The best news in Belize today is that because of increased efforts by the government and people, Covid-19 infection rates have been going down since spiking in November and December, and vaccine help is on the way. While we wait for the first batch of vaccines, which is scheduled to arrive in the next two months, our job is to keep our guards up, and not let up.
We don’t know how quickly the vaccines will help get us back to a state that is near the old normal, but we are confident in their eventual success, because vaccines have brought to heel diseases that have been the scourge of the world for centuries. Our old folk know about tuberculosis, diphtheria, yellow fever, poliomyelitis, and some of them know about small pox — diseases that once paralyzed mankind but are now controlled by vaccines.
Just as the wealthier countries in the world began using the vaccines that give life-saving immunity to Covid-19, there emerged variants that might be more contagious, and/or deadly, and/or capable of resisting the new vaccines. However, we have to believe that modern science will overcome.
In two months’ time, vaccines for our frontline workers and elders should reach our shores, and while we wait, just like the animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm who prayed, and worked toward that glorious day when they would be free of their oppressors, we must pray, and continue to heed the mandated measures that keep us safe.
The virus thrives in congested areas, and the easy-to-follow measures of wearing masks over our faces when we are out in the public, physical distancing, and washing/sanitizing our hands frequently, protect us from the disease.
Our simple task is to follow the safety measures as best as we can. Help is on the way. In two months’ time the first batch of vaccines should arrive, and we will then slowly begin the journey back to normal.
Belize must do its part to save our planet
One of the first acts of new US president, Joe Biden, was to sign an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, the largest international effort to date to address global warming. The US, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, had been a force behind the signing of the agreement in 2015, but under US president Donald Trump, the US withdrew, citing the financial cost of meeting the goals outlined by the agreement. President Trump said the agreement was bad for their economy, and that the Green Climate Fund, set up by the UN in 2010 as part of the framework to combat climate change, was a scheme to transfer wealth from rich countries to poor ones.
Belize is a signatory to the Paris Agreement. Last week our government formally ratified the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, a move that we were told will put us in line to negotiate a debt for nature swap that could give us some very critical debt relief.
Respected scientists the world over agree that human beings have been poor stewards of the earth, and serious effort must be made now, not tomorrow, to try to reverse the damage that has been done. The nations that have done the most harm to the planet are the so-called developed ones, and they are the ones that are called to do the most to help our planet breathe like it did before the industrial age began in the 18th century.
Helena Horton, in The Telegraph, says Stanley Johnson, the father of UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken up the honorary post of International Ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), and he will be at the major climate change conference COP26 (26th UN Climate Change Conference), scheduled to take place in Glasgow this summer, where he will lobby for Britain to rewild, go back to old-fashioned methods of farming such as growing rain-fed crops, producing grass fed livestock, and reducing tillage of soils.
Christopher Ketcham and Jeff Gibbs, in an article published recently in the Los Angeles Times, said that in December the Guardian published a letter co-signed by hundreds of scientists, writers and academics from 30 countries in which they sounded a warning to policymakers and all of us to become engaged with the issues of climate and the environment because the damage that is occurring and has occurred could lead to the “disruption and even collapse of our societies” in this century.
The writers of the letter said research had shown that “99% of the tall grass prairie in North America is gone, by one estimate; 96% of the biomass of mammals — biomass is their weight on Earth — now consists of humans, our pets and our farm animals; nearly 90% of the fish stocks the U.N. monitors are either fully exploited, overexploited or depleted; a multiyear study in Germany showed a 76% decline in insect biomass.”
One of the signatories of the letter, William Rees, a population ecologist at the University of British Columbia, said humans are “exploiting natural systems faster than the systems can regenerate…we are dumping waste at rates beyond nature’s assimilative capacity” and the symptoms of our violation of the environment are “warming temperatures, plunging biodiversity, worldwide deforestation and ocean pollution.”
Stanley Johnson might be extreme in his views, and in his call for rewilding, the abandonment of modern agriculture, but everyone in Belize who is living close to nature, our farmers and fisherfolk especially, sees that something isn’t right with our world.
There are people who still have their heads in the sand. Last year we had a crippling drought; we just came through the worst hurricane season on record, and while we didn’t get a major hit, we had record-breaking floods; our citrus and shrimp industries are struggling because of diseases; and the entire world is in the grip of a deadly pandemic. These are all signs of a sick world.
One way we can help is by employing best practices in agriculture, and that includes putting land to its best use, leaving sufficient forest cover in our farming areas to maintain biodiversity, and leaving a sufficient buffer along river and creek banks to prevent loss of top soil and leaching of pesticides and fertilizers into our waterways. Heavy rains wash silt and chemical pollutants from denuded river and creek banks, and these make their way down the waterways to the sea, where they poison and smother the spectacular corals that provide a perfect habitat for marine life, and are tourist attractions.