As the Trump Administration opens more waters for oil extraction, tiny Belize shows the way

Glover's Reef Atoll, Belize
The North end of Glover’s Reef Atoll in Belize

Like most developing countries, Belize relies on its natural resources for its economy. Oil constitutes more than a quarter of its exports, with agriculture as the mainstay. Yet tourism has increasingly become a major player in the economy, and a majority of the residents of Belize understand the importance of tourism and keeping their country a pristine vacation destination. Belize is world famous for its barrier reef and numerous nature and marine preserves, and the government has made a commitment to putting the environment first in order to preserve this most important resource.

On January 4, Donald Trump proposed oil exploration in nearly all waters off of the US mainland. If it passes, it will open up about 390 million square miles of protected areas. However, on December 29 the government of Belize announced a complete moratorium on further offshore oil exploration, as any offshore oil development would undoubtedly put its reefs in danger and sully the country’s reputation as a pristine destination for tourists.

Belize’s decision to choose reefs over oil is something that the world needs to do more of if it is serious about saving the planet’s coral reef ecosystems. Coral reef ecosystems are the most susceptible natural systems in the world, and are under extreme threat from climate change and other human-related ventures such as energy production, so it is encouraging to see such small contries as Belize taking the lead in environmental protection. We are proud of our adopted country!

[photo by Madeleine Lomont]