Loss and Damage, they're huge buzzwords in the climate change space right now, after the announcement of COP27's Fund for the Loss and Damage endured by particularly vulnerable countries.

It's a fund that was 30 years in the making simply because wealthy larger emitters such as the U.S. and China had always pushed back against it.

But how necessary is the fund?

That's a question that will be asked over and over this year by countries negotiating whether or not they will become contributors.

Tonight, we're putting forward a small contribution to that argument - not a long drawn out negotiation but an argument of imagery, showing some of the worst of Belize's loss and Damage from Gales Point all the way to Monkey River.

It's a sweeping journey chronicling a nationwide problem and its potential to displace and destroy everything Belizeans on the coast hold dear. Cherisse Halsall made a series of journeys south and tonight she has this investigative report.

COP27 in Sharm El-Shiekh Eygpt ended in what some call at least a partial triumph, a breakthrough for those on the front lines of the climate crisis who heralded a newly agreed fund for loss and damage.

Sherry Rahman, Climate Minister, Pakistan
"We have struggled for 30 years on this path and today in Sharm-El-Sheikh this journey has achieved its first positive milestone. The establishment of a fund is not about charity. It is clearly a downpayment on the longer investment in our joint futures."

But what does it mean for the loss and damage that Belize has already endured? And the loss and damage to come in the future…?

A few months ago we got a warning for Belize city from FAO consultant Asha Singh

Dr. Asha Singh - International Consultant, FAO
"Belize City is below sea level at any time. Climate change is bringing that added burden. And why is it an added burden because you have a coastal area that is very highly developed? It is the economic hub of Belize, and you have rising sea levels, erosion, and many other activities that are actually causing their own burden on the infrastructure. So, it makes Belize City extremely vulnerable, not to take away from anything of the other communities because they're all vulnerable. But, if we're to rank in terms of economic vulnerability, I would say that Belize City is very vulnerable to climate change."

And If hurricane Lisa was the cause of enormous damage, most of it in residential and public infrastructure.

Then our ongoing fight against erosion is where some of Belize's biggest losses can be found. But is Belize's erosion purely caused by climate change? Here's what the executive director of the 5c's told us when he stopped into our studio ahead of this year's COP27

Colin Young, Executive Director, CCCCC
"Erosion is in fact a complex natural phenomenon but it is absolutely unequivocal that it's also worsened by climate change."

Tonight we're taking a look at the phenomenon in the wider country and taking you on a journey to show you what loss and damage looks like right here at home.

We started that journey on the seas looking at islands that have taken the brunt of erosion.

Back in July the entire country was captivated by the story of Silk Caye, an island that had been brought back from the brink.

Eworth Garbutt, Lead - Rebuild Team
"This island is more than just tourism. You know that every birthday my little girl's birthday is the 6th, so we came out. Instead of having a birthday party, this is our birthday party. This is our heritage. The next one over there my son does enjoy that when he was young. That was his birthday spot, but it is gone. So we cannot allow another spot like this. Tourism is great, but a lot of people who doesn't do it, think that things are only for tourist. Even the turtle came up and lay their eggs. That touch every part of my heart and soul."

But not every island in the range has been so lucky.

This is middle silk Caye an island that was once filled with shady coconut trees and smooth sandy beaches it was once a perfect choice for day trippers but today in a fate not unlike what could have befallen south silk Caye it's almost been completely washed away.

And back on the mainland in the village of Placencia, one resort caretaker told us that the erosion he's facing is less about climate change and more about his neighbors shoring up their properties to the detriment of his.

Kareem Elsworth Peters, Resident, Placencia
"It's been changing gradually, slowly but now since they have put that seawall, now it's just disappearing by the minute and the sea is something that doesn't stop, the wave continues on so if you're not on it then we might just lose a lot more of this beach."

"It is the selfishness of my neighbors they're inconsiderate to the fact that they are just doing what they want to do instead of following the laws of coexisting on beach properties."

