Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our land, our lives! - the Peter O'Connor commentary

We do not have, among any of the powers that be in this country, any sense of value regarding that most basic item of our heritage—our Land. 
Photo - Papa Bois Conservation Group
Value seen in terms of asset value of lands we own is well understood. But the intrinsic natural value of our land, and what it can provide for us, is simply not understood, certainly never appreciated, and is never truly factored into the planning and decisions we make. 

And this criticism applies to our governments, our corporate sector, religious bodies, educators, and the rest of us, from slash and burn squatter farmer to high-end “Developer”. 

We live on two small islands. These islands have been blessed, from before “we” came here, with clean air, pure water, an array of plant and animal life sufficiently plentiful to have fed us for many years. But in the 500 odd years since our arrivals here we have changed our islands so that the space could accommodate us all.

And the changes required that we cut away some of the forests on our islands. For most of our known history, this did not matter very much. There was room to live, to work, to exploit the resources, from timber to rock to oil, without really throwing off the balance of harmony between ourselves and Nature.
However, nothing is infinite, and if you keep taking, anything from any source, and do nothing to replace what you are taking, the resource will run out. Trinidad and Tobago has reached that point where we cannot continue to “take” without replacing. Too many of our resources are dwindling and the governments have known this for years. 

But in fairness to our governments, the environment, its conservation and preservation, is not any meaningful agenda in T&T. The number of people who genuinely care about what we are doing to our islands, in terms of irreversible environmental destruction, cannot affect a general election. 

On the other hand, the destruction of forests or wetlands to make us appear “modern” is a hugely popular thing. For while the first world lives in regret about how they have destroyed their natural heritage, and beg countries like ours not to make the same mistakes, we are hell bent on destroying ours, so we can look like Miami.

This is very sad of course, because we still have much of what the first world would like to get back, but we continue to destroy our forests, hills and wetlands because we have convinced ourselves that we must cloak ourselves in the very glass and concrete that others have regretted. And while part of this syndrome can attributed to our enduring shame of appearing to be backward by retaining Nature’s wonders, much of it has to do with greed.

The total destruction of almost all of the forests between Piarco and the east coast—as we can see every time we lift off to visit Disney World—is an example of our greed destroying our islands. 

The paucity of the fish in our surrounding seas, leading to increased prices of fish, is an example of our greed depleting our resources. The poisoning of our rivers, by quarrying and chemicals, this too is caused by our greed. The removal of forests, for quarrying and to build expensive homes, all this adds to the flooding in our country. And in the hunting to extinction of our natural wild animals to satisfy the greed for “wild meat”, destroys a significant sustainable tourism attraction which we should be developing. 

Somehow we believe that we must destroy our natural habitat in order to survive. And our natural habitat is not just for birds and snakes and agouti to survive. It is the very foundation of our own survival in these islands. Without the forests we would no springs or streams, and therefore no water except as flash floods.

The air we breathe would be more contaminated and our children would develop more diseases like asthma.

Third World countries like Costa Rica have learned the value of their environment, and they are making money by preserving it. We must do the same, but our time is running out.

To be fair to the present government, they have done more to protect and preserve our environment than any government since the Spanish
came here to plunder, the French to plant, the British to exploit until we took over to further rape the land. 

But notwithstanding current pledges and initiatives—which I do applaud—this government still feels more obligated to quarry interests, developers and the like, than to our children’s futures. 

And this we must work to change, to make our land more beautiful, more sustainable, and to provide better lives for all of our children, and their children to come. And we can do it!

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai