Royal Dutch Shell PLC must clean up three-year-old oil spills that have destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers and fishermen in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, Amnesty International said.

Shell acknowledged responsibility for two spills caused by operational issues in 2008, but said that the vast majority of those harming the area are caused by oil thieves and saboteurs.

- pg. A25, Houston Chronicle, Sunday, November 13, 2011


Brazil’s president has ordered a full investigation into an oil spill near an offshore field operated by oil giant Chevron Corp.

Dilma Rousseff says in a statement that she wants a “rigorous investigation” to determine responsibility for the spill near the well being drilled by Chevron’s Brazilian subsidiary.
- pg. A25, ibid.

When I was growing up, Spanish Caye was a very big part of my life. My father’s younger sister owned the northern half of this caye, and my mother’s relatives owned the southern half of the island, so I figured I would always have a place there. If any problems arose in the future with one side of the family, there would always be the other side. Or, so I thought. Well, since those days of innocence in the 1950s and 1960s, problems have arisen with both sides of my family, and I no longer have a place at Spanish Caye. But, more devastatingly, the pristine nature of the precious sea around us has been violated by the overwhelming swarms of visiting human beings, and the modern lifestyle which rules – powerboats, plastics, cruise ships, fertilizer/pesticide runoff from the mainland, and so on and so forth. (Check out Trevor Vernon’s article in this issue of Amandala.)

I consider myself a raging environmentalist, but one cannot absolutely reject the benefits and comforts of modern science and technology. A New Yorker by the name of John L. Stephens, traveling as a passenger in a sailing brig, visited these here parts in 1839/1840, “these here parts” being the settlement of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and southern Mexico, and he wrote about his travels. One of the things which will strike you if you ever read his book is the amount of people in this region who were dying of different fevers in those days. Whether these fevers were malaria or dengue, he wouldn’t have known. Medical science was poor in those days where malaria and dengue were concerned. In fact, instead of “poor,” you can pencil in “non-existent.”

When I was growing up, however, DDT had been discovered as a chemical which would kill the anopheles mosquito which carried the malaria it had picked up by biting malarial individuals, and infected healthy people with its bites. Every few months or so, families would have to cover up everything in their homes, we would have to go outside, and the malaria eradication people would come into your home and spray the place with the whitish DDT. If you actually contracted malaria, they could save you with quinine and related drugs. So, as a raging environmentalist, would I want to live in 1839/1840 when this area was absolutely pristine but they were helpless where malaria was concerned? I don’t think so.

Anyhow, I think, totally as a matter of surmise, that Spanish Caye originally ended up being owned in the first half of the twentieth century by members of the Hyde and Belisle families because it was such a devilishly difficult place to reach from Belize City. The trip was only nine miles plus, but the prevailing winds in Belize during the dry season are blistering southeasterlies. When I was a child, we mostly used sailboats, and Spanish Caye was due south, or maybe even south by southeast. So you had to sail almost directly into the strong winds and the brutal waves. If you went by motorboat, people would often be violently seasick because of the battering of the waves. This was, most times, a rough ride from the city to the caye. Going to islands like St. George’s Caye, Caye Chapel and Caye Caulker was usually a lark compared to the trip to Spanish Caye.

Again, Spanish Caye was not one of those beautiful sandy cayes like Goff’s Caye where you had a beautiful beach to enjoy and iridescent waters for swimming. Spanish Caye had grass and conch shells and mangrove and sea eggs (white and black) in the waters offshore. This was not your ideal place for swimming, trust me. But, Spanish Caye had the finest fishing on planet earth. This was in the time, five and six decades ago, before the dynamiting for oil, Hurricane Hattie, the diving for lobster, the gill nets, and the uncontrolled sewerage of cruise ships.

The fishing was so good at Spanish Caye we “picked and chose” what we ate. We didn’t eat grunt, paagy, or yellow tail, and sometimes we even “cut our style” with grouper, barracuda and jack. We ate silk snapper, red and black snapper, kingfish, mackerel, and rock fish. These were the cream of the crop.

A lot of the cooking was done on fire hearth, and the deliciously pungent smell of the “mangro” (mangrove) wood burning sweetly in the evening breeze as “johnny cakes” and “powder buns’ were baking in black iron pots, is a golden memory for I. Slowly, indoor cooking on kerosene stoves began to take over, but the old days were ruled by fire hearth.

One aspect of those spring and summer days at Spanish Caye that we took for granted was our safety. It was similar walking home your girl friend in Belize City streets after the movies or dances. We took our safety for granted. Is it because we were a British colony that we were safe? This is the question which “bugs” black-conscious people like myself.

Spanish Caye was a rare privilege that I enjoyed as a member of a brown-skinned, Creole family in Belize City. Where Spanish Caye was concerned, we were the happiest and most fortunate people on the earth. I believe that was how we saw it then. For sure we can see it now.

When the U.S. Consulate here gave me a scholarship to study in America, one of the beautiful things about the scholarship was that they promised they would fly me home every summer for the holidays. A little while before that first summer vacation, in June of 1966, however, the foreign student advisor at Dartmouth, Col. Harold N. Moorman, broke the bad news. I wonder who decided to renege on the promise to fly me home, and why. I ended up fumbling around in Brooklyn until classes resumed in September. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had come home to Spanish Caye in 1966. This is how I know I’m old nowadays. I spend time thinking about things like that. Who made that decision, and why?

Whatever, whatever, whatever. Blessings on our Garifuna brethren and sistren on Settlement Day. Ubafu houn gereigia.