I need to be earlier with this update because we are faced with a real dilemma that will affect our little Jewel if we as a community do not act ASAP. Apparently, a case or few cases of Dengue has been reported in San Pedro. Now before you start blaming your village council for not spraying in the rain, let me explain a little about Dengue. The major causes of this disease is more garbage related than water related. This is FACT. Over the last month, we have many reports of the garbage collectors, getting paid by the establishments to take garbage to the dump that never reaches our dump. Now, we know that someone or many people on this island have seen people dumping garbage on the back streets, yet as we ask around for information, everyone is numb. This is our community and if Dengue shows up on Caye Caulker, none of us will be immune. Why are we allowing this to happen to us. As a villager, we owe our community and our neighbors the chance to live in a healthy environment. We will prosecute anyone found dumping garbage on our streets, in our neighborhoods or anywhere else except at the dump site. I would encourage all businesses to not allow garbage to be picked up after hours. Donít give these individuals any excuse to infest our little jewel. By the end of the year this entire garbage system will fail to exist as it does now. Until then, we donít need Dengue or any other diseases to upset our livelihood and way of living. Garbage disposal is our major problem Caye Caulker. Each resident have a responsibility to bag and ensure our garbage reaches itís final destination. Maybe we should start paying the various collectors after they return from the dump with a receipt. HOW ABOUT THAT CONCEPT.
Since my first extended stay here in Caye Caulker back in the summer of 2011, I have always been -and have always remained reticent on anything that could disrupt the groove of this charming, easy-going island. Iím not a local, Iím not a resident; I donít even pour in tons of foreign income to grant me any stake or legality to this country and community. Surely the last thing local communities need is yet another outsider suggesting how this and that should go. Iím a visitor-turned-resident, an outsider-wannabe insider, who simply loves and respects nature and all the beauty it offers. Hinging off Chairman Millerís statement, ďGarbage disposal is our major problem in Caye Caulker,Ē I add that garbage and litter is a serious, disheartening issue, not just for the aforementioned health concerns, risks of dengue (which are serious enough), but also for the health and aesthetic of the environment. Nothing puts me off more than seeing Styrofoam, plastic packaging, bottles, and broken glass littered in beaches, in the water (particularly at the Split where young children wade), on streets, and everywhere the wind can blow debris. Itís like youíve got this amazing aquamarine backdrop, a scenery so surreal you feel high off of life. Then in the corner of your perfect view, you see a rotting, broken fluorescent light bulb floating next to Styrofoam food packaging. Once the wind picks it all up, it ends up in the ocean and the reef, and voila, there you have the hypocrisy in tourism. With all due respect, itís a bit of a disgrace.
Since I can only relate to what Iíve observed, and what Iíve experienced, my statements could appear very naÔve and misinformed. Help me understand. More often than not, I turn around wanting to toss my garbage, and there arenít any garbage cans around. This includes public places like the park, The Cemetery, The Split, the barge dock, and over-the-counter eateries. Deeply and truly, I blame the wind for most of the litter. It really is natureís fault. And I still believe that humans care, meaning, they would probably toss their garbage if there was a garbage can around. I find myself holding on to my garbage until I reach home, because I know that if I leave it in the corner, along with other garbage (sometimes you just have no choice), the wind will just pick it up and toss into the ocean before the cleaning staff can get to it. But why wait for staff to clean it? Is there even a cleaning staff? Why not create opportunities for people to discard their own trash? I honestly feel like raking up the Split sometimes just so my daughter can wade in debris-free sand and water. Can someone donate a few rakes at the split and label it ďDIY (Do it Yourself) collective community effort?Ē Youíd be surprised.
These may sound silly, but here are practical solutions that could help:
- Create a village ordinance requiring all businesses that incur any form of waste to make a garbage can available for their customers. This would include shops, restaurants, over-the-counter eateries Ėplaces that sell any sort of packaging that could result in waste. But letís not discriminate; why not make it an ordinance for ALL businesses? I strongly believe that profit makers/business owners have an ethical responsibility to their community. In parallel, and on a very grand scale, this is the same fight environmentalists make with large oil producers; since oil companies create the risk of pollution they should at least be responsible for its risk. Kudos to Reef Sports and Raggamuffin, and the ďKebab KingĒ (sorry thatís all I can think of right now) who make garbage cans readily available to the public.
- If the above suggestion is just straight silly, maybe the council can lead a green campaign asking all hotels (where it applies) to offer a brief orientation when checking in guests that should go like this, ďAs a small island community, we pride ourselves in maintaining the island and oceanís health. Youíll notice that garbage cans are rare around the island, but as part of our campaign towards a greener environment, we ask that you collect your garbage and toss it ďin these binsĒ (somewhere). Iíve been to two hotels in the past two months which actually have signs and notices around the rooms with a similar format. Iíd also like to assume that at least 80% of the tourist demographic is ďhip to the green movementĒ and would so respect this request, if asked. A bit radical, but it could work. Imagine, ďCaye Caulker, the world renowned green island.Ē
- Somehow (through grants or taxes, I donít know), pay premium for garbage disposal staff wages.
- Set up DIY stations in garbage prone, public areas like the park. More often than not, mothers like myself, would be more than willing to toss rubbish in a can, or rake broken glass if there were tools available.
We are probably some of the luckiest people in the world to live in such a beautiful setting. We canít allow ourselves to become desensitized to the issues relating to garbage and litter. How can we put our pride into action and resolve the garbage problem?Caye Caulker Chronicles