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#124662 - 07/09/06 05:27 PM A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
Marty Offline
A people dependent on coral
By Roger Harrabin
BBC News, San Pedro, Belize

The United Nations is being asked to step in to protect a barrier reef which lies just off Belize in Central America. Island dwellers fear its erosion could endanger their homes and livelihoods if action is not taken soon.

San Pedro is the cash cow for the entire Belizean economy

San Pedro is a little holiday town on a small island just off the Caribbean coast of Belize.

It enjoyed a brief moment of fame in the Madonna song "La Isla Bonita".

The great lady herself never came here, apparently, but her songwriter did.

Anyway, it is not the queen of self-promotion on whom people here in San Pedro depend.

No, it is an organism that knows its humble place but has helped to reshape the tropics: the polyp - the creature that builds the coral reefs.

The polyps have brought wealth to this little island and it is their protective girdle that allows beachfront properties to be built right on to the sand without fear of tidal surges from hurricanes.

It is the polyps which have constructed an elaborate breeding ground for fish to fill the bellies of local people.

And it is the polyps which have indirectly provided a livelihood to people like Lyrical King, an ageing dreadlocked reggae strummer who has just wandered past, serenading the tourists sunbathing after their dives on the reef.

"Stir it up, little darling," he implores.

Coral bleaching

But a few locals are beginning to come to terms with the notion that some time in the future the reef may be damaged beyond repair.

No polyps will mean no tourists and no dollars for Lyrical King.

Billy Leslie, who runs a diving operation and is the son of a commercial fisherman, took me down to see the damage the coral is suffering.

Billy is a cheerful fellow. You will note, from the grin on his face as he peruses the trophy line of discarded bikini bottoms festooned above his bar, that his employment reward package is not merely financial.

But he does not laugh when he describes the state of the reef.

He remembers the first time it was hit by the phenomenon known as coral bleaching just a few years ago.

Bleaching happens when water temperature reaches such a height that the single-celled plants called zooxanthelli - which live inside the coral polyps and provide them with oxygen - are driven away from the reef.

The bleaching strips the reef of its colours as well.

"It is horrible," Billy says. "Like seeing the corals covered in snow."

Dwindling opportunity

The reef was beginning to show some signs of recovery from its first bleaching until, a few years later, it was once again hit by high water temperatures.

Now the corals are in a sorry state.

Ancient corals are split apart, attacked by parasites and crumbling.

And that of course is extremely bad news for San Pedro because if the reef breaks up, the hurricane wave protection is gone.

And if there is nothing to stop the storm-force waves from sweeping onto the island, Billy's livelihood is gone too, along with the stream of foreign female admirers who learned to dive under his twinkling but watchful eye.

Also gone are many of the bars and hotels that have made barmen in San Pedro among the top 10 earners in this land of widespread unemployment.

San Pedro is the cash cow for the entire Belizean economy.

Science and ethics

So what is mainly to blame for the problem with the coral?

Well, reef scientists tell us it is global warming.

Reefs all round the world are struggling. They cannot cope with the stress of greenhouse gases from rich nations far away.

Combating greenhouse gas emissions by installing new technology, is, Western nations tell us, a costly and controversial business.

But while the West hesitates over the investment, scientists say the real costs of climate change are being felt in places like San Pedro.

Campaigners in Belize point out that the reef here is a World Heritage site which should be under UN protection.

Their petition is due to be heard by the UN's World Heritage committee in Unesco in the next few days.

The Americans on the committee do not like the petition and they are trying to get it thrown out.

They say it is divisive and that there is no absolute proof that greenhouse gases are responsible for the warming of the water. Even if there were, they say, the damage would be accidental and accidental damage cannot be seen as a breach of the World Heritage sites treaty.


But the campaigners say science and ethics are on their side.

They believe that if the UN will accept that the reef is being harmed by climate change, international attention will be drawn to the issue, thus raising the possibility that sometime in the future those responsible for climate change will have to compensate the victims for the damage that they have caused.

But all that is a long way off and on the beach and the bars of San Pedro they are not holding their breath.

