in ourselves and our abilities to learn from the successes and failures of other countries. Through such international learnings, our country can then also learn how to resolve and/or avoid making the (un)sustainability mistakes once made by other countries.

Our country’s highest political office, of our President, has included the concept of sustainable development in our Republic’s last two Planes Nacionales de Desarrollo. It seems true to us that, based on the way the term has been used in these Planes, Mexican politicians are not yet deeply familiar with what sustainable development is as a complete concept, approach and practice. We say this as in these Planes there is evidence that our political leaders still consider sustainable development’s social, environmental and economic components as separate parts instead of as three integrated elements to be carefully balanced in tandem. Nonetheless, we still congratulate México’s political leaders for having made a good early start as they try to understand what sustainable development is and how it can be practiced in our country.


10.2 President Vicente Fox.


The Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2001 to 2006 of President Vicente Fox committed his government to help make México a better place for all our citizens:

  • “La comisión para el desarrollo social tiene como objetivo central coordinar las inversiones en justicia social, eliminar los desequilibrios sociales extremos y procurar una vida digna para todos, promoviendo la iniciativa individual y colectiva de los mexicanos, en especial para aquellos que, por tiempo inmemorial, aguardan la justicia y cotidianamente sufren la miseria, el abandono, la ignorancia y la violencia. [The social development commission has the purpose to coordinate social justice investments, eliminate the socially extreme imbalance and try to achieve a better life for all people, promote the individual and collective initiative of Mexicans, especially those that live with injustice, misery, abandonment, ignorance and violence.]

  • La Comisión para el Crecimiento con Calidad tiene como tarea conducir responsablemente la economía, ampliar y extender la competitividad y promover un crecimiento dinámico, incluyente y sustentable, que abra oportunidades y sea cimiento de una mejor vida para todos. [The growth quality commission, has as its work to responsibly guide our economy, expand and increase our competitiveness, to promote dynamic, incorporate and sustainable growth, to create opportunities, and to give to Mexicans a better quality of life.]

  • La Comisión de Orden y Respeto estará encargada de enfrentar con eficacia a la delincuencia, acabar con la inseguridad, terminar con la corrupción y preservar el Estado de derecho. Las tres comisiones están apoyadas por una fuerte inversión en capital humano." [The order and respect commission will confront delinquency, insecurity, corruption and preserve the rights of the state.] [72]

President Fox recognized that education is an important tool to make a difference in our country, but that at the same time it is important for our government to change its structures and ways of operating for the benefit of our full population. He wanted to help make México a more competitive country through social change, environmental awareness, and opportunities for everyone.

The Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2001 to 2006 certainly addressed the social and economic components of sustainable development. It presented good ideas for increasing the quality of life of our people. Yet the environment as a part of sustainable development was not integrated in to the plan: it was only considered as something in addition to it.

The section of this plan which mentioned the importance of the environment is found in the Transición Demografica [Demographic Transition]. This section provided information about México’s environmental reality at the time of President Fox:

  • El país pierde 600,000 hectáreas de bosque anualmente y experimenta una tasa anual de deforestación de 1.5 por ciento. [Our country loses 600,000 hectares of forests per year and has a 1.5% annual rate of deforestation.]
  • De las 100 cuencas hidrológicas del país, 50 están sobre explotadas, y extensas regiones del país tienen problemas de abasto de agua. [México has 100 dams, but a half of these are over utilised, and extensive zones in our country have problems with water provisioning.]
  • Las selvas tropicales de México han disminuido 30% en los últimos 20 años. [The jungles in our country have been reduced by 30% in the last 20 years.]
  • Se han extinguido 15 especies de plantas y 32 de vertebrados en México. En nuestro país se han dado 5.2% de las extinciones del mundo en los últimos 400 años. [In our country, 15 plant species and 32 vertebrates have become extinct. In the last 400 years, 5.2% of global species extinction have occurred in México.]
  • La contaminación del aire y del agua en las grandes ciudades del país ha alcanzado niveles tales que tiene efectos negativos sobre la salud y el bienestar de la población. [Water and air pollution levels in the large cities of our country are reaching serious proportions and producing negatives impacts in the health of their populations.]
  • México lanza a la atmósfera más de 460,000 GT de gases de desecho y se estima una producción anual de 3,705,000 toneladas de residuos peligrosos. [México emits in to the atmosphere more than 460,000 tonnes of greenhouses gases and produces 3,705,000 tonnes of dangerous residues per year.][73]

