As some of you know from social media and the San Pedro Sun, Ambergris Caye just underwent a 4-day massive clean up organized by the Belize Tourism Industry Association with assistance from the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, Oceana Belize, and San Pedro Town Council. The most important and first was the San Pedrito “Highway” which has been a longstanding area of trouble. I first remember starting to document the garbage in that area back in 2012, but it was there a long time already. I also remember coming home in tears one day after being asked to go there and take progress pics, and watched a big yellow bulldozer spread the trash around for landfill. It broke my heart.
The areas listed below were also scheduled to be cleaned depending on how progress went on the areas before them.
Other than a small bit of Boca del Rio nothing else got touched. Why? Because the airstrip area was allowed to get so bad that it took up all the time and resources.
With 60 or so people a day, golf carts, trucks, trailers, backhoes and bulldozers, four days was not enough to clear the area of garbage. We did what we could, and the Town Board has now said they will step up and finish the job to make the San Pedrito “Highway” pristine as it should be.
Having won TripAdvisor awards for Travelers Choice #1 Island in the world for 2013 and 2014 it is extremely unacceptable that the following video should even exist. I almost feel like it’s a complete a sham that we won. I say almost because I know many wonderful people of this island helped a great deal in our wins.
When you see this video (and the two coming up in my next clean-up campaign coverage) you will have no doubt in your mind, we are in a full out environmental crisis and we need all hands on deck to turn this slow-motion train wreck around and make Ambergris Caye green and clean.
No one should have to live beside garbage or see that much of it on their way home. Childhood memories should not be filled with massive piles of trash in their neighborhoods. Tourists should not see this coming in on the plane or when they drive around – which they have been for years.
On the last day of clean up and her second day of volunteering, my friend Diana Evans needed to word purge and get her thoughts out on the experience. She started the process in my messenger and offered to share her words below with the world. I thought it was a great way to begin my coverage of this monumental event. I will be doing a second post documenting my four days at the cleanup campaign , and doing 2 more important videos. That post will also include a full list once I get it as, so many people need to be thanked in getting us this far.
A heartfelt moment from Diana Evans island resident and business owner:
The clean up of the San Pedrito road was heartbreaking and heartwarming. It was an emotional experience.
Heartbreaking because the life-giving mangroves are being poisoned. Humans have deliberately put trash in the water. The mangroves are trying to grow in water that is scary to look at. The water is a strange polluted color. It looks and is, toxic.
Heartwarming because there were so many hardworking people doing their best to remove this trash. They were standing in the water hand picking the trash and placing it on the road for pick up. This is not fun work. It is simple depressing backbreaking work.
Then it was either loaded into trucks or placed into bags to be hauled off.
There were not enough volunteers or enough trucks. Not enough water or snacks. Not enough garbage bags or gloves, yet the volunteers persisted. All of this done in the hot sun.
On the way to the dump, there is even more trash that has been used to make roads. It is simply unbelievable. You immediately feel furious that this has been allowed to happen. The clean up on just one of these roads will take weeks.
Then you turn to the dump. There is more trash on the side of the road. Cars, fridges, couches etc. where people have, I presume, not been able to pay the trash fee so have abandoned their stuff right on the side of the road.
The dump itself is awful. There is a large warehouse-like building where the household trash is kept before it gets barged off the island. The stench is unbearable. Outside of this building, the trash from the mangroves is being sorted. The piles are the size of buildings. It is a depressing place to be yet the workers there are helpful and hardworking.
Every person in San Pedro should visit the dump to see what goes on.
My lasting impression is that I want to be part of the solution. I want to help organize every single person who lives here to take action and save this island. It is so obvious that we are destroying our environment. We will not have a reef or a habitable island in a few short years. It’s as simple as that.
Every single person who lives here is dependent on tourism. We have the choice right now. To be an embarrassment to the world or to be an example to the world. We can render our island uninhabitable with a dead reef or we can clean up our act and be proud of what we have done.
The answer is obvious. Lets do it. NOW!
Many more pictures to come when I tell my personal story of the four day clean up of the San Pedrito Highway and a small bit of Boca del Rio lagoon area.