Planet earth has sustained life for over 3.5 billion years but for how long will it keep doing so? That’s a question that we should ask ourselves considering the fact that a great number of species have become extinct and others have become endangered mainly because of human-induced activities that are having irreversible damages on our environment. Presently, our earth is experiencing the effects of global warming or what others know as climate change. Global warming increases with population growth because for the most part, it is the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that result in the rise of global average temperatures. Humans contribute to global warming by burning large amounts of coal, oil and natural gas which releases billions of tons of CO2 every year. The more people there are walking on our planet, the more is the consumption of nature’s fossil fuels.
Earth is beautiful, vibrant, complex, a one of its kind planet yet so extremely fragile, a characteristic that many of us fail to realize just as we fail to realize the inextricable link between sexual and reproductive health and our environment. In Belize there are several major environmental issues impacting the natural resources. They are:
High rate of Deforestation: Belize is experiencing a deforestation rate that is twice that of Central America (2.3% vs. 1.2% annually). If the current rate continues unabated, the forest cover will decrease by 58% by 2020 and will be gone within the next 40 years.
Improper solid and liquid waste management: While the amount of solid waste being generated per capita is low for the region, the inability to properly dispose the waste poses another serious environmental threat to Belize. Currently, none of the landfills in the country are properly sealed to prevent the leaching of pollutants into ground water. Landfills are frequently burned, a practice that is environmentally harmful with serious health implications. Likewise, the inability to properly treat sewage waste poses a continuing and serious threat to the marine ecosystem and the Barrier Reef System. At present, only three population centers have sewage waste-treatment facilities (Belize City, Belmopan [capital], and San Pedro); even in these municipalities.
Coastal Development: escalating, uncontrollable coastal development is a major threat to our coastal zone. A recent study estimated that 75-80% of all coastal land in Belize has been purchased by foreigners who will develop the land into condos, resorts, or residential properties, usually at the expense of the mangroves and littoral forests.
Rising poverty rate: People in Belize have the mentality, that the more kids they have, the more are their chances of getting out of poverty. Nonetheless, facts have proven that this is false. Belize’s poverty rate lies at approximately 43% and it continues escalating.
Now, how do these environmental problems link to sexual and reproductive health? Many women do not know about the existence of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights. If women could have control over the decisions regarding their body and fertility then a lot of unwanted pregnancies could be prevented. But apart from women, planning a family takes two people. When women and men can choose the size and spacing of their families, they tend to have smaller, healthier families. This has a ripple effect that benefits communities socially, economically, and environmentally. This all leads to one of the most effective ways to address population growth and work to achieve larger global sustainable development goals, which is to increase access to voluntary family planning programs and services especially to young people. This will definitely have an impact in addressing one of the greatest problems that can be foreseen, as being a result of rapid population growth, which is the increase consumption of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.
The world is ours and everyone has the right to make decisions concerning their life. However, despite the fact that the world is crumbling apart we need to take action now and make life changing decisions that will benefit everyone in the long-run. Global climatic change is having detrimental effects on our environment but we hold the future in our hands and we can make a difference especially as young and dynamic individuals. Voluntary Family Planning is one useful and positive way of infusing into our young people the importance of protecting our planet and its valuable resources. Presently, the real issue is that we have failed to realize that we need to develop and implement an environmental strategy for our increased energy consumption which is directly linked to over-population and is the major problem contributing to global warming. Former Vice President Al Gore impressed the world with his Oscar winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that the solution to climate change and its formidable negative consequences lies in our hands.