Pictured is the Montego Freeport in St. James, Jamaica. Environmentalists have criticized plans to build a 261-room hotel on 2.5 acres 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 says the country’s environmental management is “all talked about”.
“We talk and we talk, but when it comes down to it [protecting the environment] and we have to make a decision, a hotel at Montego Bay Marine Park, I think we’re going to have another hotel at Montego Bay Marine Park,” she said, apparently referring to the planned 11-story, 261-room resort in Montego Bay Project that causes concern among the residents of the second city.
“Sometimes I scratch my head because I don’t understand some of the decisions that were made. But one factor is short-term vs. long-term,” McCaulay continued.
“I think decision-makers know very well that some of the decisions they make have long-term negative effects, but they’re more concerned about short-term things — [things like] how people in their constituencies will react and so on.”
She said a recent study shows that most deforestation in Jamaica is permitted. “It’s about official development, about housing, about roads, about bauxite. It’s not people who are cutting down trees illegally. Most of it is official, organized and approved development.”
While Theresa Rodriguez Moodie, CEO of Jamaica Environment Trust, did not address a specific topic, “I don’t think everyone really understands what sustainability means and why the environment is so important to our health and economic prosperity. Everything depends on a healthy environment. Unfortunately, the terms sustainability and living in harmony with nature are often vague terms. Sustainability is sometimes equated with finding a compromise and unfortunately the environment is the one that suffers the most.”
McCaulay…some think they need 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 outcomes
McCaulay and Rodriguez Moodie were equally scathing about Jamaica’s environmental management, noting that while progress has been made, much more remains to be done.
“Some think they need 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 outcomes,” McCaulay said.
“I don’t understand how one can have prosperity in a situation where the air quality is poor, there is not enough drinking water and every little rainstorm causes flooding, as the current government has liked to have disregarded our building practices. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and you can see the sea lapping on the hotel front steps. There’s food shortages and drought, and we’re 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 her part, Rodriguez Moodie said in an email reply: “This year’s World Environment Day 2022 theme is ‘One Earth Only’, with a focus on ‘Sustainable Living in Harmony with Nature’. A simple definition of sustainability is: “Meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. So the question really is, do we live sustainably in Jamaica in harmony with nature?”
She pointed to examples where this is not being done.
– Permits to remove mangroves and other coastal ecosystems for tourism or other coastal developments without proper monitoring and enforcement to ensure replanting occurs
– State authorities are removing trees while the Forest Service encourages the planting of 3 million trees in 3 years
– The government plans to expand the extractive industry, which has proven unsustainable
– The continued use of fossil fuels in our energy mix – JPS’s Hunts Bay power plant in Kingston is to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) rather than switch to renewable forms of energy, even as oil and gas prices rise globally.
However, McCaulay added that she was encouraged by the conversations about the environment that are now taking place, adding that in the early days when she began public advocacy on the environment 30 years ago, journalists were not interested in to write about the topic.
“I think it’s a mistake to think that pressure from people is ineffective…so we as individuals need to take our civic responsibilities and let our political leaders know we care about these issues and vote on issues.” I know it’s a bit of a challenge in Jamaica because our politics are so personal and not issue driven, but we have to start electing people who care about issues and try to elect them to take on the issues that are important to us over serious.
“The environmental and climate crisis is the topic of our time and I fail to understand the casualness with which we are destroying our only home – be it a city, a rural village, our island or the entire planet.”