Sun | Sep 24, 2017

That screeching environmentalist

Published:Sunday | March 2, 2014 | 3:00 AM

Ronald Mason

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. My opinion is that it is better to be aware of your knowledge limitations and possess the capacity to go and find the relevant information than to pontificate on every thing as if your knickers are in a wad, and to ease the discomfort, you must speak.

There is this lady who knows everything about every topic who has no reservation about spouting off. As the holder of a management undergraduate degree, a chartered insurance designation, public administrator degree with environmental subject courses, she thinks that makes her an unchallenged expert on all science.

Let me place on the record that I do not claim to know it all, but thank God for Central Branch Primary, Wolmer's Boys' School, Howard University, Morgan State University and a Doctor of Laws from Emory University School of Law, I was taught how to look for answers to that which you claim no expertise. All that exposure to learning institutions affords one the ability to know that I know not, but to go find out.

Good lady, reread my column and do so in the context of my having been trained in economic development to the postgraduate level. Look at the source I quoted from. Read, lady. You continue to screech on every topic, from go-kart racing to science. Do we have in our midst a reincarnation of Einstein?

An illustration of the extent of the poverty that pervades this country was forcefully brought home to me on a morning drive recently. The temperature was cool at 6:30 a.m. and my window on the driver's side down. In a three-mile (sorry, 4.82803 kilometres for my friend who knows it all; I researched the conversion table) journey, I stopped in traffic and was approached five times by persons seeking alms (that is begging, for my friend who knows it all). My recollection is that even in this, my hometown, that's a lot of beggars. Those to the manner born want to keep the surroundings pristine.

Rampant poverty

Poverty stalks this land. We have an obligation to see to its reduction. All of us, except some privileged ones, will continue to share this geographic space and we do not need to pursue these airy-fairy unproven technology that even the true 'experts' differ as to their applicability.

Let me suggest that the footprint be minimised at each stage of the implementation of the Goat Islands hub composite entities. Let us do what we can within the budgetary restraints, time and competitive strictures. We have a people to consider. A nation to build. That MUST take precedence over the iguana, which is not unique to Jamaica. I will probably be told that the Jamaican iguana has some distinctive features such as a particular pigmentation shading which is of greater value to mankind than a job and a chance out of debilitating poverty. Probably, this learned lady has never encountered poverty up close and personal. It does not reside on her street.

Let me relate why this has so much resonance with me. Years ago, after the last dredging of the Kingston Harbour, someone who had been employed in the process made contact with me, I having contact with west Kingston and knowing persons there. He had a minuscule refund from the Income Tax Department due to him. He had made numerous trips seeking to retrieve this minuscule refund, only to be repeatedly told that the amount was too small to be processed and would be added to his tax at the next filing he would submit. He was then unemployed with no future prospects of employment that would provide him taxable income.

All my efforts were met with obstacles until the courts were about to be brought into the matter. On receipt of his 'cheque', he invited me to his home to show me what that minuscule refund was to allow for his family. It allowed him to go to the 'crackers' bakery on Spanish Town Road, purchase crackers in bulk, sugar from the wholesale and hustle some lines.

The scene when we got to his 'home' brought me to tears. Zinc sheets tattered and rusty, here pans filled with dirt for bedposts, pallet boards nailed for bed frame and bags stuffed with grass for mattress. Dirt floor.

No options

That man, lady who knows it all, did not have room to ponder on the beauty of iguanas, frogs and galliwasps in pristine natural habitats. He did not have the option to seek serenity away from the noise pollution and the beauty interrupted by the go-karts. He had no property values to be diminished. He had no options for the job in tourism to fetch for others.

What he has is a stake in this country. He also has expectations that our leaders will reserve a place for him at the table when decisions impacting the lives of he and his family are to be made. He has indicated his willingness to work, having been employed where he was earning enough to be taxed. Consider him as much as you do the iguana et al. This country needs him to be productive and a contributing consumer, not another prime candidate for the 'shotta' fraternity. Some iguana, fish at Pear Tree Bottom, noise in Upper St Andrew must compete in the economic development space. Here I go again, but postgraduate economic training will do that to me. I see a role for science and the contribution of experts. This role is to be complementary and work in coordination with national economic development objectives.

Do not continue to devalue people, my good lady. That man needs a stake in this country. Poverty, my good lady, is the greatest threat to the environment.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator, and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.