Sometimes it seems like all of Belize is burning.
As I rode the bus from Punta Gorda to Belize City, every few miles we would pass another fire. Charred stumps, withering branches, a small bush crumpling slowly into flames–and everywhere the char, seared earth and dying coconut palms. Even at night, plumes of white smoke rise into the sky, illuminated by the eerie orange glow of the flames. Everywhere, the air smells of woodsmoke.
This is slash-and-burn agriculture at its worst, and I feel only vaguely reassured that Belize is an environmental “success story”: 36% of the country is set aside as nature preserve, and it is considered one of the best-preserved countries in Central America. If this is the *best*, what are the other places like? I try to picture the great fire, 5 acres a day in Belize burning into a desolation of white ash, and it boggles my mind. And to think of the 2.7 MILLION acres of Amazonian rainforest burned every year…it’s too much to imagine. I see acres and acres of jungle, crumpling slowly into flames as the ashy landscape expands, and the fire burns, and burns, and burns.
I am still amazed that Belize is considered an environmental success. I can’t imagine what the other places are like.