How offshore drilling will affect Belize

What happens in the ocean, doesn’t stay in the ocean.

How offshore drilling will affect Belize

 By Jaclyn Castellanos

 Any Belizean can tell you that the heart of their economy is tourism. People from all over the world travel to the country of Belize to explore its vast jungles, swim, snorkel and scuba dive in its beautiful oceans. Charles Darwin once referred to the Belizean Barrier Reef as “the most remarkable Reef in the West Indies”. And with good reason, it is the second largest coral reef system in the world. This is Belize’s number one tourist destination. Nearly half of everyone who visits the country also visits the reef. Belizeans take great pride in the reef and have gone to long lengths to protect it, for example it has been designated a World Heritage Site since 1996. Already the Reef’s health is being threatened with pollution, sedimentation, agrochemical run-off (from banana and citrus industries near the coast), coastal development, tourism and overfishing. It simply can’t afford any more stress, the current damage has affected 40% of the reef and many think it is irreversible. Belize is known all over the world for its beauty and environmental diversity. It already has much to offer and now some want oil to be added to that list. This decision would be nothing short of destructive.

 Offshore drilling is the extraction of oil and/or gas resources from an underwater location. This is not only dangerous it’s not nearly the most effective or efficient way to produce energy. For starters the most difficult challenge is finding an area that hasn’t been exhausted of its oil. If an area is found a long process of installing offshore drilling rigs begins which can cost the drilling party millions of dollars. According to the Gulf Coast Environmental Defense’s Offshore Drilling Primer, these rigs produce pollution in the form of “drilling mud’s, cuttings, produced waters, workover fluids, deck drainage, air emissions from the rig machinery and support vessels, as well as large amounts of trash”. Doesn’t exactly sound like the best ingredients to throw into one of the most sensitive and beautiful ecosystems on earth. The pollution however, is not the biggest issue with offshore drilling is that machines and people aren’t perfect. Accidents happen but unfortunately in cases like these, those accidents happen on a large scale that can affect millions of people. In the past, human error on oil rigs has been responsible for leaks, spills, blowouts, barge collusions, pipeline corrosion and explosions. The coral reef and Belize’s economy simply could not withstand the impact if any of these incidents were to occur. For ANY spill that occurs only 5-15% can be cleaned up and worse if a spill is less than 1,000 barrels it doesn’t have to be reported because the Federal Oil Spill Risk Analysis considers that size to be ‘small’. It is also important to note that most oil rigs cannot withstand earthquakes and… hurricanes. In 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed 113 oil platforms and 457 pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. This makes Belize even more prone to accidents because the country is constantly at risk of hurricanes.

If we allow overseas oil companies to invade our oceans and lives the consequences could be devastating. We all witnessed the horrors that the Gulf of Mexico experienced after the BP oil spill early last year. An ecosystem was destroyed, the marine life will never recover, thousands lost their jobs, thousands of animals died, and millions of Americans were affected.  Is this a risk Belizeans are willing to take? So that a few with their own agendas can profit off of pollution, death and greed. It is simply unethical to offshore drill off the coast of Belize when so much is at stake. Firstly, in my opinion oil rigs are hideous and would taint the serene coast line. Nobody wants to be laying on a white sandy beach, sipping a pina colada and staring off into the distance…. At an oil rig. Secondly, it has been proven that the surrounding marine life will be disturbed, which will affect the fishery industry and those who depend on marine life for food. Thirdly, it will affect the environment, especially the Great Barrier Reef which has already been damaged. And fourthly, tourism, the largest contributor to Belize’s economy. The Great Barrier Reef isn’t just a beautiful site; it’s one of the largest draws for tourist. Take the reef away and the tourist will stop coming. No one wants to swim in an ocean polluted with garbage, oil and floating dead fish nor would that make an attractive cover for a brochure promoting Belize. If there are no tourists visiting then many of the countries industries would simply fall apart.

Belize has always been at the forefront of preservation and conservation, offshore drilling would make all of those efforts meaningless and hypocritical. Belize has experienced hardships before due to poor decisions and bad deals the government has made. It is now more important than ever that Belizeans stand up together to fight for the safety of the Great Barrier Reef, their economy but also for respect from their leaders. It is not an opinion, it is a fact that the country of Belize would never be able to recover if anything near the BP oil spill catastrophe were to happen. So why risk multiple industries and an entire economy so the minority can make a few bucks. Do the right thing and vote for no offshore drilling.

 

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