Let the Jewel shine

Let the Jewel shine

Belize is a jewel and Belizeans would dare anyone to say differently. Dubbing our little paradise by the sea “the Jewel” is not just a testament to our civic pride, it is also the symbolism we have chosen to express our awe for the majesty of Belize’s natural beauty.  Jewels are rare, highly valued, and they tend to shine. In keeping with that symbolism and imagery, one has to wonder if we are the best jewellers. Jewellers make, sell, and sometimes repair their precious stones.  Let’s consider that Belize is for all Belizeans, so we are all jewellers tasked with keeping our city, town, or village shiny. Mother Nature made all of it and she conducts her repairs where she sees fit so we have only one job. We do okay with a lot of it since most Belizeans support the conservation and preservation of the natural environment. Largely speaking, the Belizean public is always ready to support any initiative that will protect the environment from serious threats like deforestation, oil drilling, overfishing, agricultural chemicals, rapid coastline development, and improper solid-waste management. While we are good at doing many of the big things, our attention to the smaller things makes our role as ‘good jewellers’ a little dubious. The little things that I am talking about are the microplastics and litter that line the streets, drains, highways, parking lots, store corners, parks, and just about everywhere. We all know and agree that littering is bad, so who are all the litterbugs? Are they the anti-jewellers who do not care to blemish our little gem? Whoever they are, they keep the Jewel from truly shining.

The local issue of litter and microplastics is a bit oxymoronic. The inconsistency is that we will protect and save our environment from machines and businesses that threaten landscape and natural habitats but we will simultaneously toss our trash and leave it to loom. Perhaps the difference is that as activists for the environment, we are enforcers of the Belize Environmental Protection Act, but when the tenets of that Act are enforced on our daily activities, we feel restricted and offended by it. Harmful environmental ‘waste’ is not just industrial, commercial, or agricultural, it also includes rubbish and household garbage.  Perhaps it is not enough to be anti-litter- we have to be pro-clean. Pro-clean means seeing trash and litter the same way we see deforestation, chemical waste, and large vessels scraping the corals on the barrier. Littering is not as dramatic as dredging mangroves at popular fishing flats, but the long-term damage of microplastics in marine and terrestrial environments is criminal.

To honour World Oceans Day, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) collaborated with Sea of Life to clean up some litter. The group picked up and bagged approximately 1000 pieces of trash from around the Baron Bliss Lighthouse and Memorial Park area. Call it a pro-clean ‘TrashBlitz” and a little Jewel maintenance. Unfortunately, more trash may be there by this weekend but we must not be deterred from becoming better Jewellers. Until our streets, drains, highways, parking lots, store corners, parks, and public spaces can remain free of litter and microplastics, we will have some room for improvement. We must overcome this cultural contradiction that makes us lovers of our environment and enforcers of environmental policy but culprits when it comes to littering. We need to be more consistent. If we love her as much as we say we do, then we need to keep her clean and let the Jewel shine- all the time.

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board