Dear All Things Considered Staff:
I have never written NPR. I have silently praised your show, All Things
Considered, for sometime as I listen in my car or home. Your show, and
NPR in general, serves as a cherished thought provoking information
source for me. I have praised your show and NPR publicly in recent
weeks. Your coverage of the new world we live in has been award
It is unfortunate that it is only today that I feel compelled to write,
and that the focus of my letter is to share my opinion that your spot
"Diving Deaths" was both thoughtless and tasteless in nature. I urge
you to "consider" differently and choose to change your focus from
Americans on vacation, to the people of Belize who were devastated by
You began with a quick overview of the level 4 hurricane the swept
through Southern Belize - destroying 13,000 homes, then went quickly to
the deaths of the divers and comments from their friends. You missed
the real story. And to serve as a exclamation point, I am sharing the
emails I have received in the last 24 hours from my close friends and
associates living in PG (Punta Gorda).
I am deeply moved by the death of anyone. But the individuals involved
in the boating/hurricane accident made mortal errors. The captain
exercised very poor judgment, given that he had ample warning to travel
north to Chetamal, Mexico, or south up the deep Reo Dulce River in
Honduras. They chose tie up at the exact location of where this very
narrow - but obviously deadly hurricane was to make land fall. Even I,
currently sitting in New Jersey, knew where the storm was going to hit
by Monday mid-morning. But the deaths of these individuals and their
diving club were your focus.
Below I offer other opportunities for you to share with the nation
other information regarding the storm that would be more meaningful to
those of us who consider ourselves world citizens.
One year later - Belize Government is Coordinated with Its Evacuation
Efforts The only deaths of this level 4 hurricane were those under the
leadership of someone who either didn't know his options or didn't have
his radio turned on. Last year, beginning on October 6th, the Belize
government was caught with their pants down, as hurricane Keith pounded
northern Belize. Not this time. The government had a coordinated plan,
and to the extent that they could, worked to evacuate the area. Yes,
individuals in Southern Belize didn't want to leave - but the
More importantly, however, is the personal and economic devastation to
families and communities of the indigenous population of Southern
Belize and the other Belizeans who live in the area.
You Can Help Those Devastated by Hurricane Iris
At the beginning of the show you mentioned that 13,000 homes were
destroyed. I don't know how you got that number, but considering that
there are only 240,000 people in all of Belize (40% live around or in
Belize City in the north) and that the Toledo District is, by far, the
least populated - 13,000 homes indicates that an INCREDIBLE PERCENTAGE
OF THE POPULATION IN SOUTHERN BELIZE was effected. I pray that these
people, many of whom live in thatched roof huts (or used to), mean
something to you.
In your All Things Considered segment, friends of the divers talked
about their $1,000 wet suits and their "dream" vacations (probably
costing $5,000 or more). The people that actually live in Southern
Belize - live communally in villages by planting corn in their milpas
(to eat) and (some) cultivating rice to sell. Many have never seen
$5,000 US in their lifetime. $1,000 US is a little less than what the
most "financially secure" Maya earn A YEAR.
This time of year is when they harvest their crops - their crops are
gone. They build their homes from the jungle - wood and palm. Their
homes are gone as well as their jungle. They are now hungry, homeless,
and under great stress. They were already poor.
There are whole villages that were completely devastated. THESE are the
people - thousands of them - whom you could discuss. They were just
living their lives in their cherished Mayaland when the hurricane hit.
Shame on you for focusing on less than two dozen American tourists -
letting one of the people you intervened go on about how they steal
each others flippers - ignoring the total devastation in the area.
Those Americans were visitors, and yes, they did perish. But the Mopan
and Q'eqchi' Maya (Maya villages throughout the Toledo District), the
Garifuna (Monkey River Town and Placencia), and other Belizeans were
greatly affected as well. This most remote part of Belize IS THEIR
HOME. Why in the world would you talk about the effects of a level 4
hurricane and not report the status of their welfare?
Associate Professor, Rutgers University
Project Director, The Living Maya: The Mopan and Q'eqchi' of the Toledo
District, Belize, Central America (a multi-media documentary)