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cyanobacteriaOver the last couple of years a new growth has become obvious in the waters of Lake Atitlan. A thick green scum started forming around the lake and you could see it on many depths of the lake water. It quickly took over the whole lake and, as it went through its cycle, turned into a thick brown mat of slime that smelled and made you itch, and the effect on the lakes ecology was devastating. Trouble in paradise! In the NASA picture above it looks like one huge spiral monster....A lot of political noise has been made about the cyanobacteria outbreak, and there is talk of millions....but little real effort has been made by any large organizations.

Cuate!, the first Festival Atitlan eco- TV spot



When I investigated the problem it quickly became obvious that it is a human problem: because of the increase in population around the lake the amount of phosphorus being introduced into the water has increased by human waste, fertilizers, and erosion. Once again, the solution to this problem is simply (!?)to convince people to change some basic habits and provide information about the basic steps we all need to take to eliminate the problem. People want to help, they just don't know what to do.... so you see scenes like the photo below with well meaning folks doing exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. I've been worried that, since the bacteria is in a dormant stage because of the cold, and isn't visible right now, people will just forget about the problem until it comes back in force when the weather warms up.

This is why we decided to devote the profits from the 2010 Festival Atitlan to an environmental education project, and to concentrate on the cyanobacteria problem. The first plans include an evironmental comic book for illiterate adults, including practical information about cyanobacteria. In september we released 5000 comics: "Ixim Acha o Ciano Acha? Que puedo hacer yo para eliminar la Cianobacteria en el Lago Atitlan" You can see a copy on the Eco Comics page. We are currently working on "Berta Basura" and some coloring books for the kids, educational packets for the schools, and radio and television programming in tzutujil, caqchiquel, and spanish (you can see a couple of examples on this page).

No Moleste Las Antiguedades! Our second public service TV spot

If you have any good ideas for more publications, or want to help with the artwork or audio, please contact us: lnfo@festivalatitlan.com. We will be working with several youth organizations and groups to collect the art, writing, translations, and acting talent, and try to use the funds for publication. I already did a couple of radio shows in spanish about the cyanobacteria for the Festival Atitlan radio show on PanaRadio, and we are currently in the studio working up the first radio spots.

We have enough money to do a first run of 2-3 more comics and are looking for funds to reprint the first one, as 5000 will not be enough. If you want to help, write me!

A very good web site to get information and up to date news about the cyanobacteria outbreak in Lake Atitlan is the Lake Atitlan Health Resources page.