Peter Espeut | Home sweet home: Dogs don't mess where they eat
As The Gleaner recognises Peter Espeut's 25 years as columnist with this publication, today, we continue a special series of articles from the natural resource manager and rural development scientist.
We Jamaicans are house-proud. Even the meanest inner-city home is immaculately clean inside, and the way the topsoil of Jamaican yards is swept several times a day, the ground level is subsiding. Yet, as we sweep our homes and our yards, we dump the rubbish in the rivers and gullies to wash down into the sea.
It's a sort of national schizophrenia: when it comes to our homes, we are scrupulously clean. But not so with our environment: we are a nation of compulsive litterers. We are assisted in our compulsion by the manufacturing and commercial sector, which markets its products in cheap, non-biodegradable packaging backed up by public authorities that do not implement a mechanism like a deposit-refund system, which would provide an incentive to the public to turn in empty plastic bottles and ensure that industrialists and retailers do their duty to reduce solid waste.
It is also a sign of serious social deficit. Dogs do not defecate anywhere near where they feed, but we deposit our solid and human waste near to where we live and eat. Our national broughtupsy is deficient, requiring widespread resocialisation.
By and large, our manufacturing sector thinks nothing of dis-charging its solid and liquid industrial waste - some of it quite toxic - into rivers and gullies to end up in the sea and to pollute the air with greenhouse gases and worse. Their sense of corporate social responsibility does not extend to a sense of environmental responsibility. Like other litterbug Jamaicans, they wait to be compelled by force of law to do the right thing. The State is no better: government-operated sewage treatment plants dump millions of gallons of sewage into the sea every day.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution guarantees all Jamaicans "the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage".
We want environmental justice!
- Peter Espeut has been a Gleaner columnist for 25 years.