Banning plastic and styrofoam and hosting internationally televised environmentalist concerts isn’t the stamp of an environmentally friendly government. Sipping from paper straws at a restaurant and using recycle bins on the roadside isn’t the sign of an environmentally friendly country either. So many changes and initiatives have been introduced in Antigua and Barbuda in recent years in the face of climate change that it is really hard to keep up. Many may read this opener and say to themselves, “A Wah She Know, She Nuh Lib Ya” but honestly speaking, all these initiatives seem to be a bandaid placed on a fractured leg. It really isn’t effective in actually addressing the problematic relationship that we as Antiguans and Barbudans have developed with the environment.
The phasing out of single use plastics by our government is amazing. It truly will make a difference to the plastic pollution we see around the island. However the impact it has on overall plastic pollution is negligible unless our governments are in a position to pressure larger economies to follow suit. Placing recycle bins on the roadside does nothing to encourage our citizens to be more conscious of waste management if we don’t start introducing recycling into our homes and have the necessary infrastructure, ie a full capacity recycling plant, to assist the process.
All these initiatives and ideas while amazing and notable have been done half heartedly. How can the same Prime Minister who said “climate change is an existential threat - perhaps one of the most significant threats facing the planet” , the same voice who said people decrying climate change are speaking out of ignorance knowingly facilitate further environmental degradation in the name of development. We keep selling away our depleting shoreline to investors who provide iffy environmental impact assessments. We give away more than we gain at the end of it all and are not consistent with our environmental position. Are the considerations and policies on the books safeguarding the environment just a show in order to offset the environmental damage being dealt by big developers?
For a country that is supposed to be shifting towards become an eco-friendly/green economy, we are not investing enough in sustainable practices and climate resilient infrastructure. We are not actively making significant moves to mitigate our problems and improve our environments. We are not actively seeking accountability from developers to be as environmentally efficient as possible. I mean, should we still be allowing hotels to build so close to the water front knowing how much our sand banks have depleted in recent years?
I took a drive around the country when I was home over the summer. I love going to Old Road because the area is so green and lush. What i found on one of my drives was a perfect example of the disregard we as Antiguans pay to our surroundings. I found several illegal dumpsites which have popped up in the middle of a dwindling mangrove. Mind you, for large bulk garbage Antiguans can call Solid Waste to dispose of it but they chose to create a dumpsite. Where are the people tasked with isolating these dumpsites, clearing them and holding people accountable?
If we truly claim to be an environmentally friendly nation we genuinely need to be more progressive and not just pay lip service. There really seems to be a disconnect from the problem that it right in front of our faces.
What I want to see is our Government being more proactive when it comes to climate justice and to be more consistent in its efforts to be eco-friendly. I want to see our government doing more to sensitize and educate people as to the importance of environmental conservation and recycling. I want to see our Government holding accountable developers and not compromising our shoreline for a payout into the National Development Fund.