If you ask any islander that has lived on Ambergris Caye for the past 50 years, they will tell you that over the past three decades, San Pedro has lost about 30 feet or more of its beaches due to the rise in water level. Today, the island continues to lose its beaches as the waters of the Caribbean Sea slowly erode away the land, claiming the island. The deterioration of the island’s beaches is being directly attributed to the change in climate patterns over a long period; climate change, due to human activities. That was the theme of a discussion at three separate workshops held on Thursday September 26th on the island, spearheaded by the University of West Indies.

According to coordinator and workshop lecturer Indi McLymont-Lafayette, the Regional Coordinator of Panos Caribbean, not only is the discussion on the impacts of climate change relevant, but it is important to engage everyone at all levels on such issues. “We think this is very important because climate change has significantly impacted this small island. The Caribbean region has been identified as amongst the most vulnerable to climate impacts,” said Lafayette.

Those changes are very visible on Ambergris Caye and the main evidence is the direct loss of beaches due to the constant rise in the water level caused by the effects of global warming, which directly affects the change in climate. In addition to the rise in water levels, the deterioration of the reef’s health and increased vulnerability to more intense hurricanes also threatens smaller islands such as Ambergris Caye. “It is important that the younger generations understand, as well as the wider community of San Pedro, how important climate change is and how it can have a long term effect on the lives of each and every one of us. Ambergris Caye residents need to know some of the things that have caused these changes in climate pattern. But they also need to know some of the things they can do to mitigate, minimize and adjust to climate change impacts.”

The cutting down of mangroves and other plants, the constant dredging of water beds, the extraction of natural resources, and even pollution are just a few of the practices that continue to be some of the leading causes of climate change. Adding to the pressure of climate change is the issue of erosion caused by the construction of concrete seawalls and docks also drastically degrading the island’s beaches.

For students who attended the workshop, such as Vivian Noralez of San Pedro High School, Belizeans must get more involved, especially those living in very vulnerable areas such as ours. “Climate change is very important to us because we live on an island and we have the second largest barrier reef. Our revenue depends on tourism and so whatever affects our tourism affects us as a people. Climate change is beginning to affect us as an island, a country, in the region and globally through the change of weather, water levels etc. We need to enable Belizeans to learn to appreciate our environment and contribute in the fight against climate change by adjusting our bad practices,” said Noralez.

Click here for the rest of the story and pictures in the San Pedro Sun!