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When things are stressful as they are today, I turn to nature for a connection that offers peace, beauty and today, some good news.

Oceana

Tuesday, Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the Government of Belize (in 2004 and 2007) null and void, effectively ending the Belizean government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Meso American Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world and providing definitive setback to The Government of Belize and the petroleum prospecting companies issued the contracts. In 1842, in his study of the evolution of coral reefs, Charles Darwin declared that Belize was home to “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.”

The ruling, was in response to a case brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. Oceana has long voiced its concern about the potentially devastating impact of an oil spill on Belize’s reef and it's economy, which depends heavily on tourism and the barrier reef.

Remark from Oceana lauding the courts decision:

“This is a great day for the people and country of Belize and its democratic process and it shows that we, as ordinary citizens, need not sit back and only complain about all the wrong decisions our Government makes, but that we can use the Judiciary system to settle them.”

The court overturned the contracts after determining that the government failed to assess the environmental impact on Belize’s ocean, as required by law, prior to issuing the contracts. The court also found that contracts were made to companies that did not demonstrate a proven ability to contribute the necessary funds, assets, machinery, equipment, tools and technical expertise to drill safely.

Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years.  In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the Government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship - stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by quickly organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” on February 29, 2012 in which 29,235 people (Belize’s entire population is approximately 350,000) came from all over the country to cast their votes.

In this historic vote, 96 percent of voters voted against offshore exploration and drilling.  The government subsequently almost lost its majority in the national election that followed these votes. Oceana is fighting for a complete ban on offshore drilling in Belize and believes the Government of Belize should allow the people to express their opinion in an official referendum.

I've done some diving and snorkeling in barrier reefs and can attest to their great beauty. Take a look at what was saved by this court decision; coral from the Meso American Reef off Belize:

           Flower Coral, Belize
                                               Flower Coral by Optical Allusion,flr

                    Gorgonian and Sea Fan, Belize
                                        Gorgonian and Sea Fan by Optical Allusion,flr

          Brain Coral and Neon Gobies, Belize
                                    Brain Coral and Neon Govies by Optical Allusion,flr

                   Gorgonian and Pink Vase Sponge, Belize
                                Gorgonian and Pink Vase Sponge by Optical Allusion,flr

                                          Knobby Cactus Coral, Belize
                               Knobby Cactus Coral by Optical Allision,flr

This was a hard fought two year battle. We have to celebrate each victory in the battle against climate change

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