How Belize Is Celebrating Earth Day 2022 as an Eco-Tourism Destination

by Carolee Chanona

Aside from being the first country in the world to reject all offshore oil in 2018, we’ve also banned a roster of single-use plastic products and successfully moved off the “World Heritage Sites in Danger” list too, proving Belize a tiny but mighty powerhouse when it comes to conservation initiatives. Under the theme “Invest In Our Planet,” Belize takes Earth Day 2022 as an opportunity to celebrate a wealth of conservation-forward drives. Investing in our planet means stopping reliance on out-of-date fossil fuel technologies and redirecting our attention to repairing our planet, protecting the species living on it, and providing opportunities for all. We have proven that together, we can tackle monumental challenges. Let conquering climate change be one—our legacy. Celebrated every April 22, Happy Earth Day 2022!

Mangrove Planting in Belize City with Miss Earth 2021

Mangroves ready to be planted for Earth Day 2022. Image via Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation

On Friday morning, the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation is honoring some of the nation’s most essential flora—the mangrove, to be precise. Mangrove forests play a major role in protecting the coastline from erosion, and the department is planning a Restoration and Planting ceremony at Seashore Park across from the Ministry of Blue Economy in Belize City.

Miss Earth 2021 Destiny Wagner celebrates Earth Day 2022 in Belize City. Image via Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation

Special guest Miss Earth 2021 Destiny Wagner—the Punta Gorda native who made history as the first Belizean to hold a major international beauty title—delivered remarks. In an Earth Day message, the Prime Minister of Belize says, “The expansion of our marine protected areas and the designation of all national lands within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site as Mangrove Reserves are significant as we further safeguard the functioning integrity of our ocean and coastal resources, which is key to the realization of a successful ocean-based economy and improved quality of lives for our people.”

Greening Across Belize: A Tree Planting Initiative

Our planet is currently losing forests at a staggering rate: We’re losing more than 18 million acres of forests every year — that’s about 27 soccer fields of forest lost every minute. Forests are one of our most powerful tools to combat climate change and provide food and habitat for the species of the world. But our forests are under threat. That’s why the Belize Audubon Society, a non-governmental organization co-managing over 180,000 protected acres on behalf of Belizeans, is offering free Mahogany trees to all visitors.

Belize Audubon Society (BAS) celebrates Earth Day 2022 with their annual Greening Across Belize initiative. Images via BAS

Mahogany – the exotic hardwood beauty of the tropics – has been the wood of choice for high-end furniture for centuries, now largely endangered due to logging and British exploitation during colonial rule. As Belize’s national tree, the Mahogany is excellent for carbon sequestration and soil protection. Stop in Guanacaste National Park or Audubon’s Belize City headquarters, snap a photo of your sapling, and plant your Mahogany tree to celebrate Earth Day 2022.

Community-Led Coral Restoration with Fragments of Hope

When Hurricane Iris hit southern Belize in 2001, it decimated its coral reefs. But within 10 years, a radical restoration project brought the reef back to life, thanks to one community-based organization in Placencia: Fragments of Hope. Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, harboring 25 percent of all marine life. In Belize, its entire 196-mile coastline is proudly hugged by the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which comprises the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.

Climate change, rising sea temperatures, and coral bleaching threaten this mosaic of marine and coastal habitats; their loss would not only be devastating for marine life, but also for over a billion people globally who directly and indirectly benefit from healthy coral reefs. That’s why Fragments of Hope developed a coral restoration training course endorsed by the Belize Fisheries Department, certifying over 70 Belizeans to date (2021 figures via BBC) to transplant fragmented coral by hand (handling live coral is strictly prohibited under Belize law with the exception of these certified handlers) in shallow water.

© Fragments of Hope
Restored corals in Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize.

 “Our message for this Earth Day 2022 is that we as a global society need to do better. What we’ve been doing so far is not working for our planet. We often think about ecosystems and biomes on a small scale but on a larger scale, business as usual is not working, so we all need to do our part to radically change our ways to protect our planet earth.”
– Lisa Carne, founder and executive director of Fragments of Hope in a statement to the UN News

So far, over 85,000 corals have been planted in the Laughing Bird Caye National Park, as reported by BBC. Long-term monitoring shows 89% survived after 14 years – much higher than typical survivorship after restoration. Overall, the coral cover of the seafloor in the park increased from 6% to 50% between 2010 to 2017. Reports also suggest an upward trend in corals around Belize as a whole, rising from 11% of the seafloor surveyed in 2006 to 17% in 2018 through natural recovery.

Coral reefs can recover without human intervention, but more slowly. Amid warming seas, they may need all the help they can get (Credit: Fragments of Hope)

“Our work is important because we are striving to prevent the extinction of the Caribbean acroporids corals which are listed as critically endangered and are one step away from extinction in the wild. We think it is also important to educate and inspire people to do more to understand reefs and the threats to them such as climate change,” Carne explains in a statement to the United Nations News.

Cocktails For A Cause with Copalli Rum

Images via Life & Thyme

While Earth Day puts sustainability and eco-forward initiatives into the conversation, the ideas do not disappear when the calendar page turns. For Copalli Rum, Cocktails for a Cause is more than just a reason to sip another drink; besides the distillery’s design to be carbon neutral, the company proves that business and nature can be supportive partners. As Mark Breene, CEO, Copalli USA. “This program – in honor of Earth Day – is a great opportunity to engage consumers and our partners in the on and off-premise while reinforcing the importance of being environmentally responsible.”

At various locations in California, Florida, and New York, Cocktails for a Cause will be featured. Using the Copalli Rum White, Barrel Rested, or Cacao, the libations will be served with a QR code that explains the program and its associated beneficiaries. For more information on this program and participating locations, please the brand’s website. And, if there isn’t a location near you, consider serving your own Cocktails for a Cause. While Copalli Rum will be donating $2 for each cocktail to its various charities, anyone can look to make a change.

Founded in 2018, the Copal Tree Distillery, located in Toledo District, is committed to supporting the local ecosystem by distilling fresh-pressed cane juice from a native, non-GMO, heirloom sugar cane variety, grown on the first organically certified farm in the country.

Header image courtesy Belize Audubon Society.

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