Make environment issues a priority this election - advocates
Jamaicans have been encouraged to look past the dirt being dished out by the two political parties on the campaign trail to the environmental issues at stake as one basis for their voting decision on February 25.
"There is a complete absence of discussion about issues. So the people who are serious about issues, and I count myself as one such person, are very frustrated with the 'rent a crowd' and the sea of orange shirts and sea of green shirts, and frankly, some disgraceful behaviour recently," said Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).
"The environment is a critical issue and it confuses me and saddens me that, still, after all these years of talking about it, it still does not appear on the radar at election time," she added.
The environment, the JET boss maintained, is too important to have that status quo perpetuated.
"If we are facing now [for example], a mosquito-borne disease that is strongly related to poor sanitation and we can look at various parts of the country to see poor sanitation and poor management of solid and liquid waste ... I don't understand why people are not concerned about that," she noted.
Independent blogger and social-media advocate Emma Lewis, herself a vocal envir-onment advocate, suggested that voters look at the situation in their communities as part of their decision making for a choice of candidate.
"Look at the condition of your own constituency and ask yourself, is your member of parliament cleaning the gullies, planting trees, and are environmental laws being enforced? Look at the environ-mental issues around you and see which representative is more likely to be addressing them," Lewis said.
"And look at the environment in its widest sense. At the community level, people need to look at what is happening and what needs to be improved and take that into account when they are voting. Jamaicans can't do much about big projects ... but for things like water supply and roads and things like that which can affect your health ... take them into account and see whether you want to vote for someone who has been addressing those issues," she added.
At the same time, she charged political contenders to, going forward, speak up on their plans for the environment.
"On climate change, for example, we need for it to be on the lips of the politicians when they are talking about things like health and the Zika virus and so on," she noted.
For himself, Mike Schwartz, head of the Windsor Research Centre and an advocate for the preservation of a Cockpit Country free from mining, said a careful eye has to be given to any environmental decision made at this time.
Citing a recent report of a pending sale of Alpart to a Chinese firm, and noting the implications for bauxite mining in Trelawny and St Elizabeth, he said: "These issues get brought in by politicians during the election process and then it becomes a fait accompli because nobody raises the issue, with all the excitement of the election.
"I want to be very careful about politicians bringing in their agenda without proper discussion by the public and the other ministries during the heat-of-election season," Schwartz told The Gleaner.