Some say the road to progress is lined with good intentions. But the subtext implicates the potholes along the way that sometimes cause us to stumble adrift of the greater goal. Jamaica, in its pursuit of “Vision 2030: to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business” is hard pressed to chart a path towards development.
Development may change it’s definition depending on who you ask. The urban planner, the housing contractor, the government official- might have overlapping views in the Venn Diagram of national achievement; but where visions don’t overlap— and there are many such spaces—is a chasm of wills nowhere greater evidenced than in the battle between the economy and the environment.
We falsely perceive an angry environmental lobby that is anti-development, anti-jobs and therefore anti-growth on the one hand. While on the other we discern a molasses-paced government fraught with the challenge of moving a national economy towards measureable growth that has tangible impact in people’s lives. We project a rubric that says “Environment OR Development”. But the gloves-are-off combative approach to the national conversation on how to reconcile environmental and economic goals is a dangerous one that does not engage the plethora of ways that an environmental agenda is essential to the economic agenda and vice versa.
It would benefit both dialogue and policy to go beyond, for example, the ways in which the Logistics Hub proposed for Goat Islands is inherently dangerous for ecological life towards exploration of a ‘green’ logistics hub. Green jobs are emerging daily-in alternative energy supply, in mastering new and green technologies and in skill based tourism such as sports, cultural and eco-attractions. How the current activity of overfishing in the Portland Bight Protected Area is impacting the ecological integrity of zone is as important as the plans for its future use.
Let’s agree that if ‘development’ is to take place in space, it will have impact on its environment. Therefore, considerations for the use of that space cannot happen exclusive of footprint it will leave in its wake.
We are challenged to bring to the table real, everyday ways of grasping the gravity of climate change in the context of a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). How we use our water resources, fishing, our brand of tourism and our energy use must take into account a way of life that perceives a Jamaica for the future. Our housing, economic and energy policies ought to reflect a system that gives plaudits to conservation and care for the environment as a way of life. We must further challenge our partners in development to refocus their lenses towards a green economy.
The way we get there—towards a national development ethos that marries the environment with economic development is no yellow brick road. But instead, it is one where we value the Holland Bamboos and the Fern Gullies as ecological treasures as much as they are pathways to sun sea and sand. It is one where that very same sun illuminates our national energy policies. It’s in the way we appreciate our natural and physical resources as much as our eyes are fixed towards the future that we truly realize there’s no place like home.