According to yesterday’s press, Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding – why are PM’s automatically “the Hon?” Suppose they act in ways that are not Hon? Subject of another blog, I suppose. Anyway, as I was saying, speaking at the opening of two new hotels on Seawind Cay in Montego Bay, the PM apparently said words to the effect that “the environmentalists” wanted to take us back to the time of the Tainos. Now I’m sure Mr. Golding knows the story of the Tainos – Jamaica’s indigenous people murdered by Spanish Conquistadores in the 15th and 16th century. Considering we are now facing a different kind of Spanish invasion via massive and non Jamaican resort development, I would have though the less said about the Tainos, the better.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard the PM say something offensive about “the environmentalists.” The first occasion was at the opening of the office of the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals back in roughly October – this is a blog, I’m not checking dates. He said then that there were folks in Jamaica who regarded “the environmentalists” as akin to terrorists. My husband, sitting beside me, wanted to know sotto voce, where were our bombs, our WMDs, our tanks. (Are you allowed to say ‘bomb’ in a blog these days? Stay tuned…)
So I thought about the weapons we environmentalists had used over the years. Words – oh gazillions of words – words spoken, shouted, argued, pleaded, written, bleated, whispered, yup, we’ll admit to using words. And we’ve attended hundreds of badly organized and hostile public meetings, sat on scores of useless committees, contributed to dozens of policy documents fated to retire to a shelf after the high profile launch, to await the future updating, when the unused policy is inevitably deemed to be obsolete. I’ve even attended a street demonstration or two in my time, where generally the police security detail outnumbered the protesters, and there WAS that heady moment when we blocked a busy new Kingston street by walking in a line across a pedestrian crossing while singing “By the Rivers of Babylon” to protest the shipment of nuclear material through the Caribbean sea. We’ve made films, visual records of gorgeous places being lost to short-sightedness, stupidity and greed and interviews with the Jamaicans who live there, about their lives, their livelihoods, their hopes, their disappointments. Not a single bomb building session comes to mind.
You have to see with the PM, someone said later that night. I was out, dressed in my uniform head-to-toe black to avoid the what-to-wear-dilemma, I was at a bank function, and then a birthday party. The PM had to sing to that audience. No, I said. He didn’t. He could have displayed some leadership. He could have told investors that they were welcome, but the laws of Jamaica would be enforced and they had to respect both the Jamaican people and our landscape. You’re not practical, Diana, the person said, patting me on the shoulder. At least it wasn’t on the head.
How will “the environmentalists” respond? asked a radio talk show host. I conducted the interview while getting dressed for the bank function, passing my cell phone through my sleeves to my amused husband, who thought I was talking to a colleague and not to the radio listening public. How TO respond? How to respond to a PM who apparently thinks requiring coastal development to have a few garbage receptacles on site, to take waste to approved dumpsites (as opposed to dumping it in nearby wetlands, those few that have so far survived the development blitz), to retain one or two big trees, to conserve endemic plants, to keep the dust down, to put screens in the sea to keep silt off the coral reefs - is tantamount to a return to the primitive? For even these few and basic requirements are routinely ignored by our investors…and ignored by our own government. Indeed, in his speech, the PM referred to breaches as “mere misunderstandings…”
When I got to the bank function, I saw myself in the mirror for the first time. My hair was only combed on one side and my shirt was on back to front. Pesky environmentalists. Can’t even dress themselves, much less build a bomb or organize a good back-to-the-cave movement…