Pictured is the Montego Freeport in St James, Jamaica. Environmentalists have criticized plans to build a 261-room hotel on 2.5 acres of land in Montego Freeport as the latest sign of a compromise between the environment and the economy.
DESPITE the government touting its environmental achievements, former Jamaica Environment Trust chair Diana McCaulay said the country’s stewardship of the environment was characterized by “a lot of talk”.
“We talk and we talk but when it comes to [protecting the environment] and we have to make a decision, a hotel in the Montego Bay Marine Park, I think we are going to have another hotel in the Montego Bay Marine Park,” she said in obvious reference to the eleven-story Dreams project. and 261 rooms. Resort in Montego Bay — a project that worries the inhabitants of the second city.
“Sometimes I scratch my head because I don’t understand some of the decisions that are made. But, one factor is the short term versus the long term,” McCaulay continued.
“I think decision makers are well aware that the long-term implications of some of the decisions they make are adverse, but they are more concerned with short-term things – [things like] how people in their ridings will react, etc.
She said a recent study shows that most of the deforestation taking place in Jamaica is permitted. “It’s official development, it’s housing, it’s roads, it’s bauxite. These are not people cutting down trees illegally. Much of it is an official, organized, and authorized development.
Theresa Rodriguez Moodie, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, while not addressing a specific issue, “I don’t think everyone really understands what sustainability means and why the environment is so important to our health and economic prosperity. It all depends on a healthy environment. Unfortunately, the terms sustainability and living in harmony with nature are terms that are often used loosely. Sustainability is sometimes equated with finding a compromise, and unfortunately the environment tends to to be the most compromised.
McCaulay…some think they have to lift everyone out of poverty before they start thinking about the environment, and they don’t understand the link between poor environmental management and poor economic performance
McCaulay and Rodriguez Moodie were equally scathing about Jamaica’s environmental stewardship, pointing out that while progress has been made, much more needs to be done.
“Some people think they have to get everyone out of poverty before they start thinking about the environment, and they don’t understand the link between poor environmental management and poor economic performance,” McCaulay said.
“I don’t see how you can have prosperity, a term the current administration likes to use, in a situation where the air quality is bad, there’s not enough clean water, and every little storm of rain leads to flooding because they didn’t pay attention to our building practices. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and you can see the sea lapping on the hotel steps. There are food shortages and drought, and we are extremely vulnerable to hurricanes,” she added.
RODRIGUEZ MOODIE…I don’t think everyone really understands what sustainability means and why the environment is so important to our health and economic prosperity.
For his part, Rodriguez Moodie said in an email response: “This year’s theme for World Environment Day 2022 is ‘One Earth’, with a focus on ‘living sustainably in harmony with nature’. “. A simple definition of sustainability is “meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”. So the question really is, in Jamaica, are we living sustainably in harmony with nature?”
She cited examples where this is not done.
– Permits granted to remove mangroves and other coastal ecosystems for tourism or other coastal developments without adequate monitoring and enforcement to ensure replanting takes place
– State agencies removing trees as Forest Department promotes planting 3 million trees in 3 years
– The government plans to expand the extractive industry, which has proven to be unsustainable
– Continued use of fossil fuels in our energy mix – JPS’s power station at Hunts Bay in Kingston is expected to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), rather than switching to renewable forms of energy, even as prices oil and gas are increasing globally.
McCaulay, however, added that she was encouraged by the conversations about the environment now taking place, adding that in the beginning, when she began to publicly advocate for the environment 30 years ago, journalists were not interested in writing on the subject.
“I think it’s a mistake to think that pressure from people is ineffective…so we have to, as individuals, take our civic responsibilities and let our political leaders know that we care about these issues and to vote on these issues I know it’s a bit of a challenge in Jamaica because our politics is so personality driven as much as it is issue driven, but we have to start electing people who care about the issues and try to elect to take the issues that matter to us seriously.
“The environment and the climate crisis are the issue of our time, and I cannot understand the casualness with which we are destroying our one and only home – be it a city, a rural village, our island or the entire planet. . .”