Importantly, President Fox’s five (5) Ejes Rectores [main strategic points or guidelines] did include one point on the environment:

  1. Mejorar los niveles de educación y bienestar de los mexicanos [Improve the education levels and wellbeing of Mexicans.]
  2. Acrecentar la equidad y la igualdad de oportunidades. [Increase the equity and equality of opportunities.]
  3. Impulsar la educación para el desarrollo de las capacidades personales y de iniciativa individual y colectiva. [Improve education for the development of personal capacities and of individual and collective initiative.]
  4. Fortalecer la cohesión y el capital sociales. [Strengthen cohesion and social capital.]
  5. Lograr un desarrollo social y humano en armonía con la naturaleza. [Reach social development and human harmony with nature.]

This fifth Eje Rector, created to improve the environmental health of México, included the following four additional strategies:

  1. Armonizar el crecimiento y la distribución territorial de la población con las exigencias del desarrollo sustentable, para mejorar la calidad de vida de los mexicanos y fomentar el equilibrio de las regiones del país, con la participación del gobierno y de la sociedad civil. [With the participation of government and civil society, achieve better use and distribution of México’s lands through sustainable development, so as to better the quality of life of Mexicans and create equity between all the different regions of the country.]
  2. Crear una cultura ecológica que considere el cuidado del entorno y del medio ambiente en la toma de decisiones en todos los niveles y sectores. Fomentar condiciones socioculturales para contar con conocimientos ambientales y desarrollar aptitudes, habilidades y valores para propiciar nuevas formas de relación con el ambiente, la aplicación de hábitos de consumo sustentables y la participación corresponsable de la población. [To create an ecological culture that carefully considers the environment and its surroundings at all levels of decision-making and sectors. Encourage socio-cultural conditions to create environmental knowledge and develop aptitudes, abilities and values to find new ways relate to the environment, apply sustainable consumption habits, and ensure citizen participation.]
  3. Fortalecer la investigación científica y tecnológica que nos permita comprender mejor los procesos ecológicos. Cuidar los ecosistemas requiere una comprensión profunda de sus mecanismos e interrelaciones, por lo que se deberá estimular la investigación en este campo y en los relacionados con su protección y regeneración. [To strengthen scientific and technological research that permits us to better understand ecological processes. Because ecosystems require deep knowledge about their mechanisms and interrelations, to stimulate research in this field and in relationships on their protection and regeneration.]
  4. Propiciar condiciones socioculturales que permitan contar con conocimientos ambientales y desarrollar aptitudes, habilidades y valores para comprender los efectos de la acción transformadora del hombre en el medio natural. [To prepare socio-cultural conditions that allow us to rely on environmental knowledge and to develop aptitudes, abilities and values to understand the effects that human actions have on transforming the natural environment.][74]


10.3 President Felipe Calderón.


While President Fox presented sustainable development more as an environmental concept, current President Felipe Calderón does seem to reveal a deeper understanding of the concept, approach and practice by at least covering, in some detail, all parts of the sustainable development Triple Bottom Line.