And Peters says the trees that he's poised to lose are part of what tourists love about staying here, tourists like Joel Martinez, who we met during his second visit to Belize in many years, He told us that he found the place drastically changed.

Joel Martinez, Tourist
"I was here in 2019 so three years ago and it was a beautiful property I came out and saw. A huge beach and enjoyed the beach and swam on the beach it was wonderful."

Cherisse Halsall:
"What was your reaction when you got here in terms of the beach? Well the truth is the very first second I got here the first thing I noticed was I thought there was no beach, the beach was gone so what I experienced was completely gone."

And Joel's experience could befall many repeat visitors who just end up falling out of love with a Belize that's losing its beaches.

Colin Young, Executive Director, CCCCC
"As important as tourism is to the country then there is going to be an impact all over the country because one of the things that tourists like is beach and the beach tourism is a huge draw to the people and the economic cost that is going to be associated with the loss of beaches or the contrary, the economic cost it will take to actually keep rebuilding the beach is going to be expensive And then you are going to be re-building only to have to do it again at some point in the future depending on how fast the sea level is rising."

And north of that, on another, smaller peninsula, erosion is also taking its toll - not just on tourist properties, but on a maroon community, the cradle of Belize's creole culture.

We met up with Chairman of Gales Point Jason Allschaft who told us that the village has lost entire house lots from the undeveloped west side of the Peninsula.

The situation is such that, within a generation, the road in front of the village cemetery could go, leaving it to face the threat of the lagoon.

Jason Altschaft, Chairman, Gales Point
"So, when I look at the fact that there used to be 40 foot coconut trees, and this is year after year after year, they had to have been able to grow and be fine at that level so for them to all be gone now the means that over the last 10, 20 years, something happened the was consistent and it can only mean that the water was raised you know to me even if it was an inch that means more water has taken all that, especially on a breezy day when it picks up. So, we are mostly white sand, the only thing that holds us back is things like coconut trees, cashew trees, mango trees, that are 200 years old. We kind of erode pretty fast if those things aren't there."

And in a small village like Gales Point Manatee where erosion like everything else is everyone's business some people are trying to hold on to what land they have left.

Leeroy Andrewin was born and raised in Gales Point, he says that in his 72 years, Gales Point has lost about 50 feet from each side of its Peninsula, winnowing away this precious spit of land.

Leeroy Elston Andrewin, Resident, Gales Point
"This is. hill just like here. This sand right here wash go that way and wash go in the rain because this is the high and the rain took the sand down there because I sit on this porch and I watch it how it goes after the rain comes I go and I try to design to stop that so I filled up the back there and I filled up the front that when the sand comes from the hill it only goes so far and it starts to level off it doesn't reach the lagoon that's how I started to preserve mine."

"This village again a lot of people don't own the property so they don't care about building it up because no one else owns it. So, they just live on it and watch it decay, decay because they ain't the owner."

"I look at it this way the way this thing is going right now, 100 years from now this village will be like this, just about 25feet because it's still going and it's going fast too, it's going fast too."

Cherisse Halsall, 7 news.

Tune in again tomorrow night for the conclusion of this story where we travel further south to the village of Gales Point Manatee.

Monkey River And The Specter Of The Sea

Last night on the news we took you to Silk Caye, Placencia, and Gales Point Manatee to show you the worst of the erosion affecting those coastal and lagoon central communities.

And tonight in part two of Cherisse Halsall's investigative report on countrywide erosion, we're heading further south to the coastal village of Monkey River, a village whose very existence is threatened by the coastline that once made it a sight to behold in the south.

And as a conclusion to last night's story on loss, damage, and erosion, we take a look at the human cost in Monkey River's struggle to stave off the ravages of the sea:

But while the Cemetery in Gales Point is safe for now, it's counterpart further south in the remote village of Monkey River is already fighting the ravages of the sea.

