Building Belize dam would destroy valuable ecosystem

Your May 24 article "In Belize, electricity vs. tourism" brought to people's attention the problem of development in a developing nation. But in one article it was not possible to mention all the mistakes that Fortis Inc. and the Belize government are making.

The resistance to the dam is for good reason. Not only do the endangered scarlet macaws nest in this pristine forest, but the rare Morelet's crocodile has been discovered there. An undisturbed population of Baird's tapir thrives in the uninhabited upper reaches of the Macal River. Jaguar, ocelot, and margay still roam this forest. It's the only known location of Julian's mountain frog.

Not only are there no towns in this area, there are not even any indigenous people living there. This area is a completely wild place and a necessary piece of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, an ongoing project to protect critical habitat, migration routes, and breeding grounds.

The Environmental Impact Assessment produced by Agra CI Power Ltd. estimated that "over 90 percent of the riparian habitats would be destroyed" by the Chalillo dam. "Overall impacts to wildlife populations in the study area are anticipated to be major, negative, and long-term." The World Commission on Dams report found that large dams often don't work and "it is not possible to mitigate many of the impacts of reservoir creation on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity."

The people who live downstrean from the proposed dam and who depend on a natural environment for their income as ecotourism operators weren't given a say in the decision to build the dam. Even sadder, the citizens of Belize have not been promised cheaper electricity when the dam is completed.

When will we value our natural treasures enough to protect them? We cannot replace them when they are gone.
Rachel Crandell
Town & Country, Mo.
Board member, St. Louis Rain Forest Advocates

Rewards from those 'C' students

I found Susan DeMersseman's May 24 Opinion piece "Honor those hard-working grads who didn't quite make it to Harvard" so heartwarming and practical for today's graduates. As a teacher, I found it easy to work with the "A" students, as they would have earned their high marks no matter what I did.

The real reward and challenge was in working with the "B" and "C" students as they grappled with complex concepts and thought long and hard about questions and discussions. They were the ones who made me get up before dawn and kept me in my classroom until after dark.

As I look back at all those I have taught both at the elementary and college levels, there were amazing students at every grade point average. Students are individuals and, just like adults, are able to achieve great things with the right resources.

My "B" and "C" students earned straight "A's" in compassion, hard work, determination, problem solving, creativity, and generosity.

Unfortunately these aren't reflected on report cards. But those are the students that I hope will lead the world into complex and interesting times. They have the skills that will count most.
Shelly Luke Wille
San Francisco

Better way to beat gas prices

Regarding your May 25 article " 'Gas roots' protest over pump prices": A better way to get back at oil companies is to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, support gas mileage standards for SUVs and pickup trucks, and use your vehicle efficiently by planning errands in just one trip.
J. Finnell
Gillett, Wis.

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