An anniversary is a reason to celebrate, and when on September 21st 2006, Belize commemorated its first 25 years as a new nation, Belizeans indeed rejoiced. In this collection, the first of two volumes, distinguished economists, conservationists, lawyers, sociologists, and other scholars all longtime observers of Belize and its people take stock. In most cases they present, for the first time ever, essays that focus on Belize, a country that is at once deceptively uncomplicated yet surprisingly complex. The essays, which reflect on what brought Belize to this point, are eminently readable, but provocative and challenging. The authors' in-dept analysis and evaluation of data, policies, laws, and practices from the economic, environmental, societal, and cultural sectors are just the beginning. Policy-makers, decision-makers, stake holders, and concerned citizens are beckoned to use the essays to assess and evaluate the authors' findings, appraise the current status of the country, and examine its proposals, initiatives, challenges, and promises, mindful of what has transpired and what the country and its people will face in the next quarter century. The essays are a bid for independence - independent thinking, analysis, and evaluation. All who know and study Belize will value this fourth contribution to The Belize Collection.