There are cultures that say that you don't own the land until your ancestors bones are buried there but what does it mean if the bones that tie you to the land are being slowly washed away. This cemetery is almost gone but Monkey River still buries it's dead here, they say that those born in the village wouldn't want to rest anywhere else.

But it's far from just the dead who are being threatened by the rising tides; the struggle with nature is also displacing the living.

This house was lost to the extreme outer bands of hurricane Julia.

We were perhaps some of the last people to stand underneath it. We asked the village kids if they played upstairs but they said it was haunted.

Haunted perhaps by the specter of a sea that has gone from provider to predator, pulling their home into its depths.

We saw this house threatened in 2017 when it's resident Claude Morey told us:

Claude Morey, Monkey River Resident
"If things get worse that I can't handle or that I can't live then I got to move. That's for sure."

And today, just 5 years later this is all that's left of Morey's home. Residents say that his children came and took him to the U.S.

And that's the fate of many residents of Monkey River who once lived on the seafront. This house was the home of the village grocer but that store is ancient history, its vendors forced to move on and the structure itself all but swallowed by the sea.

And it's no different for the village's children today. Two of our village tour guides live here with their dad in a downstairs apartment that's only habitable at low tide.

Derwin Garbutt, Resident, Monkey River
"You see that area I have. To put that there to block the wind because when the tide gets high the water goes in so if I don't have that in place there and um it goes all the way through."

"At one time we had water in our room I mean you know all our stuff got wet up but you know that's why I put that in place to keep the water out otherwise it would just be..."

It would be the man or woman versus nature battle that the chairlady herself fought when she was just a child. She told us how her childhood home was washed away right in front of their eyes.

Eloydia Cuevas, Chairlady, Monkey River
"We were just kids I mean we used to play on the beach and then there were no beaches eventually our house, we watched our verandah, the first thing was gone and then eventually we had to move."

"It was scary, it was very scary for us you know losing your family home, the home that you grow in and you know as I would say I wasn't the oldest but the middle child in the bunch so I had younger than me older than me and we talked about it we were scared."

Today her father who ultimately lost his property says he's worried about the loss of the village itself.

Eloy Cuevas, ChairLady's Dad, Resident, Monkey River
"I had to move 20 something years ago because the water got under my house."

Cherisse Halsall:
"And what was that like just watching the water take the land away? Well I'll tell you the truth it's not a nice feeling because when I first moved to that. Spot to live I had beach like this bout that I would say about 50 meters, 50 60 meters of. Beach, al that was in front of my yard and I watched all that erode away until it got under the house."

But despite the elemental and perhaps futile struggle to tame an increasingly chaotic natural environment, these families have endured; they seem to have no desire to leave their village.

Eloy Cuevas, ChairLady's Dad, Resident, Monkey River
"This is home, this is home right and besides that it's one of the best place to live, you know. We have both the Ocean and we have the river so you have very few places like this. So I don't think anybody who lives here right now, I don't think they want to go and live anywhere else."

They didn't leave after the earthquake of 2009, and they're not leaving now

Colin Young, Executive Director, CCCCC
"There is documented signs from the earthquakes where there has been that compaction so Monkey River has sunken a little bit and then there was the hurricane that destroyed that destroyed all of the vegetation. At one point most of the large trees right in Monkey River had disappeared and that allowed an even faster sinking of the sand."

"Monkey River is in a sense a harbinger of what is to come for many other communities, not just in Belize but in the Caribbean but it is not solely caused just by climate change."

Still, the situations in Monkey River, Gales Point, and even the Cayes are the kind of loss and damage that should be poised to benefit from COP27's historic fund. Now it just remains to be seen whether they can access that money before it's too late.

Cherisse Halsall, 7 news.

And since our visit to Monkey River efforts have been made by the same crew that rebuilt Silk Caye to shore up the Monkey River Coastline.

Eworth Garbutt and his team were there in October putting down sandbags and building fences to keep the beach in, and the water at bay.

It remains to be seen if those minimal efforts will in fact make a difference in Monkey River, a village that remains on the brink.

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