By: Trevor Vernon
Twenty years ago or so, I had the honour and pleasure of accompanying a distinguished senior Ambassador of Belize on a reconnaissance mission. He was laying the groundwork to eventually recover Mayan Artifacts from various institutions in the USA and Europe ( And, I am not referring to the little bits and pieces of undocumented scrap that gets repatriated). The experience was special and remains pronounced to this day given the severe decline of our other major natural resources.
The gentleman we had the meeting with was the President of a major East Coast (USA) University. That institution along with many others, to include museums and private collections, had come into the possession of some highly valued pieces of documented Mayan antiquity. Our Ambassador was skillfully attempting to convince the President that the pieces belonged in Belize from whence they originated. The bow-tied, mayflower society gentleman reminded us that it was the British Governor of Belize, half a century ago, gifted these items to the University so they had proper rights to care for these priceless pieces of Mesoamerican history. Belize, he politely argued, does not possess the wherewithal, the resources, or the knowledge to provide proper care for her property and it was the institution’s moral duty to do so. Being much younger, I was floored. Then to add insult to injury, he offered an amicable solution: how about the University making replicas to gift back to Belize. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about them deteriorating and falling to pieces due to negligence and lack of proper care.
That educational experience has had a profound impact on my psyche. Belize will never get those priced pieces back ever because to those highly polished east coast people we are nothing more than noble savages. And they may be right. Look at all the cruise ship raw sewerage, plastics, and other solid waste they dump in our waters and on our reef everyday and all we do is smile and say thank you, please come back again. “Whorism” at its best!
The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with what that University President was saying to us twenty years ago on that bright spring morning. We Belizeans sit back and get the blank pumped down our backs and across our faces, every time those mobile cities pull up in our harbour and drop anchor. Now, there is no record anywhere that anyone is willing to share that shows how much of it is being pumped in our waters, treated or untreated. We know from a recent online Miami Herald piece that the State of Florida in the USA (where the cruise ships mostly dock) reports sewerage dumping in the sea of 300 million gallons of the stuff per day. You read correctly, 300 Million gallons of sewerage a day.
Now we see a deadly ‘algal bloom’ blossoming along our Belize coast. Some observers loosely refer to it as red tide. You too can take a look at it online and the satellite image is updated daily. Now I am not saying there’s a direct relationship between the “invisible, undocumented cruise dumping” and this sudden scientifically recognized growth of this massive green morass but it begs the questions. Problem is no one wants to provide any answers; they prefer to pretend it is not happening here. http://modis.marine.usf.edu/weekly/belize/belize.2011.43.html#2011300
Before these massive ships became commonplace, it was acceptable to release a few gallons of waste here and there because Mother Nature could absorb it. Now with thousands of these massive ships carrying hundreds of thousands of people for a week at a time , they collect millions of gallons of raw sewerage every day. Our outdated laws and seafaring mores simply have not kept up with the changing maritime vectors. The Florida Cruise Industry has simply been capitalizing on this lackadaisical oversight across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Given that statistic from Florida, USA, home port for those mobile cities, it forces the question: how much is being dumped here. We gather that the law is slack and enforcement if there’s any requirement is winked and blinked away. That damn University President was so right after all. We deserve nothing because we are noble savages who are ignorant of what we have and oblivious of how to protect, preserve and maintain our invaluable assets. Our dignity has left the building and has being replaced by unmitigated ignorance, and apathy.