Gordon Robinson, Contributor
At last. I can die happy. What, you ask, has brought about this eternal peace of mind? Elementary, my Dear Watson, I've discovered that Diana McCaulay reads (well, used to read before she found me out) my columns.
For those of you born after 1980 so still attached to your mothers by the left nipple, let me explain. For decades (oops, sorry, Di), Diana McCaulay has been the most beautiful, intelligent and empathetic woman in Jamaica. Jamaica's Bo Derek (a '10'); everyman's perfect woman; and, like it or not, the subject of every pimply nerd's wet dreams.
SHE's reading what I write? O happy day! But, no surprise (like with most Jamaican males), my happiness was premature. My peace much too short.
A statue in the neighbourhood (What a t'ing!)
seems to be misunderstood (yeah, man!)
I sing about it like I should (Sing yu song!)
You know it's my livelihood (Yeah!)"
Now, she says my credibility is shot ('Setting Gordon straight', October 22, 2013). Sob. And all because of two insignificant global dots called Goat Islands.
But the good news is she wants to set me straight. No problem at all. Diana can set me straight (does that mean I'm gay? Hmmmmm) as often as she likes. The doors to The Hermit's Hole will be flung wide; the Old Ball and Chain banished to 'Gym', who sets her straight daily. With apologies to the great Lloyd Lovindeer for some minor surgery to his lyrics:
Happy people dey dance and prance
way back to de statue at de entrance.
It was really quite a sight to see
such happiness in there that night.
Happiness in de dark.
Happiness in de dark.
Peter Espeut, her aide-de-camp in the regular crying of environmental "Wolf!", also published a (mild) critique on Friday, October 18, but I'm sure he'll understand if his attention didn't cause the same excitement as Diana's.
Regarding the actual facts about the Goat Islands, although promising they were "setting Gordon straight", it turns out Diana and Peter agree with me. I wrote that there were no iguanas on the islands. Diana wrote, "Great Goat Island is the one with the good iguana habitat - and no one has said there are currently iguanas there. What has been pointed out is the GOJ's 50-year plan to make Great Goat Island an iguana sanctuary, as it is there the predators can be effectively excluded."
So, as we sit here TODAY with the proposed port project before us and the financial hangman anxious to proceed, there are no iguanas to protect. Peter confirms this. Who seriously makes inflexible 50-year plans anymore? Iguana habitats can be developed elsewhere in Jamaica or the world, and one is, in fact, being developed in the Cayman Islands.
I wrote that fish were long eliminated by overfishing and the lionfish. Peter agrees but writes, "With proper fisheries management, the fish stock will recover ... ." Diana didn't even bother to address the issue.
So, as we sit here TODAY with the proposed port project before us and the financial hangman anxious to proceed, there are no fish to protect. Fish sanctuaries can be established anywhere.
I wrote that coral reefs were already destroyed islandwide. Peter couldn't contradict but wrote: "... If we embark on serious reforestation and enforce our effluent discharge standards, the reefs will recover somewhat." Only "somewhat"? What has "effluent discharge standards" to do with Goat Islands? That must be enforced regardless of whether or not the port is built. At least the already dead coral reef will be surrendered to national economic progress, not to dynamiting by some wealthy untouchable who needs a wider entry for his luxury yacht.
Speaking of "effluent discharge standards", what'd Peter/Diana do to stop the construction of the Old Harbour JPS power plant? How does its "effluent discharge standards" match up to Peter's and Di's ideal?
C'mon, man! As we sit here TODAY with the proposed port project before us and the financial hangman anxious to proceed, there's no coral reef to protect.
Diana wasn't so much about setting me straight on the Goat Islands as she was about hyping up the general environmental abuse that ought never to happen. So she produced typically shrill, rabid scaremongering like "By that token, there is no need to fix a sewage plant; in fact, we don't need sewage plants at all. Let's just let excrement flow in gutters and gullies, and if there is a bit of a cholera outbreak, so what? The dark and diseased cities of the Industrial Revolution are fine. Rivers can catch fire, as the Cuyahoga did in the United States in the 1960s. Fish stock can crash, destroying a sustainable source of protein for 2.7 million people, and we should not lift a finger to reverse this trend."
