Grey’s Anatomy star Kate Walsh’s recent reflections on her conservation efforts in Belize in an international magazine highlights the importance of celebrity recognition in raising awareness of important issues in small developing countries such as Belize, according to an environmentalist at Chaa Creek’s Natural History Centre, who said that assistance from celebrities continues to provide a much needed boost to the small Caribbean country’s conservation efforts.
Chaa Creek naturalist guide and Natural History Centre assistant manager Brion Young said that several people had recently called his attention to an April 2013 article in Travel + Leisure magazine, and that this highlights the importance of celebrity endorsement of local conservation efforts.
“Even though Ms Walsh was here last summer on World Ocean Day, this recent article shows that the effects of her visit are still being felt, and still raising awareness about the need to protect our fragile ecosystems such as the Belize Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Young said.
Ms Walsh, who is known to millions as Dr Addison Montgomery on ABC’s network drama Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice was in Belize last June for World Oceans Day with the conservation organization Oceana. Oceana has been active in Belize supporting a number of local and global conservation initiatives such as halting the destructive fishing practice of trawling and working to have offshore oil exploration and drilling banned from the reef and Belize’s Caribbean coastline.
“I was there with Oceana to bring awareness to the importance of conserving the barrier reef, which is essential for the island fisherman and protects the island from storms and hurricane. This was one of the most pristine and rich reefs I’ve ever been to,” Ms Walsh explained to reporter Brooke Porter last week.
Former Cheers television star Ted Danson has also been visibly active with Oceana in Belize, and Mr Young said that celebrity help in raising awareness about conservation efforts in Belize has been invaluable.
“We have so much to protect here in Belize, but very few resources to do so. When people with international recognition such as Ms Walsh and Ted Danson lend their time and names to endorse local environmental efforts it goes a long way in letting people know what’s at stake here.
“I think celebrity endorsements, having people who are recognised and respected internationally promoting causes they believe in is a very healthy trend. When I saw the Travel + Leisure article I realised that Ms Walsh’s contribution to our conservation efforts is still being felt, and how effective she continues to be in raising awareness about the ongoing work to protect our environment. I’m sure I speak for many Belizeans when I say ‘thank you’ for helping us in the fight to preserve our stunning yet fragile eco system,” Mr Young said, adding that he hopes to see Ms Walsh back in Belize this year.
And he may have his chance.
"One of the things that is really impressive about Belize is … this vast plethora of not only coral and reef life, but all of the animals that go with it," she said. "Things that I have never seen before."
"This was my first trip ever, and I can't wait to come back," Ms Walsh said after her visit.