More likely, they fear, a bleak future lies ahead... not only for the polyp, but also for people like Lyrical King and Billy the dive master who depend upon it.


Billy Leslie has seen coral deteriorate drastically since the 80s



Human activity, hurricanes and high water temperatures threaten coral



Belize's coral reef is the biggest in the Western Hemisphere


http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/5158504.stm

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#124663 - 07/10/06 03:50 AM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
Marty Offline
Call to save wonders of world that face climate catastrophe
AURA SABADUS

SOME of the world's greatest natural wonders are at risk from global warming, intensive development and neglect, according to an international coalition of lawyers and environmentalists, which yesterday called for immediate action to protect them.

Mount Everest, the Great Barrier Reef and the Peruvian Andes are among the sites singled out by the coalition as being at risk.

Gathering at an annual meeting in Lithuania, the campaigners urged UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to include the five sites on a danger list because of the potentially devastating effects of rising temperatures.

The move, which has the support of eminent figures including Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, spells out the need for the Mount Everest National Park, the Peruvian Andes, the Waterton-Glacier Peace Park and the Great Barrier and Belize Barrier coral reefs to be placed under special protection from international institutions.

Campaigners believe adding sites to the list of places at risk from rising temperatures would send a powerful political signal about the impact of climate change. Recent studies show rising ocean temperatures are endangering coral reefs and warming air is melting glaciers.

The World Heritage Convention, which was set up in 1972 to "preserve the world's natural and scenic areas", requires all countries to pass listed sites intact to future generations. But environmentalists argue that this will not happen unless urgent action is taken on climate change and governments including the US administration agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

They have now called on the World Heritage Committee to urge governments to cut their emissions as part of their duty to protect and hand on World Heritage Sites to future generations.

They also want countries which signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the Kyoto Protocol to take the requirements of the treaties into account when negotiating on issues.

A third proviso requires qualified observers to visit each petition site to evaluate the nature and extent of the threats, and to propose the measures to be taken.

The co-director of the Climate Justice Programme, Peter Roderick, said: "The World Heritage Committee has a vital role to play in protecting the planet's best parts from climate change.

"The dangers are clear, and the main cause of the problem is known. The committee has a duty to protect these sites. It must uphold the World Heritage Convention as an effective international agreement and recognise the legal need for significant cuts in climate pollution."

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said: "Climate change is already having a terrible impact on some of the world's most spectacular natural heritage sites. But the World Heritage Committee can play a crucial role in trying to protect these sites.

"It must pledge immediate action to try and mitigate the threat these sites face and make it clear to the international community that cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are urgently needed."


HURRICANES and bleaching are the most serious threats to the Belize Barrier Reefs. Made up of seven protected marine areas, Belize is home to the longest coral reef in the western hemisphere and the second largest after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Between 1997 and 1999 about half the live coral was lost due to a combination of bleaching and damage from Hurricane Mitch, with at least one reef inside the site losing more than 90 per cent of its coral.

There are more than 500 species of fish and 350 types of molluscs living in the tropical waters and over 200 plants growing in coastal Belize. But much native vegetation on the islands on the reef has either been eliminated or disturbed for coconut plantations, and coastal forests were cleared to make way for urban developments.

Bird fauna is also at particular risk as much of the critical forest habitat lies on private land.

Despite its enormous value to the overall economy of Belize - tourism alone generates nearly £50 million every year - the ecosystem is threatened by over-exploitation of reef resources by the fishing and tourist industries. The reefs within the Hol Chan area near San Pedro Town are showing signs of stress caused by over- collecting and damage from boats' anchors.

A UNESCO World Heritage report says other major disturbances include habitat alteration caused by hotel and marina construction, heavy use of agrochemicals and sewage pollution from tourist resorts and urban centres. Erosion of the shoreline by removal of vegetation including mangroves and seagrass areas are also a major threat.

