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LETTER OF THE DAY - That screeching columnist

Published:Friday | March 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I notice that your columnist, Ronald Mason, took it upon himself to ventriloquise the 'poor' last Sunday ('That screeching environmentalist') by implying that environmentalists who have objected to the hasty development plans for Goat Islands are somehow impeding relief efforts for the poverty-stricken.

On the contrary, it might be good for the country to note what the executive director of Greenpeace International, Dr Kumi Naidoo, said in a recent interview I did with him in which we discussed the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation.

What Naidoo said was that from a short-, medium-, and long-term perspective, it is the poor who are paying the biggest price for environmental destruction globally. For example, in an environmental crisis such as Hurricane Katrina in a rich country like the United States, what you see is that folks who are better off are able to jump into their 4x4s and other vehicles and drive away to safety, when the majority of the poor are left stranded.

Citizens should also take note of recent media stories about the disappointment of Falmouth residents still looking for the promised benefits from the much-hyped cruise ship pier three years after its completion. The same 'screeching' environmentalists had also pointed out the dangers of Falmouth residents buying into the hard sell developers typically announce their projects with, namely the alleviation of poverty in the area where the slated project is being proposed, but to no avail.

As maritime lawyer Jim Walker has pointed out on his blog, cruise giant Royal Caribbean convinced Jamaica to invest well over US$200 million to accommodate its Oasis class cruise ships. The project involved the dredging of the port's waters, the destruction of mangroves, the dislocation of its fishing village, and the changing of traffic routes (much the same as what is being proposed in Goats Islands).

"My view is that the port primarily benefits the cruise line. There is virtually no investment in the town of Falmouth itself," said Walker, going on to observe that students at the William Knibb Memorial High School in Martha Brae, a few miles south of Falmouth, have studied the new port and, according to The Gleaner, have given it a "failing grade" in terms of helping the "common man" in Trelawny.

So, please ask your columnist, Mr Mason, to include these facts the next time he decides to speak for the common man. It might help him shoot his wad with better aim the next time.