The authors and partners of “Sustainability Now” are Warren and Michael Flint, a father and son team. We have both relocated from the United States to Belize and each of us in our own way is passionate about sustainability. We also are both captivated by our newly adopted country of Belize.
Warren Flint, Ph.D., is Principal of Five E’s Unlimited , an IBC located in Belize, Central America. He is an internationally recognized sustainability specialist and change agent who applies his background in sustainability science, ecology, and human-nature interactions to assist communities wanting to improve or reinvent themselves. Warren possesses a unique set of skills in community development because he is able to ground his community facilitation and conflict mediation talent in 33 years of content expertise as an environmental scientist and sustainability specialist. His consulting work in sustainable community development, adaptive watershed and coastal zone management, and education have equipped him with a wealth of experience in collaborative fact-finding programs, providing visionary inspiration and pragmatic, science-based understanding to problem-solving, community development, and strategic planning. Warren enables clients to integrate self-defined community and business goals with environmentally sound decisions. He assists places in creating authentic choices for community improvement by providing effective responses to environmental degradation, economic decline, and community disintegration through scientific inquiry and consensus building. Through his unique project design and leadership, he encourages shared relationships among ecologic, social justice, and economic development interests. Dr. Flint has provided international community development leadership in places such as Nigeria, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom, as well as throughout the U.S. and Canada developing research, management, policy protocol, and public consultation toward achieving sustainable development goals, as defined by governments, corporations, communities, and non-governmental organizations. Dr. Flint has provided leadership for many projects focused upon multiple-discipline international inquiries into scientific, technological, and societal problems related to the management and remediation of large ecosystems. Dr. Flint’s publications include more than 60 peer reviewed journal articles, monographs, book chapters, 3 books, and several web sites on topics of his research and his theoretical understanding for sustainability.
Michael Flint possesses a B.S. from Virginia Tech University and has served seven (7) years as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Navy. During his naval career he traveled to many parts of the world struggling with the concept of sustainable development. While in the Navy Michael held extensive leadership and training responsibilities and developed a keen sense for seeing the systemic nature of things. For example, he encourages looking beyond solving problems one at a time, to a position where one can envision the development of systems that prevent problems from occurring in the first place. In addition to being a partner in this blog project, Michael offers the reader’s perspective with regards to everything that we publish on this site. He is the eyes and the voice of the reader we are trying to reach. If you should ever see Michael on the streets of Belize you will surely see a large, black, lab/ridgeback mix dog following close behind for “Komo” his best friend goes everywhere with him.
Belize Background: Country Overview
Since this blog is about Sustainability Now in Belize and many of our readers might not be intimately familiar with the country, we should provide some brief background. Therefore the next several blogs will discuss different aspects of the country.
Belize is a small country with a population of fewer than 350,000 people, most all of whom speak English. Belize, only 8,867 square miles in size, is situated on the northeast coast of Central America. The country’s greatest length from north to south is 173 miles and its greatest width is 67 miles. The Caribbean Sea lies to the east and from the air its turquoise waters are clear, allowing the multicolored coral formation of the Great Barrier Reef to be easily observed. Coral islands called cayes, covered with stands of mangrove trees, dot the coast. Lying in aquamarine and jade-colored bays, these cayes protect the jungled coastline from the ravages of the sea. Part Caribbean, part Central American, the country is mostly wide-open spaces fringed by white sand and swaying palms. Inshore from the beaches are lush jungles and small mountains all of which seemed to be populated by beautiful waterfalls.
The country is divided by the eastward flowing Belize River which is a major transportation route for native goods. The north half of the country is made up of synclinal folds of low lying, parallel limestone ridges running NNE to SSW. These jungle covered ridges are the spines of fossil coral reefs. In the valleys between, run perennial rivers. This area, known as the “Maya Heartland,” contains the classic Maya center of Tikal as well as many minor ceremonial centers and hundreds of occupation sites. Great mangrove swamps line the northern coast, extend inland for many miles, and cover much of the northern district.
Southern Belize is the site of large plantations that grow citrus, an important export. Rising out of the palm-covered coastal plain of southern Belize are the Maya Mountains. Mostly unexplored, they are covered by verdant jungle and a canopy of tropical rain clouds. Unsuitable for agriculture, the ridge of the southern region is relatively dwarfed by Victoria Peak which reaches 3,680 feet. The southern plateau becomes broader and descends westward. The northern part of this region, known as the Mountain Pine Ridge area, lies in the Cayo District. The higher elevation (1,500-2,700 feet) provides spectacular falls for the many streams that lace the land. The plateau’s northern edge is a broken limestone escarpment descending steeply to the Sibun River Valley, an area dotted with many unexplored caves.
By definition there is no true rainforest in Belize; however, the quantity of rainfall is only slightly insufficient. Instead, the country is decorated with broadleaf jungle and cohune forest termed “moist tropical forest”. This forest, savanna wetlands and the Mayan Mountain areas of the country is habitat for an incredible variety of fauna. The climate is sub-tropical, tempered by trade winds. Temperatures in coastal districts range from about 10*C (50*F) to about 35.6*C (96*F); inland the range is greater. Rainfall varies from an average of 1,295 millimeters in the north to 4,445 millimeters in the extreme south. The dry season usually extends from February to May and there is sometimes a dry spell in August.
Belize Socio-Cultural Aspects
The socio-cultural characteristics of a people or region become very important in developing strategies of Sustainability Now for a place like Belize. History plays an important part in the role of the social and cultural drivers of community development.
The original inhabitants of Belize were Preceramic hunters and gatherers. The Maya Indians populated the area from 2000 B.C. until the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s. However, many Maya groups had left the once heavily populated area in the 10th century A.D., and immigrated to the Yucatan. It was not until after the British occupied Belize that they returned. Today, there are three distinct Mayan groups, each speaking their own dialect of the Mayan language.
As a British colony, Belize was made up of pirates, lumbermen and their slaves. There was assimilation with the neighboring Spanish, Mexican and Indian populations. Today’s population balance is approximately:
Creoles – 30%
Mestizos – 42%
Garifuna – 7%
Maya – 11%
East Indians – 2%
Other, including Caucasians and Asians – 8%
This is one of the least densely populated places on earth. In Belize, you enjoy plenty of elbow room…and plenty of opportunity. Belize is also peaceful, democratic, and stable. The country has little to no conflict with the rest of the world. Up until the last several years, few others than scuba divers, sports fisherman, and Caribbean sun-seekers have given Belize a second thought. There are aspects of Belizean culture that can be considered good for business and the economy, for example the friendly and open nature of the people which is generally good for tourism….but, there are also important aspects of the culture that offer frictional and other resistance to development, especially in vital factors of production and productivity.
We need to acknowledge that culture is much more than music, food, dress and arts. Beliefs, values and behaviors are actually more important in terms of cultural impact on economic development and we should make greater efforts at understanding these aspects of our evolving culture through continuous scientific research. We should engage in developing expert knowledge in cultural engineering that can help to guide us in promoting those positive aspects of our culture and changing those not-so-positive ones.
Belizeans are fiercely independent folks, proud of their young democracy. More than 70% of registered voters turn out for every election. The political process in this country is dynamic, grassroots, and underfunded. Maybe the reason Belizeans are so engaged in their political process is because they prefer to be in charge of their own destinies and aren’t interested in handing over any real power to government. This translates to few laws and little restriction. Belizeans seem to take a hands-off approach to living in general. Nobody interferes in his neighbor’s business.