The current Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2007 to 2012 of President Calderón details how, under his leadership, México will work toward improving the social reality of the people in our country through Desarrollo Humano, defined as:

  • “ …tiene el propósito de crear una atmosfera en que todos puedan aumentar su capacidad y las oportunidades puedan ampliarse para las generaciones presentes y futuras”. [Its purpose is to make an atmosphere where all people can increase their capabilities and opportunities can increase for present and future generations.][75]

The five (5) Ejes Rectores of President Calderón’s Plan are:

  1. Estado de Derecho y seguridad. [State of Law and Security.]
  2. Economía competitiva y generadora de empleos. [Competitive economy and generate employment.]
  3. Igualdad de oportunidades. [Equal opportunities.]
  4. Sustentabilidad ambiental. [Sustainable natural environment.]
  5. Democracia efectiva y política exterior responsible. [Effective democracy and responsible foreign politics.] :[76]

The fourth Eje Rector of this Plan relates to México maintaining a healthy natural environment. This section is then divided in to nine (9) points, which are:

  1. Agua. [Water.]
  2. Bosques y selvas. [Forests and jungles.]
  3. Biodiversidad. [Biodiversity.]
  4. Gestion y justicia en material ambiental. [Management and justice in environmental matters.]
  5. Ordenamiento ecológico. [Ecological zoning.]
  6. Cambio climático [Climate change.]
  7. Residuos sólidos y peligrosos. [Solid and dangerous residues.]
  8. Investigación científica ambiental con compromiso social. [Scientific environmental reserach with a social focus.]
  9. Educación y cultura ambiental. [Environmental culture and education.][77]


10.4 Comparing Planes Nacional de Desarrollo


By comparing the Planes Nacional de Desarrollo of both President Fox and President Calderón, we see that the plan of President Calderón makes a greater effort for México to more factually practice sustainable development. It does this by including the environment as an essential part of our Mexican human society and not simply as the resource for economic development that it is in the plan of President Fox. In President Calderón’s plan, our government has shown it has grown in awareness and concern for Earth by not just simply looking at the environment as an “add-on” to planning.

We are impressed with the sustainable development-related words in President Calderón’s Plan Nacional de Desarrollo. We are also hopeful that these words are not just rhetorical but, more importantly, will be equally put into action by the President.

Yet what President Calderón’s plan does not do is to collectively weave together all parts of the Triple-Bottom-Line of sustainable development. Thus, the next logical step for Mexican and state governments in our country will be to integrate, combine and fully weave together each one of the environmental, economic and social parts of sustainable development throughout a Plan Nacional de Desarrollo and also in state plans. Then México will be in a truly enviable position: one where our country can fully say it is on the path to sustainable development and also one where our Republic can serve as an international example of sustainable development practices on Earth.




[71] Curry, Patrick, 2006. Ecological Ethics: An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press (page 10).
[72] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2001a). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2001-2006: Mensaje del Presidente de la República [online]. Available from: http://pnd.fox.presidencia.gob.mx/index.php?idseccion=8. [Accessed: 14 April 2008].
[73] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2001b). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2001-2006: La transición demográfica - Transición demográfica y uso de los recursos naturales [online]. Available from: http://pnd.fox.presidencia.gob.mx/index.php?idseccion=23 [Accessed: 15 April 2008].
[74] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2001c). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2001-2006 - Objetivo rector 5: logra un desarrollo social y humano en armonía con la naturaleza: Objetivos rectores y estrategias [online]. Available from: http://pnd.fox.presidencia.gob.mx/index.php?idseccion=42 [Accessed: 15 April 2008].
[75] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2007a). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2007-2012: Desarrollo Humano Sustentable [online]. Available from: http://pnd.calderon.presidencia.gob.mx/index.php?page=desarrollo-humano . [Accessed: 26 March 2008].
[76] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2007b). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2007-2012: Mensaje del Presidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa [online]. Available from: http://pnd.presidencia.gob.mx/. [Accessed: 26 March 2008].
[77] Presidencia de la República, Estados Unidos Mexicanos. (2007c). Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2007-2012: Eje 4 - Sustentabilidad Ambiental [online]. Available from: http://pnd.calderon.presidencia.gob.mx/index.php?page=sustentabilidad-ambiental [Accessed: 17 April 2008].

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