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#124664 - 07/10/06 03:09 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
TannedBanana Offline
It's really sad to see human beings becoming so dependent on their governments to "save" them or devise yet another bureaucratic, tax increasing scheme. The U.S. donates up to 25% of the total budget for the U.N. every year. OVER $3 BILLION DOLLARS in 2005. Thatís AMERICAN TAX PAYER money. Money that I work hard for every day. And the U.N. spits in the face of the American people daily. I would like to see us pull out tomorrow.

I have no complete answer for the problem other than the U.N. has NEVER been successful at ONE endeavor it has undertaken.

I donít deny that man can have both a positive and negative impact on nature. But if ANYONE thinks the most inept and corrupt governmental agency in the world (U.N.) can fix the problem, they deserve the outcome.

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#124665 - 07/10/06 03:31 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
San Pedro Daily Offline
The Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly decides on the scale of assessments for contributions to the Regular Budget every third year. The scale of assessments reflects a country�s capacity to pay (measured by factors such as a country�s national income and size of population). The Peacekeeping Budget assessments are based on the Regular Budget rates, but with discounts for poor countries. The five permanent members of the Security Council, who approve all peacekeeping operations, pay extra fees to compensate for those discounts. A �ceiling� rate sets the maximum amount of any member state�s assessed share of the regular and Peacekeeping Budgets. The US is the only member that is affected by those ceilings. Consequently the US pays less than its share of the world economy. (There is also a minimum rate of 0.001% to the Regular Budget for poor countries.) In December 2000, the Fifth Committee voted to lower the ceiling rate from 25% to 22% for the Regular Budget. The US had promised to pay its longstanding debt to the UN in exchange for lower assessments. Half a decade later, the US still owes around US$500 million to the UN Regular Budget.

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#124666 - 07/10/06 03:51 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
TannedBanana Offline
I hope we never pay them another dime. As far as I'm concerned they are a corrupt and socialistic organization that believes it should have the right to impose it's will on nation members. We are a sovereign nation with freedoms that are protected by the Constitution. If Kofi Anin had his way the U.N. would be a world government deciding what is/is not "appropriate" freedoms for me to have. The right to bear arms being at the top of his list.

The U.N. loves our money...but spits in our face when it comes to protecting our people and sovereignty. Just look what is happening on the security council right now. North Koreaís government needs to be blown off the map. The thought that Russia and China are protecting this mad man is absolutely insane.

And how in the hell does a country like Cuba make it to the Human Rights Council. What a joke.


"When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." ---Thomas Jefferson.

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#124667 - 07/10/06 04:05 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
San Pedro Daily Offline
Quote:

"When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." ---Thomas Jefferson.
Your government scares the hell out of me!

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#124668 - 07/10/06 05:22 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
DB Offline
We still have this massive problem that clearly points towards human source(s). And equally as clear is that the solution is in our hands as well. Who ever can contribute to the effort(s) should step up now - later is too late.

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#124669 - 07/10/06 05:27 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
spots101x Offline
U.S. Foreign Aid to those that hate us:

Egypt, for example, after voting 79% of the time against the United States, still receives $2 billion annually in US Foreign Aid.

Jordan votes 71% against the United States
And receives $192,814,000 annually in US Foreign Aid.

Pakistan votes 75% against the United States
And receives $6,721,000 annually in US Foreign Aid.

India votes 81% against the United States
And receives $143,699,000 annually.

Perhaps it is time to get out of the UN and give the tax savings back to the American workers who are having to skimp and sacrifice to pay the taxes (and gasoline).
_________________________
Be a pal, save a Dal.

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#124670 - 07/10/06 06:36 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
Marty Offline
amen DB. no time for pointing fingers. time to solve the problem. or at least work towards a solution

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#124671 - 07/10/06 06:45 PM Re: A people dependent on coral - San Pedro
TannedBanana Offline
Quote:
Originally posted by DB:
We still have this massive problem that clearly points towards human source(s). And equally as clear is that the solution is in our hands as well. Who ever can contribute to the effort(s) should step up now - later is too late.
Amen...I hope my response did not lead anyone to beleive I was discounting or belittling the problem. But this really seems like an overexposure problem. Limit the direct contact with humans and the problem may start to turn around. Of course, easier sad than done when you are talking about so many livelihoods directly affected by tourism.

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