World Environment Day was celebrated all around the world on June 5, 1997, and Belize was sure to take part in the celebrations. This year's theme was "For Life on Earth". On this day, San Pedro boasted one of its most beautiful assets, the Great Barrier Reef. Green Reef representative, Guillermo Paz, was responsible for organizing the activities that took place at the Central Park.
The activities began with a parade around the main streets of San Pedro Town where students from all schools paraded in their school uniforms. The classes of Infant I, Standard I & IA, and Standard VI from San Pedro Roman Catholic Primary School took time out to present themselves in costumes representing different marine creatures. ABC Pre School was the only school in the parade that had a float. Their banner read: "Anchors Be Careful, Save our Reef" and their float represented the sea bed filled with marine life.
Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Angel Nuñez, accompanied by Miss Kainie Manuel, greeted the large gathering at Central Park as the "kiddies" lined up to receive their free ideals. Miss San Pedro 1996-97, Jocelyn Bremekamp, welcomed the crowd and she expressed her joy in seeing so many people at the park, especially all the school children.
In his address, Mayor Alberto Nunez said, "We cannot afford to lose such a precious jewel like our reef. It is important to inform everybody about preservation." Mr. Nunez stressed the fact that we live in a touristic island and the reef is our major attraction. Protection of the reef is our main concern and that it is up to us to raise awareness about its importance.
Guillermo Paz, who organized the activities at that park, commented on the importance of the reef "Today, San Pedro joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Environment Day. The main reason for celebrating World Environment Day is the belief that every single human being has the right to enjoy clean, pure water and nature with all its animals and plants. This is, and must be, our commitment.
On this day, we assess the things made in defense of the environment and we look forward to meeting greater challenges. We must also recognize the acts of courage and determination of ordinary people who play an exceptional role in conserving the environment.
The utmost solution to every environmental problem, from cutting down the forests to pollution of our waters, lies in each of us taking the responsibility for our own acts and not giving up hope.
Each time a person stands up for the environment or acts to improve it, there is a small light of hope. The achievement of every single person is important when looked at alone, but immense when the whole world acts together. That is why, we as a community must work together and join forces to make our island clean and help protect our reef and wildlife.
It is appropriate that in the International Year of the Reef, the theme "For Life on Earth" has been chosen for this year's World Environment Day. Our reef is the island's most important natural resource and we must take every step necessary to preserve it in its most natural state. Our reef protects us from hurricanes and bad storms, provides us with a source of food and most importantly, is the main tourist attraction.
We are blessed with a healthy reef with an abundance of marine life. But this can change as the population increases and unplanned development takes place. Some of the biggest threats to our reef are over-fishing, coastal development, mangrove clearing, sewage, pollution, poorly managed boating, diving and other recreational activities. Let us not wait for June 5th, to commit ourselves to protect the environment. Let us make every day World Environment Day."
Poems were recited by students from Ambergris Preparatory, Lidia's Institute of Fine Education, San Pedro High School, and San Pedro R.C. School, all of them paying tribute to the barrier reef and Belize's natural resources. These were two of the poems read:
EYE ON THE REEF
by Amos D. Mark
The peace inside me grew graciously,
As I savored a beauty unsurpassed.
Serenity of life; a harmony of motion.
Belize's Reef boasts wealth,
Wealth more than oceans.
I learnt that you say, "nunca"..."nunca"
If ever you're asked to leave this "agua"
In it you have company "fish tapa fish."
So I'll share with you a heart-felt wish,
Don't take this life for money or dish.
You should know that this reef is a charm.
So why be a beast, why would you harm
A thing with more life than life alone.
Your toddler today, tomorrow a throne.
It would break my heart and God's above
To find Belize turning aback
On the blue, green, yellow and black:
The colors of life; a reef of natural love.
© Copyright 1997 Masakhane Productions from the book "As The Dust Settles", a collection of 11 poems by Amos D. Mark
by Kelly Eiley and Shayana Batres
A roaring noise out of the sea
came up and called
Hey friends! Make room for me.
I am your reef, you fishermen
I protect your shores
Both day and night.
I guard the ships,
And cry, Sail on!
I tell you when the night has come.
Your heritage I am
Why destroy me?
Protect me, Preserve me.
Your heritage I am.
San Pedro High School presented a creative skit to inform and educate the audience about our nation's natural resources and the high school band, The New Combination, was also present. They played four songs, including Madonna's "La Isla Bonita", which was appropriate for the day's events. ABC Pre School delighted the audience with a modeling show, where they showcased many of the reef's creatures in colorful and beautifully arranged costumes and headpieces wore by the young ladies.
World Environment Day is one of the principal means through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. On the 4th of December, 1996, the World Heritage Committee formally adopted the nomination of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve as a World Heritage Site under the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Convention. This convention provides for the protection of those cultural and natural properties deemed to be of outstanding universal importance.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve is a natural property consisting of seven sites: Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Blue Hole Natural Monuments, Half Moon Caye Natural Monuments, Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park, and Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve. As a World Heritage Site, these protected areas must receive adequate protection and management.