One day in a college seminar, our class was introduced to a character called Pogo. It was derived from a political comic satire created by Walt Kelly in 1970 that depicted Pogo, a cartoon figure overwhelmed by immense environmental pollution in his world. Most notably, in the comic; Kelly phrased the 1812 war quote “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Today, I wonder what Pogo would think if he were to stepped foot into the lush and futile land of Belize. Would he be impressed by the endless bountiful natural beauty stretched north to south, east to west? Or would he be impressed by the numerous tourism activities that are vibrantly striving amongst nature and its people? As Belizeans, we have come to accept that our environment is not sheltered from hosting a tropical Grand Budapest Hotel filled with holidaymakers eagerly swiping away their limitless Master and Visa cards. It is a common singularity that continues to grow steadfast, however, at what cause?
Many might think that tourism in Belize is the ultimate key to the country’s economic success. It creates employment, foreign exchange, and promotes cultural integrity throughout all districts. Nonetheless, some may also argue that tourism is a prominent force that continues to invade terrestrial and marine biodiversity one acre at a time. In recent years, the country of Belize has seen an increase in infrastructural development; with the intent to promote further tourism activities. This has led to an outpour of criticism from environmental activists, taking on legislation and educational platforms to warn about the negative environmental externalities these tourism developments may have on the country. Though this may seem like a worthy fight, it is founded upon a green romantic idea of being “Tree huggers.” Certainly, the world would become as lovely as the front cover of a Jehovah’s Witness preacher book if we were to all become “Tree huggers”. However, this reality does not justify a sound economy.
Hence, there ought to be an equal balance between the environment and tourism. That’s where the common ground of Sustainable Development comes into action. The idea of “development that meets the need of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need.” holds the key principles that govern a justifiable green life. In Belize, sustainable tourism can be encouraged through strategic environmental assessments, taken into consideration through the proper legislative process, and upheld by financially transparent forces with intent for a sound sustainable future. Belize’s tourism sector can strive on the understanding that its green efforts and activities are promoting economic development without compromising its very natural resources. Moreover, the tourism Sector must also adhere to promoting cultural integrity and safeguarding indigenous communities that are often time affected by large-scale development. Through educational programs, employment, and inclusion, tourism can help mitigate further anthropogenic bombardment within these communities.
So, if Pogo is still lost in the sight of Belize’s current tourism state, I would like for him to have some hope. Maybe, I’d ask him to get a first-hand experience of the Belizean culture. Only then, he can get a glimpse of what tourism in Belize is capable of. Our nature of being green is more than just feeding the bin or cutting fewer trees. It is a holistic view that must interconnect the social, environmental, and economic states for responsible tourism. Maybe, as Belizeans; we are not the enemy of our demise, but I hope we seek for sustainable solutions that will preserve our land and integrity for generations to come.