Thu | Jun 17, 2021

Issue:Caring for the environment - Waiting on Paulwell's word

Published:Saturday | March 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM


Many, hopefully most, of us are waiting anxiously for minister Phillip Paulwell to disclaim or clarify news reports on his recent speech at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce function in Mandeville.

It cannot be that Jamaica will grant free rein to companies to determine and utilise whatever source of energy they consider to be in their best interest. This would be fine if company interest and the people's interest were the same. But this has seldom been the case throughout the long history of business practice in Jamaica.

Such disconnect between self-interest and national interest in no small way explains why in Jamaica there are successful companies, some rather wealthy individuals, but an anaemic economy and extreme poverty. And there is no indication that this will change if left up to the companies to decide our fate. So, if the 'purist' view of the environment is irresponsible, the 'free rein' end of the spectrum would be too.

The evidence is all around us. One does not have to be an activist to see the damage to land, water, and some say air, caused by the bauxite mining sector, and the impact of the less-than-sensitive building practices of certain members of the tourist industry on the physical environment and beauty of the general landscape, even when there are laws and regulations in place.

The news reports give the frightening impression that the Govern-ment intends to surrender its responsibility to balance the equation. We should view the implications of the minister's speech with grave alarm.

Let us assume that the use of coal as energy source, without strict and enforceable guidelines, could mean higher profit for a company, but is injurious to the rest of us. What then? And whereas it is true that the use of coal was a driving force behind the industrialisation of now powerful economies, so was slavery. And that price we have already paid.

It would be reassuring to know that the news reports did not accurately reflect the real sense of the minister's speech and that any disquiet is unwarranted.