Tulum, Mexico is rich with history and natural beauty. But it's also on the verge of ecological collapse. The new documentary The Dark Side of Tulum explores the hidden plague of pollution, and what it means to the future of this popular paradise.
The first segment of the film spotlights Tulum's most notable claims to fame. Tulum is home to the world's largest underwater river, the second largest barrier reef system, and nearly 100 sites of ancient Mayan ruins. With its laid-back culture, gleaming ocean views, cavernous landscapes and plush vegetation, Tulum has become a destination of choice for tourists throughout the world. This surge in population, coupled with the greed and corruption of its representatives, has tipped the ecological balance of the peninsula to its brink.
Large patches of jungle are being demolished to make way for the 40,000 residents and 2 million annual tourists. A massive landfill stains the jungle landscape and leaks hazardous materials into the fresh water supply. Local water treatment facilities are ill-equipped to properly manage these risks. Plastic trash lines the bottom of the river. Real estate developers and other business interests continue to flood in Tulum. They push for increased construction, but work to sidestep crucial environmental regulations in the process.
The current state of the crisis is insidious - it's hiding in plain sight - and most visitors are likely to miss its warning signs. But that may change soon unless meaningful action is taken. That's why the most devoted residents hope to reverse this disturbing tide through impassioned activism. The film features interviews with a few of these concerned residents, and outlines steps that can taken to improve upon the environmental vitality of the region. These suggestions include the use of clean renewable fuels produced through waste, better waste management and water conservation efforts, stricter regulations and the resolve to enforce them with more regularity.
As the film points out, this level of environmental pollution is by no means limited to the shores of Tulum.
Beautifully photographed and informatively narrated, The Dark Side of Tulum works as both a picturesque travelogue and a cautionary tale.