Slow down, Di. Breathe. Nobody wrote or proposed any of that. So why waste column inches on red herrings? Can we get back to the immediate issue: Goat Islands?
As I said, Diana has really got her knickers in a twist about my perceived general opposition to environmentalists' work. She doesn't put up a serious defence of the Goat Islands, except her reliance on the 'law' that designates the area 'protected'. Di, the law is often exposed as an ass and in need of repeal or amendment, as is the case here where little or nothing is in reality available for protection. Sometimes, protections are erected without need, resulting in extreme dissatisfaction:
In de park, de statue was erected
to remind us that we're emancipated.
But they found out not everyone was satisfied with this erection.
Sometimes, protections are promised (like 50-year iguana habitat plans), but are overcome by present emergencies and the protections one expected to see end up not ever being erected. This can be very frustrating for persons whose lives have been committed to environmental activism but who can't see any real progress, or progress as they would want it.
One frustrated old lady
she didn't see what she came to see.
She say de statue stood big and tall
but she saw no erection at all.
Diana does use plenty space to say I've overstated environmentalists' general obstructionism. According to Di, environmentalists' "... contention with regard to the Palisadoes road was cost - it was a loan, not a grant ...". But an article by Zadie Neufville in TERRAVIVA (October 26, 2010) reported the concerns of the time as I recall them:
"Scientists and local environmentalists accuse the NWA ... and Government's environment watchdog NEPA of ignoring likely impacts of planned coastal improvement work in the protected wetlands. The area is said to be home to more than 300 species of plants and animals, including six native species of cacti."
According to Diana, regarding north coast development, "The Gran Bahía Principe hotel was built in an area of wetlands and reefs that had long been proposed for protection, and the large size of the hotel was thought to be of inappropriate scale; and that the public consultation was flawed (the court agreed in a ground-breaking and much-cited judgment). This location, by the way, had a very small beach, which was expanded and is now maintained by dredging."
And the problem is ... ? Areas "proposed for protection" aren't protected. Didn't Di ask me to start with the law? Who thought the hotel was too big? Why should the hotel care? What is meant by "flawed" public consultation? Would "perfect" consultation (whatever that is) have changed anything? But, some admitted good news: a small beach has been expanded. Yay! The dig at the end "by dredging" means nothing unless the dredging is causing damage to previously environmentally viable reefs.
Both Peter and Diana tend to get carried away with their perfectly admirable environmental activism. Not every environmental downgrade is a disaster. What we need is balance. Fact: Whatever the law says and compared to the real worldwide environmental threat, there's little left on or around Goat Islands to protect. What happens at Goat Islands will not add or subtract a tick or cross on the worldwide environmental checklist. We must balance the proposed port's growth potential against its minor environmental cost.
What she searching for? (happiness)
She wanna get it for sure (happiness)
What she want out of life (happiness)
Why she wanna be a wife (happiness).
The great Trinidadian poet, Wayne Brown, who honoured Jamaica by living here for the last 10 or so years of his life, used to postulate that Jamaicans were better poets than Trinidadians because we took things seriously and treated reverential things with reverence. Well, there's no better example of Jamaicans' ability with poetry than Lloyd Lovindeer (formerly of the Fabulous Flames), but reverence wasn't Lovindeer's strong suit. He isn't in any danger of taking anything too seriously.
Peter and Diana could learn a lot from Lovindeer. We can't spend our lives obsessing about every minor infraction, especially at the expense of real economic growth. Here are some of the things Peter and Diana might be lobbying for that could help with what is very much a global crisis in a significant way without affecting Jamaica's chances at economic recovery. They could lobby for a ban on single-use plastic bags. Recycling is a joke. These little pieces of plastic find themselves everywhere (food; blood; even into babymothers' breast milk supply). Carelessly tossed plastic bags have killed more fish worldwide with leaked toxins that Chinese dredgers at Goat Islands could ever dream of matching.
Why won't Peter and Di tell Jamaica that all this fuss over which incompetent bidder should win the right to use more fossil fuel products to provide 'cheaper' power is just so much baloney? I hope Peter and Di will join me in lobbying for the use of wind and solar power instead. Don't let any politician tell you it's impractical. Rubbish! It's all around us. Use it.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.